Who acted poorly: Glavine, or the Braves?
As a longtime Braves fan, I was beyond angry when I heard that they had released Tom Glavine yesterday. As a 14 year-old boy, I watched Glavine’s first start back in 1987, was with him and the Braves through some dark, early years, rejoiced when things unexpectedly turned around in 1991, cheered like crazy during Game Six of the 1995 World Series, and continued to pull for him as his career transformed from merely great to Hall of Fame worthy. Even if I didn’t particularly enjoy his move to the Mets, I understood. Even though I knew he wasn’t the same pitcher he used to be upon his return to Atlanta last year, I rejoiced. Glavine doesn’t know it, but he and I have a lot of history together, and history makes up for a lot.
So, yes, I was angry when I heard the news yesterday. Earlier this spring I wanted Glavine to retire because it sounded like he truly couldn’t pitch anymore, but his rehab starts sounded like they were going well. Indeed, he pitched six scoreless innings on Tuesday night. In light of this, and in light of all Glavine has meant to the franchise over the past 22 years, I thought the Braves were obligated to at least give him a chance to pitch. But they didn’t. Which was bad enough, but it was compounded by what seemed like humiliation in light of Glavine’s statements the evening before that he stood ready to pitch. As it seemed motivated by money (Glavine stood to claim $1 million for making the team) it struck me like a particularly classless and penny wise-pound foolish way to let a future Hall of Famer’s career end in Atlanta.
After having had a night to sleep on it, I’m still miffed over it all, though not quite as miffed as I was yesterday. I will not dispute for a second that the Braves are better off from a baseball perspective having Tommy Hanson pitching than Tom Glavine. I will also fully grant the following, offered by Braves’ GM Frank Wren:
“In low-A ball, the pitching line is not a relevant factor in whether the ‘stuff’ could get major-league hitters out”
I’m no scout and outside of the discussion of his radar readings, I’ve heard nothing about the specific quality of his rehab starts. Maybe he’d get shelled if he pitched for Atlanta. I don’t know.
But I do know that the only situation which could have existed to make this something other than a callous move on the Braves’ part would the following: Glavine is told that he’s not cutting by Braves management and is about to be released, and then nonetheless seeks out a reporter to make that “I’m ready” comment. In such a situation, it’s Glavine, not the Braves forcing the issue out the way it was forced, putting the Braves in a no-win situation. Did he do that, or did the Braves play their cards close to the vest, encouraging him along in rehab, allowing him to declare himself ready, and then and only then tell him, no, you’re going to be released?
For those of us who are coming at this with some emotional baggage as it relates to a team legend -- as opposed to thinking about it in merely analytical terms -- that is the most important question.