Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Glavine: Not Shot After All

In the summer of 2003, I had my experience in an Office Space type job, making copies and filing mail 8 hours a day and a 1 hour commute each way. Not knowing anyone else in the company, I usually ate lunch in my car, listening to Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN. In the days before the explosion of blogs and other internet commentary, this was the pinnacle of interactive New York sports. Their call-in show was one of the firsts of its kind, and balanced the calm bass voice of Mike Francessa with the crazy, octave-too-high hot-head of Chris "Mad Dog" Russo. This was not always the case, particularly during the summer when one or the other would go on vacation, leaving his partner with four hours a day to fill.

July 20, 2003 was one of those days. The previous day, Mets' starter Tom Glavine threw a stinker against the division leading Braves- he went just 4.1 innings, giving up 7 earned runs on 9 hits. The loss dropped the Mets to fifth place, 24 games behind the Braves. Russo, on his own with Francessa on vacation, decided to make it the "Bash Tom Glavine Show."

"Glavine is shot! He's 37, he's 6 and 10, he's got a 5.10 ERA-- he's just shot! The Mets are going nowhere until they get rid of him! He's shot!"

It went on and on like that until the end of my lunch break. Three hours later, as I drove home, Russo was still going strong with the Glavine bashing.

Tom, however, was not fazed. He went 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in August of 2003, and finished the season having dropped his ERA to 4.52. He followed this with the following seasons:

2004: 119 ERA+
2005: 118 ERA+
2006: 113 ERA+

While Glavine has been pretty average (96 ERA+) in 2007, he's now 41 years old and certainly nearing the end of his career. And on Sunday, Glavine joined a pretty exclusive group and won his 300th career game. While we at Immaculate Inning realize the relative unimportance of wins as a measurement of a pitchers' worth, we also realize that this is a milestone to be proud of, especially when blowhards like Russo are proved wrong. So have a cookie, Tom, a Publix cookie.

One final note, about 300 wins- lots of announcers have been pontificating again, much as with the "cheapened" 500 HR plateau. They say that 300 wins will never be touched again, as Randy Johnson (284 wins) is old and Mike Mussina (246 wins) is just too far away. They say that with the rise of relief specialists and the five-man rotation, that no one will make it again. Yet Glavine (and Johnson, and Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux) pitched their entire careers in an era where the 5-man rotation was dominant. Glavine and Maddux may have been aided by a few years with the braves when they, John Smoltz, and Denny Neagle had a de facto 4-man rotation. However, with the many young pitchers entering the game in their early 20s, is it so hard to imagine that someone could put up 15 wins for 20 seasons? Or even 18 wins for 17 seasons?

So it's interesting to me that, for some reason, the mainstream media sees five 500 HR hitters in four years and calls the plateau "cheapened." But three hurlers passing 300 wins in the same period means that it will never happen again? God forbid we use the passing of milestones to celebrate the careers of those who pass them. No, we should discuss existential properties of the milestones, instead. In other news, I am proud to have not listened to Mike and the Mad Dog since I left the NYC area.

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