Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tommy Boy

Seriously, what the hell? I swear to post nothing but baseball entries this week and the Celtics decide to make not only the biggest trade in franchise history, but one of the biggest in NBA history. I will let Simmons and French have their say on this matter. My only question is whether Danny Ainge threw in his next new born, his Toronto Blue Jays rookie card, and his pink Mazda Miata. Just a shame he didn't include Doc Rivers. Anyway, I'm sticking to my guns. Onto baseball.

On August 17th, 1987 a scrawny 21 year old made his pitching debut for an Atlanta Braves team that was going nowhere. They ended the year at 69-92 and were managed by the immortal Chuck Tanner (who I think was in the Bad News Bears). The team included Ken Griffey (the original, not Jr.), Dale Murphy, a 42 year old Graig Nettles and a downright ancient Phil Neikro. I would mention more names, but I don’t recognize any of them. Doyle Alexander may be the only other familiar name on the list.

The 21 year old didn’t appear to be much at first. Going 2-4 with an ERA over 5 in his first nine starts. But, the Braves brought him back the following year when the team was truly abysmal. It actually took two managers (Tanner was replaced by Russ Nixon) to guide the team to a sterling 54-106 record. 21, who was now 22, lost nearly 20 games himself that year, compiling a 7-17 record. But he showed signs, lowering his ERA to 4.50, having more strikeouts than walks and only giving up 12 home runs despite pitching nearly 200 innings. This was also the year the Braves brought up someone who would become his long time teammate and friend, John Smoltz.

The 21 year old, who just happens to hail from Billerica, MA was Tom Glavine and he really put things together in his second full season when his ERA dropped to 3.68 while winning 14 games. Russ Nixon was replaced by Bobby Cox and the rest…..well you know the rest.

Or do you?

Lost amid the mass hysteria involving Barry Bonds’ home run chase and/or steroid rage explosion in which he kills 42 people in the stands with the handle of his broken bat before security brings him down with a dozen tranquilizer darts (what? I can dream) is Tom Glavine’s chance at career win number 300. He goes for that milestone tonight and it could be a LOOONG time before we see another pitcher get to this point.

Glavine always seemed to be over shadowed by his own teammates. Having to play second or third fiddle to Smoltz and Maddux during his Brave years, then carrying that same badge when Pedro signed with the Mets. Only he doesn’t care. We always hear about the egoless athlete, but who ever really believed that? I always figured as an athlete you NEED a certain amount of ego to succeed. I’m sure Glavine has it, but he certainly never shows it to anyone. He goes about his business and if he gets the recognition and rewards, than great. If not, that’s fine too. He’s not pitching for the headlines, he pitches because he loves playing baseball.

But it’s not his love of the sport that will get him into the Hall of Fame, now is it? Like everybody else his stats will do the talking. Talk to us stats, talk to us.

Since everyone seems to agree that a pitcher’s prime years are between 24-34, let’s take a quick look:

Combined record – 185 – 96. Note that this takes into account his 10-12 record from 1990.
ERA 3.57
Cy Youngs – 2
Cy Young Runner Up Finishes – 2
Cy Young 3rd place finishes – 2 So in 10 years he finished top 3 in six of them. Nice!

But even this doesn’t tell you the entire story. Like how in 1991, while on his way to winning 20 games for the first time, he struck out 192 batters and only walked 69. Or how, after he won the Cy Young in 1998, his ERA ballooned to 4.21, only to have him storm back the next year winning 21 games and only losing 9. Or how he’s pitched over 200 innings in all but 6 of his 20 full seasons in the majors. And in two of those he still managed over 190 innings!

Still doing nothing for you? Try this one. During the 1992-1995 seasons Glavine gave up a grand total of 41 home runs. This includes only 6 in 1992. That’s all year! He gave up 6 home runs during a season in which he pitched 225 innings! Tim Wakefield gave up 6 home runs in ONE GAME!! It also includes only giving up 9 in 1995 when he pitched nearly 200 innings and only walked 66 while striking out 127. Are you kidding me? Last season Josh Beckett seemingly gave up a home run to every ninth batter.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Yeah, he was good, but that was during his prime years when he had Smoltz and Maddux covering for him.’ OK, fine. Let’s take a look at 2005 when he was 39 years old. Now with the Mets, want to guess how many homers he gave up that year? Try 12. That was pitching 211 innings. How about last year when he struck out more than twice as many batters as he walked (131 – 62).

I must admit that I've signed off on Glavine more than once during his career. And he has always come back the following year and proven me wrong. Last season being the perfect example.

This is most likely Glavine’s last year. He has already publicly spoken about retiring at the end of the season. I don’t care if he gets into the Hall of Fame or not, although he probably will. I don’t care if he gets 300 wins or not, although, barring injury, he will get that, too. I’m just tired of all the hoopla surrounding the likes of Bonds’ pursuit, Sosa’s 600th home run, Clemens deciding which team to grace his presence with, or A-Rod’s 500th home run (the fastest ever! Wooo fucking hooo!) while quiet, consistent, reliable guys like Glavine fly under the radar.

Since he would never do it, I’m trumpeting for him. Tonight in Milwaukee, Tom Glavine will go for his 300th win. Game starts at 8:05 and I hope the ‘Baseball Tonight’ crew gives him just as much hype if he wins as they did with Verlander’s no hitter earlier this year.

Here’s hoping you get it on the first try, Tom. Baseball could use more like you.

Today's distraction: Find out how well you know movies from the past 25 years. I will proudly admit I kicked ass on this. But I have no life and never leave the house.

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