Picture this: You have been in the major leagues for 20 years and you have never been anything but the epitome of class and dignity. You have had a tremendous career, and on the last day of the season, your team hands you the ball and asks for one more win. At age 41, you don’t throw that hard anymore, but your presence on the hill, your curveball and your slider make up for it. After this year, your contract is up. If you don’t reach deep down and pull out a win, this could be the last game of your career. Of course it is a big game, but you’re a veteran, you have been in big games before. Besides, you’re just facing the hapless Marlins.
You are Tom Glavine. And what happened next will be remembered as the icing on the cake of one of the biggest collapses in sports history. Glavine was charged with seven earned runs and did not even make it out of the first inning. Meanwhile, Mets fans glanced at the out of town scoreboard as Willie Randolph trotted to the mound to take Glavine out. Phillies 1, Nationals 0. The fans at Shea Stadium immediately realized that their team was in danger of missing the playoffs, and as Glavine walked slowly back to the dugout, he was booed mercilessly by Met fans. In an unmistakable sign of defeat and anguish, he pulled his hat over his face and took a seat by himself on the bench.
Having lost 12 of their last 17 games, the New York Mets all but handed the National League East to the Philadelphia Phillies. In the month of September, the Phillies surged and the Mets lost their stride. Their collapse was a team effort. Their starting pitching struggled, their hitting struggled, their bullpen struggled, and on the last day of the season, Tom Glavine struggled. The last game was critical. However ,the blame for this epic collapse has to fall on the whole team, not just one individual.
Last Sunday night, Mets fans went home angry and upset. Many were left scratching their heads, trying to figure out how their team, which was picked as National League favorites, managed to miss the playoffs. As Sportscenter was busy ranking the Met’s collapse among the all-time worst, and Shea Stadium was closing up for the year, Mets fans were left with only one thought, “What a Disgrace.”
After the game, Mets closer Billy Wagner said about Glavine, “He’s the most accountable, stand-up guy I’ve ever met. Nobody in their right mind is going to boo Tom Glavine. That’s how I look at it.” But that’s not how the Mets fans looked at it. After giving the worst performance of his career, Glavine walked back to the dugout, perhaps for the final time, and was berated, insulted and booed by the fans.
Glavine is one of the best pitchers of the last two decades. Over his illustrious 20-year career, the 10-time All-Star has won 303 games, two Cy Young Awards and one World Series Title. He has had the kind of career that could land him in the Hall of Fame someday. He played five seasons with the Mets, and anchored the team this year in the absence of the injured Pedro Martinez. Without Glavine’s crafty left-handed pitching and senior leadership, the Mets may not have even been in a playoff hunt. But the memory of New York fans is short, and none of that seemed to matter on Sunday.
You are Tom Glavine. You just walked back to the dugout and pulled your hat over your face. You didn’t hit the water cooler, you didn’t throw your glove, you took your seat quietly on the bench and you didn’t say anything to anyone. You know you blew it, but you don’t lose your cool. You sit quietly on the pinewood bench wondering whether this is really the way your career will end, as the boos still rain down. After the game you answer the media’s questions and accept full responsibility. You pack your bag to leave the stadium and know that this game could haunt you for the rest of your life. You know that as long as you live, if you never play another Major League Baseball game, you will have to remember being booed off the field by the fans you had played so hard for.
The Mets missed the playoffs. Fans were understandably upset. But as they say, there’s always next year. There’s always next year for Willie Randolph, Jose Reyes, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado and even Met fans. The one person who might not have next year is Tom Glavine. 10, 15, even 20 years from now, fans will have seen other games, Randolph, Reyes, Martinez, and Delgado will have won more games, but for Glavine, that was it. Glavine, a pitcher who always played with class and sportsmanship, will always remember how he was treated. What a disgrace.