Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Trouble With Tom

Game 22 - Mets

Braves 8, Mets 4
Record: 11-11

Friends, New Yorkers, residents of the Township, lend me your eyes;
I come to bury Glavine, not to praise him.
The evil that Mets do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Glavine.

The alternate version of Marc Antony's words ("Shakespeare at The Met" with a new meaning) lacks the ironic tilt of the original text, i.e., this won't be a shout-out in shout-at's clothing. It's more literal, and miles less literary.

Countless words have been written and uttered about how Tom Glavine gets hammered by the Braves every time out, and they're not wrong. I contend, however, that Glavine, in this stage of his career, isn't merely bad against the Braves but bad against any team with even a middling level of talent. So far this season he's had good outings against only the emasculated Astros and the next-stop-5th-place Nationals, 22nd and 28th in the league in run production, respectively. Beyond that, he's been shelled by the Reds, Marlins, and Braves, and looked pretty shabby doing so. You can theorize all you want about familiarity breeding three-run-jacks and the Braves simply having his number, but when (a) greenhorn Wilson Betemit collects his first career home run off the guy and (b) other clubs get to him at will, it appears there's more to it than that. And there is.

Granted, there was plenty of discourse on the woes of Tom Glavine two years ago when his Opening Day start played out like the first scene of Saving Private Ryan, and a season of 9-14/4.52 didn't silence the critics who called him "mediocre," "bait and switch," "a giant waste of money," and even "total crap." (And that was just on this site.) Truth be told, however, if you were to magically eradicate his games against his former team that season, he would have had a much more respectable year. Minus the five outings versus the Bravos, his numbers would have been 9-9/3.80. On that 2003 team, the record is outstanding and the ERA is more than serviceable. That year, the scribblings detailing Atlanta owning old #47 were dead on.

Fast forward to last year. (You can do that at Misery Loves Company because we don't write squat in the offseason.) Glavine's 11-14/3.60 campaign -- yes, record and ERA are sometimes just the tip of the iceberg, but in this case, the old school numbers tell the tale just fine -- would have been 10-12/3.32 sans scalpings by the Braves, just marginally better. Though he was certainly still shaky against Atlanta, he wasn't that much worse against them than everybody else.

Now fast forward to . . . now. Tom Glavine still hangs out in that "Property of Atlanta Braves Baseball Club" T-shirt, but a higher and higher percentage of the league is getting to him every time out. He's getting peppered not only by former battery mates (Eddie Perez hit a crucial two-run tater off TG yesterday) but by random journeymen, utility guys, and futureless rookies of every squad. More and more guys will have personal highlights to tell their grandkids, "I hit a home run off a Hall of Fame pitcher." It's starting to get very ugly for Tom Glavine, and not simply because the Atlanta Braves hit him consistently hard.

In truth, Glavine may well have some gas in the tank, as the stats of the last couple of years contend. But worth noting is that Glavine, like many an aging veteran, was significantly stronger in the early months of the past two seasons and seemed to tire as the season played out. In '03, his ERA went up in every month but one, and in '04 he seemed poised to battle for the ERA title in the first half of the season, closing June with a 2.16 mark, but threw up (or was that me throwing up) monthly averages of 4.31, 5.79, and 6.69 over the last three months. He wears out. Duh. But if he's getting roughed up throughout April, as his current 5.67 ERA and my constant cringing throughout his starts seem to indicate, August and September might be bloodbaths the likes of which we haven't seen here in some time.

I guess I just wanted to dispel the SportsCenter-deep notion that Tom Glavine's troubles lie mostly within Atlanta, aka the city Peter Angelos should have targeted as being void of "real baseball fans." (Nice nasty aside with zero relevance, I know, but the opportunity to slag Angelos and Braves fans in one phrase cannot be resisted.) Somehow, though, this has come across as an assault on Glavine. So be it. His veteran presence, somewhere between that of the noble sages some other teams sport and the clubhouse carcinogens of last year, isn't worth the damage to the Mets' chances and the dollars it's costing them -- this year and especially next year, if that happens. Andrew at Chuck 'n' Duck mused a couple of weeks ago whether Tom Glavine is a Met, and he concluded that by now he is one. If May goes like April, it won't be for long.

Just to bookend utter drivel with sacred verse, let's hope April is indeed the cruelest month for the pitcher. I'm not so sure it will be, though. Prove me wrong, Tom Glavine. Make me look ignorant, and bliss will follow.

No comments: