Bobby Cox always said, “Throw out the stats with Tommy. What’s in here is what he’s all about,” as he pointed to his heart.
Hall of Famers are certainly measured by heart or grit, but they’re mostly measured by numbers and awards and hardware. That’s OK, because Tom Glavine has some of those, too.
Such as 305 wins, two Cy Youngs, and a World Series championship. He had durability — only once on the disabled list, and that came at age 42 in his second stint with the Braves. For his 22-year career, Glavine averaged 15-10 with a 3.54 ERA. He also made 10 All-Star teams, made 30-plus starts 17 times, and pitched 200-plus innings 14 times. He won 20 or more games five times.
Think about how hard it is to do that.
Today’s pitchers probably won’t come close to 300 wins.
“I’m not even sure I’d be drafted nowadays if I were a kid coming out of high school,” Glavine said. “We’re so into power pitchers now. The funny thing is, the times I got up to 91-92, I felt I wasn’t going to have a good day because I didn’t have the control and location I had at 88-89. So, too much velocity wasn’t a good thing.”
Glavine, born and raised in Billerica, should be elected to the Hall of Fame in January and go in with his teammate Greg Maddux and manager Cox, who was voted in by the Veterans Committee earlier this month. John Smoltz, another member of those splendid Braves teams from the mid-’90s, is up for Hall induction next year.
If Glavine should somehow go the way of Gaylord Perry and Phil Niekro and not make it on the first ballot with 300-plus wins, the Hall of Fame voters should be tested for brain-debilitating drugs. But in the interest of full disclosure, that comes from the writer who collaborated on Glavine’s autobiography after his stunning performance in the 1995 World Series.
“You never know . . . and I would never consider myself a shoo-in,” Glavine said. “I don’t know what the voters think. I’m optimistic, but I’m honestly not on pins and needles about it. If it happens, I’ll be proud and it would be a dream come true, though I doubt I ever thought I’d be a Hall of Famer when I started. It wasn’t until late in my career that people started to mention it and you start thinking about it a little bit. I’d probably have a hundred adjectives to describe what that moment would be like, but now it’s something that I’ll react to when and if it happens.”
It’s hard enough for a New England kid to make it in professional baseball, given the obstacles he has to overcome with weather and simply not playing enough to get noticed. But to win 305 games in the majors? To last 22 years? To go to the Hall of Fame as a finesse lefthander?
Glavine, who will be honored with the Judge Emil Fuchs Award for long and meritorious service to baseball at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Jan. 23 at the Westin Copley Hotel, said he hopes his success dispels the negative stereotypes of New England kids playing major league baseball.
“I have a similar situation with my kids now,” said Glavine, who lives in the Atlanta suburbs. “They’re hockey players playing in the South, and you always hear how kids who play in the South won’t be able to make it. I tell my kids my own story, that if you’re good enough someone will find you.”
Glavine said he would be thrilled to go in with Maddux and Cox.
“Bobby Cox had the biggest influence in my career and probably the second- or third-biggest influence in my life,” Glavine said. “Greg was a dear friend, and just being around him made me better. I learned so much. We talked so much about pitching and situations, and hitters. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate and influence on my career. To have three of us together like that would be incredible, and Smoltzy next year.”
Glavine doesn’t have to prove himself worthy of his stats. He is 21st all time in wins, 30th in innings (4,413⅓), and 12th in starts (682). He also holds the record for the most consecutive starts. He lived on the outside corner of the plate, and his circle changeup was the reason he could get people out and have them pound the ball into the ground.
Year after year, he put up big win totals and pitched deep into games. He had a 1.61 ERA in four postseason starts in 1995 against the Rockies, Reds, and Indians, and beat the Tribe, 1-0, in Game 6 to give the Braves the World Series title and capture the World Series MVP award.
Glavine is proud of his career and the way he played. He was a gamer.
“I played in an era of great offensive numbers, for whatever reason,” he said. “That Greg and I won that many games with the way we pitched, I think says a lot about our makeup and character. I think we portrayed a good message.”
Still plenty to be had on pitching market
Despite the constant search for pitching, there sure are a lot of pitchers to be had. From Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, and Bronson Arroyo on the free agent market, to David Price, Jeff Samardzija, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Ryan Dempster on the trading block.
All of baseball was waiting, it seemed, for Rakuten Golden Eagles righthander Masahiro Tanaka to be posted, and it now appears he won’t be.
We should now begin to see a wave of signings for these front-end starters, with teams realizing the price of pitching is astronomical, and that price has to be paid.
“There’s always a pitching market,” said one National League general manager. “That never goes away. If you want to unload a pitcher, don’t worry about it. There’s a team who is going to take him.”
And the agents for the pitchers still out there feel the same.
Terry Bross could have gotten Arroyo signed to a two-year deal with one of three teams at the Winter Meetings, but held out for a third year or at minimum a vesting option for a third season. While teams are leery of giving Arroyo three guaranteed years with him turning 37 in February, there’s also the feeling that he might be the most stable pitcher to give three years to given his off-the-charts durability.
In Santana’s case, he’s been good, bad, and now good again. That inconsistency causes some hesitation in committing a four-year deal to him. Garza has not only been inconsistent, but injured the past two seasons, although there’s no denying his toughness. Jimenez has been an enigma for most of his career.
On the trade front, the Rays and Cubs want at least three very good players for Price and Samardzija, respectively, major league-ready or top prospects. The team that trades for Price must figure out a long-term agreement with him. And that goes for Samardzija, as well.
Apropos of nothing
1. After it was determined that Ryan Freel had the degenerative brain disease CTE, I was asked if I still thought baseball should keep allowing home plate collisions. My answer is, I stick with my opinion. The Freel situation was tragic. I doubt you will see a player have 10 concussions, as Freel did, on any field or court or rink again, after the extensive research now available. But do I change a play on the field that is instinctive because of the tragedy? As some baseball people have said, you’re inviting different types of injuries if you change the rule.
2. Having said that, I do agree pitchers should have some protection under their caps to protect them from getting hit with line drives, though it’s difficult to cover the forehead and face, which is where some of the line drives have connected. Nonetheless, some sort of form-fitting, lightweight device could help and not be restrictive.
3. The Orioles have a history of backing out of deals. They did it with Aaron Sele after they found wear and tear on his labrum. But Sele went 32-15 with the Mariners after his deal with the Orioles fell through. Xavier Hernandez was another deal they backed out of. There’s nothing wrong with doing due diligence on medicals, but all pitchers, once they reach a certain age, have significant wear and tear. Roy Halladay pitched effectively for years with a bad shoulder. Now, the Orioles are backing out of a two-year deal with Grant Balfour for similar reasons. Balfour is filing a grievance with the Players Association with what he says is proof from doctors that his shoulder is fine.
4. Here we enter the last full week of December and the Blue Jays still don’t have a complete starting rotation.
5. Going to miss seeing Jim Leyland in the Tigers dugout.
6. Kevin Boles’s patience was rewarded with being named Pawtucket manager, after being bypassed last season in favor of Gary DiSarcina. Being held back was a good thing for the Red Sox as Boles was able to develop catcher Christian Vazquez and pitcher Matt Barnes, both of whom will likely follow him to Pawtucket.
Updates on nine
1. Shin-Soo Choo, RF, Rangers — One of the biggest surprises is that agent Scott Boras couldn’t get Tigers owner Mike Ilitch to outbid the Rangers for Choo, who fit Detroit’s need for a leadoff hitter. In the end, the Rangers upgraded their outfield and leadoff spot, while still leaving room for a possible upgrade at DH, where Mitch Moreland is currently the choice. With Choo and Prince Fielder, the Rangers have added production to their lineup. The Tigers are apparently continuing to commit to Austin Jackson as their leadoff hitter and hope his game smooths out.
2. Mark Mulder, LHP, free agent — Mulder is looking for a creative contract as he makes his comeback attempt. He may have to agree to a minor league deal first, with incentives if he makes the major league club. Mulder has worked out for the Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Angels, and Phillies over two sessions. In the second session, Mulder, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2008, improved his velocity from 88 to 92 miles per hour. It’s a long road back, but the fact that Mulder’s shoulder is showing no signs of discomfort could mean he’d be a good back-end option for someone. The Red Sox have inquired, but probably won’t pursue him.
3. Stephen Drew, SS, free agent — The road is still leading back to Boston, unless something develops soon where the floodgates open for a shortstop. We thought it might be the Mets, but now they’re not willing to commit the years and the dollars. The Mets, like the Red Sox, would likely go for a one-year commitment. The Mets and agent Scott Boras have discussed parameters but no firm numbers. Right now, the Mets plan on going back to Ruben Tejada. There’s always the Yankees, but Drew has never played anywhere but shortstop. He would be a great fit there if it wasn’t for Derek Jeter, and right now Jeter doesn’t appear to be moving off shortstop.
4. Brett Gardner, CF, Yankees — Have you noticed that every time Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi are asked about the Gardner-Jacoby Ellsbury situation, they indicate they have two center fielders? Given his contract, we’re assuming Ellsbury is going to play center, and the last time Ellsbury played left field he collided with Adrian Beltre, broke five ribs, and played in 18 games in 2010. The Yankees are trying to reinvent the Ellsbury-Shane Victorino dynamic by having two center fielders playing their toughest outfield spots, which are left and center at Yankee Stadium. However, even with their declaration that Gardner won’t be traded, they would listen to the right deal.
5. Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH, free agent — The draft pick compensation is hurting Morales’s market, but at some point a team such as the Orioles may give it up to have a superb hitter in the middle of their order. Boras scoffs at the notion that the market has dried up. Morales is a heck of a hitter and can play first base, and we should never underestimate Boras’s ability to create a market.
6. Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B/DH, free agent — Reynolds remains an option for the Yankees, who are trying to find a temporary or permanent solution to replacing Alex Rodriguez at third base. Even if A-Rod gets his 211-game suspension reduced, the feeling is the Yankees will be in need of a third baseman to replace him for at least part of the 2014 season. Reynolds still has excellent power, but his strikeouts are problematic. Third base is also no longer his forté, but he could still play there if need be.
7. Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Rakuten Golden Eagles — The one-year deal could be worth up to $5 million, which apparently is more than he could have received anywhere in the majors. The Yankees had some interest, but at a lower price. The Indians, Giants, and Rays had interest at one time. Back problems limited Youkilis to 28 games last season with the Yankees, and he simply couldn’t convince the masses he was healthy. This deal will allow him to reestablish himself. The player he’s replacing, Casey McGehee, had a good season with the Golden Eagles and was recently signed by the Marlins.
8. Lyle Overbay, 1B, free agent — Very little activity on Overbay, who will likely be a January tack-on. He saved the Yankees’ lunch last season by replacing Mark Teixeira, but for now the Yankees have Tex back and there isn’t a spot on the roster for Overbay. He’ll likely wind up as someone’s backup or a low-cost option for a team such as the Orioles or Indians.
9. Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Phillies — One of the reasons the Phillies haven’t been able to find a buyer for Papelbon is the drop in velocity for the ex-Red Sox closer. Papelbon, who was regularly 95-96 in his Red Sox days, fell to 91-92 and sometimes less last season. “That was a red flag for me,” said an AL scout. “He didn’t look like the same guy. Whether that was physical or he just didn’t have the adrenaline flowing with a bad team, I don’t know.” Papelbon once said he wanted to replace Mariano Rivera. Maybe he would rev it back up if he had that chance.
From the Bill Chuck files — “From 2009-13, Felix Doubront has thrown 358⅔ innings without issuing an intentional pass, the most of any pitcher over the last five years.” . . . Also, “Over the last 10 seasons, only Mark Buehrle has 30-plus starts each season; Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo have nine each.” . . . And, “Last season, versus righties, the Reds had the top two OBP players: Joey Votto (.464) and Shin-Soo Choo (.457). David Ortiz led the AL at .440.” . . . Happy birthday, Dave Schmidt (57).