2007 NEWS

2007 News > 10/2/07

By Jack Wilkinson, SI.com

ATLANTA -- Back home in Atlanta following the New York Mets' historic collapse, Tom Glavine said Tuesday he'll "most likely" decline his $9 million player option for next season.

That could pave the way for Glavine's return to the Atlanta Braves in 2008, or facilitate his retirement from baseball after 20 seasons and 303 victories.

"I have five days at the end of our season to accept or decline [the option]," Glavine said from his Alpharetta, Ga., home. "Most likely, I'll decline it."

That decision could come Friday, five days after Glavine lasted one-third of an inning and allowed seven runs in an 8-1 loss to the Florida Marlins. That completed the Mets' late-season collapse and enabled Philadelphia to win the National League East by one game.

The bigger decision -- whether to retire from baseball or continue to play in Atlanta, New York or even elsewhere -- will come next month. "In early November, I'll make a decision by then," said Glavine, who said he still enjoys pitching at age 41 and honestly doesn't know what that decision will be.

"It's easy to tie yourself to the emotions of the end of the season [when the Mets blew a seven-game lead, losing 12 of their last 17 games, and Glavine was loudly booed leaving Sunday's game]," Glavine said. "That's not the criteria I want to [use to] make my decision on. That game will be no more of a factor in terms of me retiring than me walking off the mound having thrown a no-hitter and continuing to play.

"The decision goes much deeper than that in deciding what I want to do next year," said Glavine, who finished 13-8 after his earned-run average ballooned Sunday to 4.45. "I have to be home, away from baseball, with my family [before making a decision]."

Glavine's wife, Christine, and their four children were at Shea Stadium for Sunday's debacle. Last fall, when his original four-year contract with the Mets was up, Glavine nearly returned to the Braves. Atlanta management, however, didn't make an offer before the winter meetings and Glavine re-signed with the Mets.

Now he could be coming home, where he won 242 games, two National League Cy Young Awards and beat Cleveland 1-0 in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series to give Atlanta its only world championship.

By then, Glavine had become the face of the franchise and remained so until December 2002. Following contentious free-agent negotiations with the Braves, Glavine signed with the Mets. He won 61 games for them, including his 300th victory on Aug. 5 at Wrigley Field, becoming the 23rd 300-game winner in baseball history.

That Sunday night was far more enjoyable than last Sunday afternoon, the second-shortest outing of Glavine's career. He walked off to a chorus of boos.

"We had to win the game, and I didn't give us a chance," Glavine said. "Was it [the booing] totally directed at me, or at the team? I don't know. I was the guy who took the brunt of it. ... I can totally understand [the fans' reaction and anger]. Look, I'm a fan, a big Patriots fan and Thrashers fan. I want to see them do well. We were in first place virtually all season long, and people saw it crumble in the last two weeks. I can totally understand how they feel."

In the coming month, Glavine must decide on his future. "I know if I decide to became a full-fledged free agent, I'd have a lot of interest from a lot of teams," he said. His focus will be sharper should he opt to keep pitching. The Braves badly need more starting pitching. Glavine could be reunited with John Smoltz, once his long-time teammate, still a close friend and offseason golfing buddy.

"I still enjoy pitching," Glavine said. "I enjoy that day when I go out there trying to execute a game plan. I still enjoy that, and that's not going to go away anytime soon. But does that enjoyment outweigh my, well, not dislike, but my lack of enjoyment the other four days a week when I'm away from home?

"Atlanta is home," Glavine said. "The hardest thing for me in New York is playing and being away from home. I've played in New York for five years now. If you break it down [in days, weeks and months], I've been away from my home for four years now. I'm at the point where my wife and kids [ages 13, 12, 8 and 6] are making sacrifices for me."

Last Sunday, most likely Glavine's last as a Met, Christine Glavine was emotional when she finally saw her husband after the game. "The kids were [relatively] OK with it," Glavine said. "They were sad that I lost, but said, 'Hey, Dad, you coming home now?'"

Whether Glavine chooses the carpool line and Little League games or returns to the mound himself, his decision will be a family affair -- all options carefully weighed, and definitive.

"As a good friend of mine told me, you can always walk away from the game and say, 'I don't want to do this anymore,'" Glavine said. "But you can't walk away and then go back. Some people have done that, but I won't. Once I decide I'm done, I'm done."