...was much like the way he ended his career with the Mets - unceremoniously surrendering runs in the spotlight of a big game.
It was the beginning of our run of not making it past the first round in the playoffs. We were facing the surging Giants and the determined, if not clinically enlightened, Barry Bonds. It was 2002 and Glavine was making his second start of the first round of the playoffs in game four. The Braves were up two games to one in the best of five series, and Atlanta needed its ace to step up, make it a game, and close out the series.
...but Glavine withered.
His control escaped him and the magical disappearing/reappearing strike zone of home plate umpire Gary Darling led Glavine to issue five walks while giving up seven hits. He put the Braves in a seven-run deficit in enemy territory and gave the Giants the initiative back, which they capitalized on the following night to win the series and advance to the next round.
This is how we remembered Glavine for five years. For many of us, this was our impression of him as a big game pitcher. And so too this is how many fans in New York will remember Tom Glavine, as he left them in similar fashion.
It was the final game of the year and the Mets were tied with Philadelphia for the lead in the NL East. The Mets game started first, and it was supposed to be a day of tense-out-of-town-scoreboard watching, but Glavine didn't let it get that far. In possibly the most important game of the season, he gave up seven runs on five hits and two walks without ever making it out of the first inning. The Mets couldn't come back and fell one game short of the playoffs.
The lesson here is that we don't want Glavine pitching the big game at the end of the year. Leave that assignment to Smoltz or Hudson or a potentially reborn Hampton. Let Glavine throw his 200 innings and collect 13 or 14 wins in the regular season, but don't count on him in the end. He's never been an overpowering pitcher, and now what velocity he does have is slowly leaving him. Oh, he'll find a way to work through the regular season without getting clobbered too much, but right around that 180 to 190 inning mark we might see a very different pitcher than the one we saw in the first few months of the year.
Let's hope the Braves remember the dangers of using Glavine in key must-win games late in the season at this stage of his career. If this is truly his last season, we don't want the last memory of him in a Braves uniform this time to be like the last time we had a last memory of him in a Braves uniform.