06/03/09 8:34 PM ET
Glavine release shows focus on future
Understable for Braves to part ways with veteran hurler
Tom Glavine was released by Atlanta on Wednesday, just when it appeared that he might be rejoining the team. Glavine, rehabbing from shoulder and elbow injuries, had pitched six shutout innings for Class A Rome on Tuesday. After that performance, he said that he required no more rehab starts and was ready to resume pitching in the Major Leagues.
The Braves have a highly touted prospect, Tommy Hanson, ready to step into their rotation. Glavine's return could have considerably delayed Hanson's shot. In this instance, they are looking straight ahead at the future, rather than peeking over their shoulder at the past.
There is no debate on Glavine's long-term contributions to this franchise. He was one-third of a future Hall of Fame trio that was at the core of the Braves' incredible steak of regular-season dominance. Along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, Glavine was a dominant pitching force for Atlanta from the late 1980s all the way into the new millennium.
The left-hander had terrific command and tremendous competitive drive. That talent, that quality, along with considerable durability, has allowed Glavine to win 305 games in the Majors. He is a man of considerable intelligence and carries himself with an inherent dignity. His place in Cooperstown is assured.
Glavine spent five seasons with the Mets after his long Atlanta tenure. He returned to the Braves for the 2008 season, and there was considerable positive sentiment generated by that return.
But the fact was that his season, plagued by injuries, included just 13 starts. The Braves had to be contemplating that number as they pondered Glavine's $1 million bonus for being placed on the 25-man roster. His recent rehab success aside, Glavine is 43 years old. He has made 682 big league starts. The hope that he has something left is still present. But the reality of actually having something left is open to question.
The Braves also made no major push this winter to sign Smoltz, who, like Glavine, has yet to to pitch in the Majors this season due to injury. Smoltz is expected to pitch for the Red Sox in the near future. But for the Braves, he would have been one more link to a popular past, but one more link to a popular past who would not immediately be ready to pitch.
In releasing Glavine, the Braves said the things that must be said in a situation such as this.
"We appreciate and respect everything Tom has done for and brought to the Atlanta Braves organization and our fans," executive vice president and general manager Frank Wren said in a release. "His accomplishments for our club during his Hall of Fame career is a measure of his dedication that we will always respect and admire. We wish him nothing but the very best."
Given the worldwide pitching shortage, it is distinctly possible that another club, if fully convinced of Glavine's renewed health, would take a chance on him. He is beyond commanding major money, and the mere possibility that he could still have an effective two-thirds of a season left could attract some offer.
But the storybook ending, finishing his career in Atlanta with the franchise he helped to such steady and certain success, is apparently not in the cards for the remainder of this lifetime. On the Braves' side of the argument, when they really wanted him to stay, before the 2003 season, he went to the Mets for a better offer. This is not said to blame Glavine for taking more money. It merely reflects the fact that the occasional lack of sentimentality in this relationship is not a one-way street.
The Braves have gone to considerable expense -- the Derek Lowe contract -- to improve their pitching. And it appears that they have, particularly in the case of Lowe and Javier Vazquez. At the other end of the spectrum, Jair Jurrjens is a young pitcher with extraordinary potential. If a legitimate young prospect can be added to this rotation core, this still won't be Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz in their prime, but it will represent the Atlanta club once more having the starting pitching to be a genuine force in the National League East.
This is the Braves' path to the future. That path apparently did not include a detour into past glory with another round of Glavine of the Atlanta Braves. It is unfortunate that such a mutually rewarding relationship had to end, but this outcome in this case is also completely understandable.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.