2008 NEWS

2008 News > 9/20/08


By John Harper, NY Daily News

ATLANTA - He is back with the enemy, but since Tom Glavine is rehabbing a shoulder injury and the Braves are out of playoff contention, he couldn't help but swallow hard when he saw his old ballclub lose four out of five games last week and be overtaken in the NL East by the Phillies.

He doesn't want to see it happen again. And even though he makes the point that it would be different this time, that missing the playoffs wouldn't be the collapse it was last year, Glavine says he's rooting hard for the Mets to survive this September.

"It's hard not to pay attention to it," Glavine was saying before the Mets beat his Braves last night, 9-5. "Having been a part of it, and having friends on that team, it means something to me. If my team can't win, I'd love to see my friends win. What happened last year was tough for everybody."

Glavine has had nearly a year to reflect on what went wrong, not only for the team but also personally, since he knows some Mets fans will always hold him most singularly responsible for missing the playoffs, thanks to his failure to last the first inning against the Marlins on the final day of the season.

He indicates that he may never completely come to grips with it, except to say that in his heart of hearts, he knows he didn't choke.

"I know that's what some people are always going to think," Glavine said, "but there was a lot more to it. Believe me, I've thought a lot about it. It will always bother me, but when I look back on it, I can't help thinking, 'How bad does it stink that I didn't have the feel for my changeup on the mound that day?'

"Really, it was the same the last two starts of the season. Those were the only two times all year that I was out there thinking, 'Man, I just don't have a feel.' And for me, that's like Pedro (Martinez) in his heyday, taking his fastball away from him."

Glavine knows how this sounds, and it's not as if he was making a case to be forgiven by Mets fans. He was offering his take on it again only because I was asking him the questions in the Braves' clubhouse, and even though I'll be the first to say it left a permanent stain on his resume, I don't get the sense that he feels compelled to make alibis for himself.

He's going to the Hall of Fame someday, after all, with 300-plus wins and a memorable World Series-clinching start for the Braves in 1995, and beyond that, Glavine has always come off as classy and candid in victory as well as defeat.

So while it's not as if his performance somehow was out of his hands that day, I do believe there is something to his explanation.

"Every year I've pitched there's a period of time when I lose the feel for my changeup grip," said Glavine, "to the point where I might as well have a football in my hand. You can kind of feel it coming. You try to fight through it, but it's like a hitter in a slump, sometimes the harder you fight it, the worse it gets.

"You know you're going to come out of it, but it doesn't happen instantly. To me, you choke when you go out there and feel great, and you just can't pitch. I just couldn't get comfortable that last day. I mean, I hit Dontrelle Willis (in the shoulder) with a changeup. I mean, that tells you how bad I was struggling for any kind of feel."

Glavine knows there is no erasing what happened, but he also knows the Mets can take at least some of the sting out of 2007 by reaching the playoffs this time. Still, he believes the perception is different this time, that there won't be the same stigma if the Mets fail to make it.

"I think if you ask people who they think is the better team, the Mets or the Phillies, you'll get a 50-50 split," Glavine said, "where last year I think people felt the Mets were the better team, and we just didn't play well at the right time.

"The Phillies are very good, but I still come down on the side of the Mets. Not having Billy (Wagner) hurts, but they have good pitching, and I think I'd rather pitch against the Phillies' lineup than the Mets'.

"I know the Phillies have some big bats, but I look at the middle of the Mets' lineup and see three guys with over 100 RBIs. I think people are surprised when they see that. I know I was. But it tells you what kind of offense they have."

Glavine smiles. Yes, he knows he's making a case for his old club. You get the feeling he believes a different outcome this September could heal some old scars, his included.