Well, they led him to the altar, but they couldn’t convince him to say, “I quit.”
Speaking here of the “Tom Glavine affair,” which is not going away, and which the Braves will have plastered across their dossier for time to come. Coming on the heels of the indifferent dealing with John Smoltz — who tired of waiting for a commitment — we now have become witness to the end of an era: The Smoltz-Glavine-Maddux era, when the Braves had the three greatest pitchers they have ever had on their roster at the same time.
But, Glavine is the central figure here. Say his time had come, if you choose, but no one had ever given the slightest hint that he was being whip-sawed with such a dead-end decision: Take retirement or release. Then the heartless words spread across the television screen: “Braves Release Tom Glavine.”
If they were going to release him, then why this agonizing process of rehabilitation tests at Gwinnett and Rome? It was some kind of anxiety scene outside the Braves clubhouse Wednesday evening while John Schuerholz, Frank Wren and Bobby Cox had the final sit-down conference with Glavine, the better part of two hours. A nervous lot of us squirmed and twisted and cracked wise in the passageway outside, lined up like birds on a telephone wire. Waiting. Having no idea what was taking place inside, realizing as the wait stretched past 6 p.m. that negotiations had reached a tenuous state.
In the end, Wren, the general manager, spoke, and the decision was out. Glavine had been released. “It was a performance decision,” he said.
Then someone mentioned the speed readings that had been reported. “They were not accurate,” Wren said, “just ball-park figures.”
Later, though, Cox came through in his usual stance, defending the player in a radio interview. “His arm is pretty darned strong.”
Then it must have been the money, one million the moment he suited up, with designated incentives down the road. “Not a monetary decision.” Wren said. So did the CEO, Terry McGuirk, who backed it up with his report that it was unanimous, and “That’s good enough for me.”
A million dollars is a pittance for this club with an extended salary cap this season. They poured out millions to sign Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vazquez. Surely another million wouldn’t have disturbed their budget, but deep down inside, you had to feel that it was a matter of, “is it worth for a 43-year-old pitcher coming back from surgery?”
For one who has won 244 games for you, yes. And for one who has been a reputable citizen, and deserves the courtesy of ending his career here, yes.
For those who still hold it against Glavine as a “union man,” forget it. It was his job, and he was true to it. Details of why he left for the Mets have never been made clear, but there is little doubt that he and Schuerholz never duked it out, that Glavine was left hanging and took the Mets’ offer when the Braves never countered.
So much for much for all the water-cooler talk. What gnaws at many is why the Braves led him on, through three minor-league test runs, then decided the velocity wasn’t there. Well, velocity has never been a trademark of Glavine, the pitcher. Location has been. “Pitching in the black,” the home-plate border, depicted his style.
Who did the scouting? Who came to these decisions? We’ll probably never know, but the final cruel decision rests on the Wren regime, and while his deal for Nate McLouth, a quite savvy move, deflected some of the umbrage, it was only slight. For ringing in all our ears was Tom Glavine’s last declaration, “I’m ready to pitch.”
Later, Schuerholz called a press conference and issued an apology for the manner in which all this was handled. But that changed nothing. Nice try, John. But the damage is done.