After spending sixteen mostly-splendid seasons pitching for the Braves, a stretch that included two Cy Young awards, five top-three finishes and eight All-Star appearances, 36-year-old Tom Glavine was a free agent looking for one last big-money deal to get him to 300 wins and baseball immortality. After a dramatic courtship and intense competition from the Phillies and Braves, the Mets and their persistent owner Fred Wilpon had landed their prized free agent target. Glavine was officially a Met, signing a complicated three-year, $35 million deal on December 5, 2002.
Even after inking with the Mets Glavine had mixed emotions about the deal:
"It's almost surreal that it happened. I never thought I would play for someone else. I thought I would play my whole career with the Braves. I held out hope that things would work out, but they didn't. There's a lot of emotions. It's a tough time.
In the end, there was just something telling me in my gut that New York was the right choice."
--New York Daily News (12/6/02)
Year Age IP ERA H HR BB SO ERA+ WARP3 SNLVAR ------------------------------------------------------------- 2003 37 183.1 4.52 205 21 66 82 94 4.3 4.2 2004 38 212.1 3.60 204 20 70 109 119 7.3 4.9 2005 39 211.1 3.53 227 12 61 105 118 6.8 5.4 2006 40 198.0 3.82 202 22 62 131 113 5.6 5.0 2007 41 131.2 4.51 139 18 44 60 91 3.4 3.0Glavine came aboard to anchor a veteran rotation that featured Al Leiter, Steve Trachsel, David Cone (in his second tour of duty with the Mets) and youngster Jae Seo, and to help the Mets rebound from their first losing season since 1996. Glavine's Met career began inauspiciously as he got roughed up in his very first start. In front of a Shea Stadium crowd of 53,586 Glavine allowed five runs on eight hits and four walks in just 3.2 innings in a game the Mets would eventually lose 15-2 (Cub centerfielder Corey Patterson belted two homeruns and drove in seven runs; Mike Bacsik allowed nine runs in two innings of relief for the Mets).
Glavine's second season with the Mets went far better than his first, pitching to a 2.66 ERA and an All-Star appearance in the first half. His 5.06 ERA and 43-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the second half was eerily reminiscent of the way he tailed off in 2003, but he finished with a solid 3.60 ERA for the season, 19% better than the league. As a team the Mets were still lousy, going 71-91 and finishing fourth in the division, a result that contributed to the firing of Art Howe as the team's manager and the demotion of general manager Jim Duquette to assistant duties. Howe would be replaced by first-time manager Willie Randolph and Duquette was usurped by former Met executive Omar Minaya, happily released from front office purgatory in Montreal.
In 2005 the Mets reloaded via free agency, adding superstars Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to a team that already featured up-and-coming stars David Wright and Jose Reyes. The presence of Martinez in particular took some pressure off of Glavine as he was no longer looked upon to be the ace of the starting rotation. For Glavine, the changes made for a much more competitive team which in turn pushed him closer to his ultimate personal goal, three hundred career victories. He came to the Mets just 58 wins shy of the milestone but accumulated just twenty victories in his first two seasons in Queens after averaging better than seventeen wins per season in his last twelve years with the Braves.
Now the Mets' bona fide #2 starter, Glavine came out and pitched about as well in 2005 as he had in 2004: His innings pitched, ERA, strikeouts and ERA+ were all virtually identical. He put thirteen more wins into his portfolio and the Mets as a team showed plenty of improvement, finishing better than .500 for the first time in three years.
Glavine continued to chew up innings in 2006 and made his second All-Star appearance in a Mets uniform. His 5.95 K/9 ratio was the best it had been since he struck out 6.16 batters per nine innings back in 1998 and his 2.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio was his highest since 2000. He went 15-7 on the season and helped the Mets reach the postseason for the first time in six years. Glavine was terrific in the playoffs, shutting out the Dodgers for six innings in the second game of the LDS and allowing just three earned runs in eleven innings in two LCS starts. The Mets eventually lost the NLCS to the Cardinals in seven games, but that had more to do with the Mets' lack of hitting than anything else.
The 2006 offseason brought free agency for Glavine again. After entertaining a return to Atlanta he eventually signed a one-year deal to return to the Mets.
"I can't tell you how good it makes me feel that they gave me the respect they gave me and the time they gave. I don't care what you do in life, there's a value to feeling you're appreciated and wanted somewhere. The Mets certainly made me feel that way and treated me that way. I'm not saying the Braves didn't have an interest in me. They said they did. But, in the end, nothing ever materialized.What would 2007 hold? To be continued...
That pull to come back to New York was a very strong pull. In the end, it's where we felt like we needed to be."
--New York Daily News (12/2/06)