2007 NEWS

2007 News > 11/14/07

GLAVINE GUIDED BY ANOTHER TOM TERRIFIC
By Marty Noble, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

NEW YORK -- Only a few October days had passed since the end of the 2007 season when the phone rang in the Glavine home in Alpharetta, Ga. It was Tom Seaver calling Tom Glavine.

A how-ya-doin', what-ya-doin' conversation ensued. Just one 300-game winner ringing up another. On one end, the little ol' winemaker and foremost figure in the history of the Mets franchise; on the other end, the foremost figure in the final game of the Mets' season. How many conversations like that one have there been in the history of the planet?

From Seaver's vantage point in his vineyard, 3,000 miles west of the scene of the end of the '07 season, parallels connected Glavine's circumstances to those that existed in his own life some 21 years earlier. Questions outnumbered answers about 10 to 1. Seaver thought his experience might be beneficial for Glavine.

"I appreciated the phone call," Glavine said from Alpharetta. "You know you're going to hear from people after something like what we went through. But I wasn't expecting one from Tom."

The two had forged a relationship. Glavine's first three seasons with the Mets and Seaver's last three as a color analyst had overlapped.

"But we hadn't talked that much this year," Glavine said.

"Our situations weren't exactly the same," Seaver said from his home in Calistoga, Calif. "But there were some similarities. And I wanted Tom to remember how permanent his decision would be if he decided not to pitch anymore."

What Glavine heard that October afternoon was a Hall of Famer tell him, "You can decide to pitch and then quit. But you can't decide to quit and then pitch." That puts all Roger Clemens evidence to the contrary.

The truth Seaver spoke seems self-evident.

"But it was good to hear it come from a man of his stature," Glavine said. "All my friends who used to play had the same advice -- 'Be sure.' But when you hear it from a guy like Tom Seaver -- he and my dad have comparable influence with me on this one. My dad is my dad. But Tom has some expertise in this area.

"He said we'd all been through [disappointment]. We wanted to make sure the last game wasn't going to be a determining factor -- that I'd play again or not play again because of it."

Within an hour of the end of the 8-1 defeat in the final game, Glavine vowed the loss and his role in it and all the ramifications -- personal and professional -- would play no role in his decision. Time at home versus time away would.

Chances are that Glavine will extend his career into 2008, though he still hasn't committed to a 22nd season and remains unsure for whom he may pitch. He had been leaning toward another season long before the phone rang last month. The first 5 1/2 months of his 2007 season had been quite rewarding, replete with his 300th career victory and -- it seemed -- a pretty good chance to pitch in the postseason again. His body was holding up nicely, and National League hitters hadn't sent any "Hang 'em up, Glav" messages. Through 31 starts, he had produced a 13-6 record and 3.88 ERA.

Why not go on?

But even this week, Glavine has had moments when the appeal of full-time fatherhood has tugged on his sleeve. He had just returned from shuttling his children home from school Monday afternoon when he acknowledged the second thoughts. He doesn't need the money, and unlike last year at this time, he doesn't need 10 victories to reach 300. He doesn't need another training camp and another set of cross-country excursions.

It would be simpler, he acknowledged, to put a period after No. 303, or an exclamation point. But what if the closing punctuation morphed on him and questions developed in May or July? What if, come June 25 or Aug. 8, he were to wonder, "So is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?" and crave another start.

"I guess what I got from Tom and my dad," Glavine said, "was that when the time comes when you answer that question, it should be when you have to answer it, not when you decide you're going to answer it."

Burning question

Seaver was forced to answer the question after the 1986 season. He had spent the final three months of what would be his final season with the Boston, his pitching limited because of a knee injury that denied him a position on the Red Sox's roster that would allow him to face the Mets in the World Series. He craved another start, another season. But the Red Sox didn't exercise their option on his contract and instead offered him a slashed salary for 1987, action he now believes were byproducts of collusion -- a fixed market for free agents.

Seaver opted to begin his five-year wait for eligibility for the Hall of Fame ballot.

"The flame still burned," Seaver said. "But there was no place to pitch."

The rest-of-his-life period had been forced on him.

But a different kind of call to arms went out in June 1987. Arm problems for the Mets' starting pitchers were the surcharge for the grandeur of the '86 season. The Mets had to pay even as Dwight Gooden was ending his first drug rehab and new man David Cone was recovering from a broken right pinky finger. In early June, the Mets' rotation included Terry Leach, Tom Edens and John Mitchell.

The franchise reached out to The Franchise. The Mets' need became Seaver's opportunity to compete and put off the rest of his life.

At age 42, his drop-and-drive fastball compromised by more than 5,000 professional innings, Seaver joined the team -- he wasn't on the roster -- and prepared for a return. But an unofficial game against the Mets' Triple-A Tidewater affiliate and two home runs by Barry Lyons prompted a "no mas" from Seaver.

"I've used up all the competitive pitches in my arm," he said.

The rest of his life awaited his attention.

He shared that experience with Glavine "as a friend," Seaver said, "as one pro's pro to another. I thought it might help.

"I told him, 'If you think you want to go back and get more out of your career, do it.' I did. And I found out there was nothing more I could get. So it was clean."

Two months later, a left-handed pitcher with the Braves made his big league debut.

Decision looms

At age 41, Glavine is certain there is more career to be had and is all but certain he will pursue it. With which team -- the Braves and Mets are the only options he will allow -- is yet to be decided, soon probably.

No one will be surprised if he has thrown his last pitch for the Mets. The Braves seem more intent on bringing him back than they were a year ago. Glavine hasn't spoken with the Mets since the season ended.

The house in Greenwich that had been the Glavine's summer home for five years has been sold. The Glavines shortly will move into a new home, not far from the current one in Alpharetta. But the real estate changes, Glavine says, are not indications of where he will pitch in 2008.

"We can rent in Greenwich," he says. "I didn't want to carry three houses."

He recalls "how everyone assumed I'd never leave the Braves the first time and that, last year, I'd go back for sure.

"I surprised some people."