Mark Bowman believes that Tom Glavine will retire within the next couple of weeks:
Tom Glavine says that he’ll wait at least two weeks before determining if he’ll ever pitch again. But as he spoke yesterday afternoon, it was hard to ignore the belief that he seemingly already knows his fate . . .
. . . “This shoulder has logged a lot of innings,” Glavine said Tuesday. “Sooner or later, it’s going to tell me I can’t do this anymore. I hope this is not what it’s trying to tell me. But I’m prepared if it is.”
I remember watching Phil Niekro’s last start. He was demolished. I think I’ve always had that afternoon my mind as I’ve grown up and witnessed the resolution of other great careers. Quicker is better. Not everyone has the self-awareness, both of mind and body, to quit on top like Koufax, but they can be Mike Schmidt: play at an extraordinarily high level and then as soon as you cease to do so — or at least within a reasonable time after you realize you’ve lost it — hang it up. Better for someone to wonder if you still have a little in the tank than to watch you fall down in obvious fashion on a Major League diamond. To be sure, it’s a selfish belief, one that speaks more to my insecurities than it does to a ballplayer’s (they should be allowed to stick around until the bat or ball is pried from their hands if they want), but it is what I prefer and what I hope will happen whenever a Hall of Famer reaches the twilight.
Tom Glavine has reached that point. I’m sure that if he wanted to he could get a couple more starts for the Braves. Bobby Cox would never admit it, but even if Glavine was basically ineffective, he would let him start a September game without playoff implications one way or another if he wanted to. They’ve been together for 20 years, more or less, and each is responsible for the others’ eventual induction to Cooperstown. If Tom wanted the ball he’d get it. I’m glad that he seems to not want it.
Glad because I, with the assistance of the strategic deployment of denial that a true fan of any team has, have forgotten every single bad Tom Glavine start save one, and I want to always remember that Tom Glavine start. It occurred a little over a month before Niekro’s last one. It was Tom Glavine’s first, and it came against the Houston Astros. He gave up six runs on ten hits in less than four innings. I watched the start on TBS from a hotel room in Myrtle Beach, SC. I didn’t know at the time that the man, hell, boy I was watching pitch that afternoon would one day save the franchise, but I did know that he was new and young and represented hope for a team that hadn’t had a lot of it up to that point. I was vaguely aware of Greg Maddux coming up around the same time and know he had his struggles too, but in my memories Maddux was always a more fully-formed pitcher. Glavine and I, on the other hand, kind of grew up together. Or at least finished growing up. Whatever the case, as he won more games and then Cy Young awards and then Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, I always saw that young, over-matched kid from 1987 in my mind, and in many ways I appreciated him more than I appreciated Maddux, even if I didn’t always like him as much.
Like I said, I’ve blotted out just about every bad Glavine start besides that one, but I don’t know if I could blot out one billed as his final game. I’d watch it. I’d think about it too much. It, like Phil Niekro’s last game, would probably stay with me. I don’t want it to.
I want Tom Glavine to toss the ball a bit more down in whatever Class A backwater he’s in right now, go home one day and tell his wife and kids in private that he’s ready to hang it up. Then I want to see him in a Braves uniform walking out the lineup card to the umps on the last day of the season, bathed in cheers, flashbulbs popping.