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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday…Tom Glavine

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Glavine was drafted in two sports in 1984…the Los Angeles Kings (NHL) and the Atlanta Braves. Glavine chose Baseball and made his debut in 1987.

Glavine had mixed results during his first several years in the majors, compiling a 33–43 record from 1987 to 1990, including a 17-loss performance in 1988.

His fortunes turned around in 1991, when he won 20 games and posted a 2.55 earned run average. It was his first of three consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins, and saw him earn his first National League Cy Young Award. Glavine was the ace of the 1991 Braves’ starting rotation that also included Steve Avery, Charlie Leibrandt, and another future NL Cy Young Award winner, John Smoltz. His season helped ensure a dramatic reversal in the Braves’ competitive fortunes as they won the National League pennant and earned a trip to the World Series, though they lost to the Minnesota Twins in seven games. In an era of the diminishing 20-game winner (there were none in the majors in 2006 and 2009), Glavine became the last major league pitcher to win 20 games in three consecutive years (1991–1993).

Atlanta, long thought of as a perennial cellar dweller, was lifted in the 1990s into one of the most successful franchises in the game on the strength of its stellar pitching staff and solid hitting. After the Braves acquired Greg Maddux from the Chicago Cubs in 1993, Glavine, Maddux, and Smoltz formed one of the best pitching rotations in baseball history. Among them, they won seven Cy Young Awards during the period of 1991 to 1998. Glavine won his second Cy Young Award in 1998, going 20–6 with a 2.47 ERA. Years later, after Glavine joined the Mets and Maddux played for the San Diego Padres, the three (along with Smoltz who still pitched for Atlanta) all recorded wins on the same day, June 27, 2007.

The Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians in 6 games in the 1995 World Series, and Glavine was named the Series MVP. He won two games during that series: Game 2 and Game 6. In Game 6, he pitched eight innings of one-hit shutout baseball; in fact, the only run in that game was a solo 6th-inning home run by David Justice of the Braves.

In addition to the championship won with the Braves in 1995, he also went to four other World Series with the team (in 1991, 1992, 1996, and 1999).

In 2003, Glavine left Atlanta to play for the rival New York Mets, signing a four-year, $42.5 million deal. Glavine’s performance had slumped in the second half of 2002 and he was ineffective in his two postseason starts, so Atlanta refused to guarantee a third year on his contract.

Glavine’s first year as a Met was poor. For the first time since 1988, he failed to win 10 games, also posting his first losing record in that span, 9–14. He also allowed his first and only career grand slam, hit by José Vidro of the Expos on September 19. Glavine did get to enjoy a personal highlight at the end of the season, however, when the Mets called up his brother Mike to join the team.

Glavine began 2004 well, highlighted by a May 23 one-hit shutout of the Colorado Rockies and selection to the National League All-Star team. However, he struggled again during a second half marred by losing front teeth in a car accident while riding in a taxicab. He went on to post a slightly better record, though still a losing one, going 11–14.

He started off 2005 slowly, but rebounded after advice from pitching coach Rick Peterson, who encouraged Glavine to begin pitching inside more often (including a change up in) and incorporate a curveball in his repertoire. Glavine’s turnaround helped him earn National League Pitcher of the Month in September. He finished the season with a 13–13 record and a respectable 3.53 ERA.

The Mets’ faith in Glavine was rewarded when he returned to his old form during the 2006 season. He finished one victory shy of the NL lead in wins and was selected to the All-Star team. That season Tom Glavine became the first Mets left-hander in nearly 30 years to start at least thirty games in four consecutive seasons. Glavine and the Mets got a scare in August 2006. His pitching shoulder was tested for a blood clot because he was suffering from coldness in his left ring finger. This was originally thought to be a symptom of Raynaud’s syndrome, which had been diagnosed in 1990. According to the pitcher, “Doctors… picked something up when they did the ultrasound.” The results of that new test showed the problem could be treated with medicine, and Glavine resumed pitching on September 1, against the Houston Astros.

Glavine finished the 2006 season with a fine 15–7 record and a 3.82 ERA, as the Mets won the National League Eastern Division, allowing him to make his first playoff appearance since leaving the Braves. He started Game 2 of the Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching six shutout innings and surrendering only four hits to pick up the win, as the Mets went on to sweep the series from the Dodgers. He then started Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, pitching seven shutout innings to pick up the win, helped by Carlos Beltran‘s two-run home run. Glavine’s postseason scoreless innings streak ended in his next start. He suffered the loss in Game 5 while the Mets went on to drop the series to the Cardinals in seven games.

Glavine re-signed with the Mets for the 2007 season, needing only 10 wins to reach 300 wins for his career. He started his fourth Opening Day game as a Met in the 2007 season.

On August 5, 2007, Glavine won his 300th game, against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. In the game, he also was 1 for 2 with a run batted in and a walk. He pitched 6⅓ innings and won 8–3, bringing his lifetime record to 300–197. Glavine is the 23rd pitcher to win 300 games, and the fifth left-handed pitcher to do so, joining Eddie Plank, Lefty Grove, Warren Spahn, and Steve Carlton. Randy Johnson has since won his 300th game on June 4, 2009, becoming the 24th pitcher and 6th left-hander to do so.

On September 30, 2007, Glavine started the final game of the Mets’ 2007 regular season against the Florida Marlins. The Mets, tied with the Philadelphia Phillies, needed a win to either win the division or force a playoff game with the Phillies for the division. Unfortunately, Glavine made one of the worst starts of his career, allowing seven runs while recording only one out, with the Mets being eliminated from playoff contention with an 8–1 loss.[2]

Glavine declined a one-year, $13 million contract option for the 2008 season with the Mets on October 5, 2007, ending his time as a New York Met. However, he did collect a $3 million buyout when he declined the $13 million option.

Glavine returned to the Braves in 2008 with a 1-year contract worth $8 million. On April 18, 2008, Glavine was placed on the disabled list (DL) for the first time in his 22-year career.[4]

On May 14, 2008, Glavine won his first game with the Atlanta Braves since September 19, 2002. This was also his 304th win, and it occurred while the Atlanta Braves were playing against the Philadelphia Phillies. Coincidentally, both his win on September 19, 2002 and May 14, 2008, were against the Phillies.[5]

On August 14, 2008, Glavine appeared in his final game. He started against the Chicago Cubs, and he gave up 7 runs in only 4 innings. A few days later, he was placed on the disabled list because of a recurring shoulder injury.

On February 19, 2009, Glavine agreed to return to Atlanta by signing a $1 million, one-year contract that included another $3.5 million in possible bonuses based on roster time.[6] However, the Braves released Glavine on June 3, 2009, as he was completing his rehab assignment.[7] On June 20, Glavine announced he wouldn’t pitch for the rest of the season.[8] On February 11, 2010, he officially retired from the sport, having strongly hinted at that decision throughout the past few months.

Accomplishments

  • Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee (2014 – first year of eligibility)
  • 23rd player to win 300 career games
  • 10-time All-Star (1991–93, 1996–98, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006)
  • 2-time National League Cy Young Award winner (1991, 1998)
  • Finished 2nd in National League Cy Young award voting (1992, 2000)
  • Finished 3rd in National League Cy Young award voting (1993, 1995)
  • Finished 10th in National League MVP voting (1992)
  • Finished 11th in National League MVP voting (1991)
  • Finished 14th in National League MVP voting (2000)
  • Finished 21st in National League MVP voting (1998)
  • Finished 24th in National League MVP voting (1993)
  • World Series MVP Award (1995)
  • 5-time National League leader in wins (1991–93, 1998, 2000)
  • 4-time Silver Slugger winner (1991, 1995–96, 1998)
  • Only pitcher to throw two shutouts at Coors Field, doing so while with Atlanta.
  • Holds the major league record for career starts without making an appearance in relief (682). Also started 35 post-season games with no relief appearances.

On the date of his retirement, Glavine agreed to take a job as a special assistant to Braves president John Schuerholz starting in the 2010 season. He would also serve as a guest analyst for some Braves games on SportSouth and Fox Sports South.

The Braves retired Glavine’s # 47 on August 6, 2010.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights…Tom Glavine.

MLB debut
August 17, 1987 for the Atlanta Braves
Last MLB appearance
August 14, 2008 for the Atlanta Braves
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 305–203
Earned run average 3.54
Strikeouts 2,607
Teams
Career highlights and awards
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