2007 NEWS

2007 News > 3/7/07

NOT JUST KING OF THE HILL

By David Lennon, Newsday

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Go back a decade, and picture Tom Glavine, the proverbial Mr. Brave, as the de facto captain of the Mets. While that scenario was impossible to imagine then, it is very much a reality in 2007, and Glavine is as crucial to the team's success this year as anyone on the defending National League East champions.

Glavine assumed that responsibility last September, when Pedro Martinez was lost to rotator cuff surgery, and that made it essential for the Mets to re-sign him during the offseason. Glavine provides a steadying influence during the rough times, and a lighter touch when the occasion calls for it, even without a baseball in his hand.

David Wright is often referred to as the future captain of the Mets, just as another homegrown star, Derek Jeter, ascended to that throne in the Bronx. But manager Willie Randolph mentioned Glavine as the player most deserving of the title, even though he will not name a captain this season. And as long as Glavine remains on the Mets, Wright considers himself more of a crown prince.

"He leads by example," Wright said. "He's got the respect of everybody in here. He's a guy that hopefully wins his 300th game this year, but yet he's still one of the hardest workers in camp.

"He's done for how many years, and he's still the first one out there, going 100 percent and doing stuff that a lot of guys take lightly. I think that's the kind of leadership a captain shows."

Glavine also is the anchor of a rotation in need of stability. With Martinez out probably until early August, Glavine will be the No. 1 for the immediate future, and yesterday the Mets exhaled when he completed his second turn without incident in their 7-2 win over the Astros.

Facing Houston's regular lineup, Glavine allowed four hits in three scoreless innings, and twice stranded runners at third. He whiffed Morgan Ensberg with a changeup to end the first inning and got Carlos Lee to pop up to first base to finish the third. It will be another three weeks before Glavine has to start doing it for real, beginning with his Opening Night assignment April 1 in St. Louis. But he understands the task in front of him, and it's bigger than getting the 10 wins Glavine needs for No. 300.

"I think for me there's a certain amount of extra pressure that's going to go along with that simply because of who I am and what I've accomplished," said Glavine, who was 15-7 with a 3.82 ERA last season. "But at the same time, I don't think the responsibility falls solely on me and I don't expect it to.

"I think that we're going to be a much more talented rotation probably than people think we are. But there's no question at certain times I'll have that mentality. Believe me, I want nothing more than guys looking forward to the day I'm pitching because they know I'm going to pitch deep into the game and we're going to win. That's the feeling you're always trying to establish with your teammates. We'll see how it goes."

Glavine really doesn't have much choice. The Mets' offseason plans hinged on his return, and if the Braves somehow found the cash to sign him away, there's a greater chance GM Omar Minaya would have made a stronger push for Barry Zito. Still, there would have been a void left by Glavine's departure.

"I think a huge reason for our success last year was what went on in the clubhouse, the fraternity-like atmosphere, and he was a big part of that," Wright said. "He's going to be 41 years old, but he loves to joke around, play some pranks and stuff, and that's the kind of chemistry we have in here. It doesn't matter what clubhouse he's in, people have an automatic respect for Tom Glavine."

Including the ownership of the Mets. COO Jeff Wilpon secured him with a one-year deal worth $10.5 million and a $7-million option for 2008. That vests automatically if Glavine reaches 160 innings, and based on the uncertain state of the Mets' rotation, they need him to get there.

"Whether Pedro is here or not, my goal is to go out and make every one of my starts and hopefully pitch over 200 innings," Glavine said. "And if I do that, I'm going to have a good year, and that's going to be good for our team. But I don't think I'm at the stage of my career anymore where I can say I think I'll pitch 250 innings this year to make up for Pedro not being here. I can't do that."