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Of Mercenaries and Scapegoats

Mike SteffanosFriday, December 1, 2006
By Mike Steffanos


Mercenaries

To some extent, the saga of where Tom Glavine plies his trade in 2006 has become somewhat of a farce. The Mets want Glavine back, but he seems to be hoping that Atlanta might offer him the contract that will enable him to chase 300 wins in the city that he still calls home. We read assurances that Atlanta wants Glavine, but so far have been unable to move the salary that would clear room for Tom's triumphant return. Now, as Glavine's tomahawk redux seems less likely, Glavine's agent Gregg Clifton hints that a yearning to return to New York has further complicated matters for the southpaw:

As time has gone on, I think it's actually been the potential pull and the desire to go back to New York and be a Met that has delayed this process and further complicated his decision-making.

Maybe I'm cynical, but that just seems like so much damage control to me. Sounds like someone is waking up to the fact that the natives here are getting a little restless. Don't get me wrong, I freely concede that Glavine has every right to decide where he wants to play next season -- but decide already, Tommy, this soap opera is getting old.

Glavine seems to be a class act as a person as well as being a good teammate. He's had his ups and downs with performance since a boatload of dollars lured him away from Atlanta in the first place, but he's always been a standup guy who doesn't look to make excuses or question the intelligence of the fans. By all accounts, he's been terrific mentoring the young pitchers. I've never read nor heard a negative story about Glavine interacting with the press or the faithful. He's widely acknowledged to be one of the good guys. Yes, he chased the money to New York, but while he was here, he did everything reasonable to earn it.

If there is one simple truth about Tom Glavine that the past few weeks have hammered home, however, it is this: 5 seconds after Tom Glavine cashes his last Mets paycheck, whether it's this year or next, he will cease to be a New York Met.

Tom Glavine has spent the vast majority of his career with the Braves. When Glavine enters the Hall of Fame in a few years, it will be as an Atlanta Brave. For 16 years Tom Glavine wore a Braves uniform. For 4 years he has been a Met. Do the math. It comes as no shock, nor is it a black mark against Tom Glavine, that in his perfect world the Braves would make him the kind of offer that would make it possible to win his 300th with that tomahawk logo on his chest.

Maybe that's why so many of us Mets fans feel something extra special for David Wright and Jose Reyes. Here are two guys who started here, and would like nothing better than to finish here. There is that loyalty and identification with the Metropolitan baseball club that no amount of money can buy. It's more than just a paycheck that makes them Mets. We understand and sympathize with the fact that Glavine left Atlanta with regrets. We thank him for what he has given back in the 4 years he has been with us. We'll always have a little bit of a soft spot in our hearts for him, and an abiding respect. That doesn't erase the reality that Tom Glavine is a rental -- a hired mercenary brought in to do battle for strangers in a strange land.

For two years I have hammered on the importance of a team developing their own talent in this skyrocketing market for players. Beyond being a smart business decision, it is also great for us fans. Reyes and Wright are Mets. In a special way that so many others who came through here can't match, they belong to us. Even with a guy we love like Cliff Floyd, we understand that by the time his career ends most of it will have taken place elsewhere. He was great, but in the end he was a rental, too.

The Mets haven't had very many guys who started here and played a long time. The sad thing is that right now Tom Glavine is one of the longest-tenured Mets. If the Mets hope to build themselves into something more than a company of highly-paid baseball mercenaries, they will need to keep a core of players who identify themselves as Mets in the same way that Tom Glavine is, at heart, an Atlanta Brave.

Note: Since this was written, Tom Glavine re-signed with the Mets, displaying the class and honor that he has shown since his arrival four seasons ago. It still doesn't change for me the hope that we could build our own core of players whose primary identity is as a New York Met.

Scapegoats

I'm not a fan of cheating. The "steroid years" have left a pall over baseball that will not go away despite the implementation of testing for performance enhancing drugs. I think most of us believe that there are plenty of players who are still injecting non-detectable designer hormones into their chiseled bodies. And we now know it's not just large-muscled home run hitters that are juicing themselves -- pitchers are, too. With an imperfect testing system and millions of good reasons for players to enhance what God gave them -- along with corrupt scientists only too willing to provide the stuff that keeps these players one step ahead of detection -- this type of cheating isn't going away anytime soon, and we have no idea of who's clean and who's dirty.

This is why I cannot support any who claim that keeping Mark McGwire out of baseball's Hall of Fame accomplishes anything. Guaranteed there will be plenty of players who cheated that will make it in. Furthermore, despite the embarrassment of his appearance in front of congress, McGwire has not been actually caught doing anything. In his own way, he makes a convenient whipping boy to take out our anger on in a manner similar to how the unlikable Barry Bonds galvanizes our abhorrence of cheaters. Still, unless someone is actually caught with the type of evidence that would secure a conviction in court, making him accept the punishment for a whole era's worth of cheating is simply wrong.

Those who believe they are really accomplishing anything by keeping McGwire, Sosa, Bonds or any other of those who have come to be generally accepted as cheaters out of the Hall are simply deluding themselves. We don't know how many pitchers benefited from the recuperative effects that steroids provided. How about the little infielder who didn't hit 60 home runs in a season, but carved out a HOF career thanks to the work of some chemist? We'll never really know who cheated and who didn't, so let's please stop kidding ourselves by finding a handful of ballplayers on which to take out our frustrations. Arbitrarily punishing some cheaters while continuing to glorify others is not my idea of justice.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (6)

"Glavine seems to be a class act as a person as well as being a good teammate. He's had his ups and downs with performance since a boatload of dollars lured him away from Atlanta in the first place, but he's always been a standup guy ..."

Glavine and Pedro changed the credibility/face of this franchise. More than losing Cliff, losing Glavine changes the character of our team. That said in his 41st yr that reality beckons regardless.

In his 4yrs he has evolved. He can still be effective but not at the top of the rotation. BUT (and I use my cap's for exaggeration), his influence on the team cannot be undermined.

One slant though that i see in posts is a cliched parallel to a guy who splits with his 2nd wife to see if his 1st wife has reconsidered and now wants him back so they can live out there twilight years. Omar and Co. recognizing this lost love are giving him all the time he needs to work out his feelings.

I hope there's a tax (wilpon)exemption for that $10M.

Mike,
Seems Tom Glavine said the Mets would have an answer before the start of the Winter Meetings. I think we can at least give him until Sunday December 3 for that decision, although I think he should respond by today. Until that deadline passes I don't feel Glavine has lied to anyone or led us on. Seems Mets management has some type of gentleman's agreement with him that he is now pursuing.
Another way of looking at this is that Glavine may actually enjoy screwing with the Braves. It's possible that he wants an offer from Schuerholz just so he can tell him "No".

As for McGwire and the others, I think the only thing we can expect is that the proverbial message being sent by denying him entry on his first ballot. I have read very few reports that people will try to permanently blacklist any of them (except maybe Palmiero).

Ed - I have no problem with Glavine, whether he comes back here or returns to Atlanta. My point is, as the Braves once did, the Mets have to develop their own core of guys who are truly Mets. Tom Glavine has been an excellent employee, and I hope he comes back, but in his heart he is a Brave. I don't blame him for it, it's the reality of 16 years vs. 4.
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John - As I said above to Ed, this isn't a criticism of Glavine. I don't think he has lied to us or let us on. When he was in the employ of the Mets he was a very good employee. But I want us to develop guys who are truly Mets in the same way that Glavine, Larry and Andruw Jones, and Smoltz are truly Braves.

Some writers are claiming that McGwire and Sosa will never get in. I'm not defending them, Palmiero or Bonds, but the scapegoat mentality bugs me a little. I'm bothered by cheaters, but a lot of them are going to get into the HOF anyway. These guys are unlucky enough to be taking the blame for an entire generation of ballplayers, including pitchers and little guys who have also cheated.

The Mets are trying to do that.

Bannister, Pelfrey, Humber, Carp, Collazzo, F-Mart, Guerro are all Potential future stars, to join Heilman, Wright and Reyes.

But Glavine has a role as the Kenny Rogers to the Bonderman/Verlander/Nate Robertson core.

Also: Its not (all)Omar's fault that Grant Roberts, Alex Escobar, Ty Wiggington, Preston Wilson, Izzy, Jason Bay, Pat Strange et al never developed in the Met stars they were foretold to be. But he is changing that.

I'm not saying that they're not. I'm just offering a particular take on the whole Glavine deal. There is no criticism of anyone here, including Glavine or Omar. By signing Wright and Reyes to contracts last year, the Mets as an organization show what they are trying to accomplish.

Glavine does seem to wish that he could return to Atlanta, and I'm actually defending him for that. He has been an excellent mercenary in a way that so many failed to be (Bonilla, Vaughn, Alomar, etc.), but he is a mercenary. He came here because we gave him more money, plain and simple.

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