When Tom Glavine was allowed to leave for the Mets in December 2002, I was outraged. (At the Braves, not at him.) The same Braves released the same Glavine on Wednesday, and here’s what I say now:
Tom Glavine is my favorite Brave ever, but it was time — past time — for him to go. I didn’t cheer when they brought him back two winters ago, and I was against giving him another chance in 2009. A 43-year-old coming off shoulder and elbow surgery? With Tommy Hanson waiting in the minors? Was this a big-league baseball season or a sentimental journey?
“This was not a business decision,” Frank Wren told the media Wednesday. “This was a performance decision.” And there should be no arguing with that.
Tom Glavine gave the Braves a lot. He gave them the greatest night of professional sports this city has known. (Game 6, 1995 World Series, eight innings, one hit.) But he has, sad to say, nothing left to give. Wren again: “Our evaluation [of Glavine's rehab starts in the minors] was that he would not be successful at the major-league level.”
It was a grim and defensive Wren who faced the press, and sure enough the question arose: Given that John Smoltz was allowed to sign elsewhere and that Glavine has been cut, was he worried about appearances? “Obviously you’re concerned about everything,” Wren said, “but at the end of the day fans want to win, to be in the playoff hunt … If we have to deal with the consequences of a public-relations backlash, that’s part of doing business.”
Then this: “My duty is to give the 25 players in that clubhouse the best chance to win and the best chance to be playing in October.”
And he has. Hanson is en route to the bigs, where he surely belongs. (He’ll start here Saturday night against Milwaukee.) At this point in their careers, is there any doubt a heat-bringing 22-year-old stands to help more than a 43-year-old soft-tosser? Shouldn’t that consideration trump all else?
The belief here is that there will be no massive outcry. (Glavine, as we know, was pilloried locally — and wrongly — for his role as a players’ representative during the 1994 strike.) The belief here is that the Braves will sell more tickets for Hanson’s first big-league start than they would have for Glavine’s 683rd. The belief here is that Wren deserves no grief for this move, none whatsoever.
The Braves hoped Glavine would be ready by April 17, the first time they’d need a No. 5 starter to bring the gap until Hanson was primed. Glavine couldn’t go in April (or May), and now no such gap exists with Hanson. And just because Glavine threw six shutout innings in a Rome rehab start Tuesday cut no ice. Said Wren: “Our view over the course of the last month was that he has not improved.
This wasn’t a hairline call, not for a team that has designs on winning the NL East. Toward that end, Wren traded three big-time prospects to Pittsburgh for center fielder Nate McLouth an hour after announcing Glavine’s release. This general manager is being as aggressive as is financially possible, and we should applaud him for that. Even if Wednesday didn’t seem a time for applause.
Said Wren: “It’s not a pleasant day,” and it wasn’t. Bobby Cox, a man’s man, spoke after the game with reddened eyes. And Chipper Jones, as he invariably does, sounded the exact proper note: “Sentimentally, [the day] stunk. But if you look at it in terms of this organization going forward, you have to hope it’s a step in the right direction.”
Tom Glavine is among the most distinguished Braves ever to wear the uniform. But time waits for no man, and it was time for the team he ennobled to move on.