2007 NEWS

2007 News > 8/1/07

GET 'EM NEXT TIME

By Ted Keith, SI.com
Original Article Here.

MILWAUKEE -- On the day he seemed sure to cement his place in the Hall of Fame, Mets left-hander Tom Glavine entered the visiting clubhouse at Milwaukee's Miller Park at precisely 4:07 p.m. CDT (Cooperstown Definite Time). A clubhouse attendant did a double take upon sighting Glavine and said, "There you are, I was looking for you."

"Well," said Glavine with a grin, "I like to keep a low profile."

Glavine may have been referencing his low-key demeanor -- let's just say he wasn't one of the Mets who, before the game, was wearing a bright orange T-shirt with Bozo the Clown on it which read "Enough" on the front and "There Ain't a Big Top Big Enough For This Circus" on the back -- that has made him one of the game's most respected citizens. But it also spoke volumes about his quest for 300 wins.

Even as Glavine approached the hallowed mark reached by only 22 men, and even though there is doubt about that anyone else will soon join him (only the injured Randy Johnson is over 250), his march toward 300 has been swallowed by more glamorous headlines. On Tuesday alone, Glavine's start finished a distant third in news of the day behind the Kevin Garnett trade, baseball's trading deadline, and Barry Bonds' ongoing pursuit of Hank Aaron (speaking of circuses).

But then, Glavine has never been a glamorous starter, despite five 20-win seasons, 10 All-Star teams and two Cy Young awards. He lacks the fireballing intimidation of a Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens, or the magician's touch and professor's mind of former teammate Greg Maddux, the last three men to win 300 games. Glavine's appeal is in his Everyman quality. From his polite and ego-free personality to his middle-aged appearance to his pitching repertoire, even to his 57-54 record since joining the Mets before the 2003 season, Glavine often come across as ordinary even while doing something extraordinary. With a tanned and weathered face and slight paunch in the gut, he looks country club cool in his 41st year. His pitching style -- noted for its mid-80s fastball and a reliance on the decidedly un-cool changeup (which he throws 38 percent of the time) -- has struck lots of frustration, but rarely fear, in the hearts of big league batters in his 21 seasons. Appropriately enough, even if he had won his 300th, the Mets had planned a muted ceremony for him, in lieu of something bigger down the road.

From the moment Glavine awoke Tuesday morning, his gut reminded him that this was a big day. "Nerve-wise, adrenaline-wise, it was very similar to a playoff game," says Glavine, who's pitched in 35 of them. Indeed, from the sell-out crowd to the late-inning heroics, the Brewers' 4-2 win had the charged electricity usually associated with October. Unfortunately for Glavine, the result was similar too (he is 14-16 in the postseason). On Sunday, Glavine had said it would be "cool" and "exciting" to see his name in the 300 Club. On Tuesday night, his tune had changed to "disappointing," "frustrating."

It had started well enough. He had fashioned three hitless innings to start, then flirted with danger by allowing multiple base runners in three of his last four innings. After surrendering the game's first run in the fourth, Glavine was given a 2-1 lead by his teammates in the sixth. In the bottom half, Glavine got the type of signature defensive play that may have signaled it was his night, when right-fielder Shawn Green dove to catch Kevin Mench's sinking line drive -- which ended with Green's head colliding with the padded wall along the right-field foul line -- with two on to preserve the lead.

Glavine walked off the mound after yielding a leadoff single to catcher Damian Miller to start the seventh. When a milestone is reached, particularly one that is a monument to a long career, it seems sweeter if it evokes the athlete in his prime, rather than a struggling ex-legend barely hanging on. Much of Tuesday night was vintage Glavine. There was the graceful pirouette on the mound, the expansion of the strike zone to get hitters flailing at his pitches, and the consistency of 79 mph pitches on the outside corner, as though he were a motorist locked in on cruise control.

Alas, Glavine was far from cruising on this night. He allowed multiple baserunners in three of his last four innings, and his laborious final pitch count of 95 was noteworthy for containing more balls (48) than strikes. Yet when he left the game, the fans at Miller Park rewarded him with a standing ovation, perhaps torn between wanting to see history and wanting to see their team maintain its tenuous grip on first place in the NL Central.

By the time the Brewers tied the score on Bill Hall's ground-rule double off reliever Guillermo Mota, the crowd was leaving little doubt as to which way they were leaning. Glavine had retreated to the clubhouse. "I'm not gonna lie," he said afterward, "it's a little bit more disappointing because of what I'm trying to do. It's a big deal for me, and it's not going to go away."

Glavine's next bid for 300 comes Sunday in Chicago, but the thought of getting there in five days wasn't enough to ease the pain of letting one get away on this night. And so eight hours, six innings, a touch of heartbreak and one postgame floss after he entered the clubhouse, Tom Glavine walked out of it, with exactly the same number of wins he had when he walked in.