There was almost universal outrage when the Braves announced that they were releasing Tom Glavine rather than risking paying him up to $3 million if added to the roster.
The only outrage was the shoddy way the Braves handled this. They waited until Glavine reached Turner Field before yesterday’s game to tell him. Although I will never come close to the money he has made in his career, I do know the feeling of coming to work without having a clue that the ax was going to fall. Trust me, it’s not a good feeling.
Glavine was one of the stalwarts of an Atlanta rotation that was key in the team’s remarkable 14 straight division pennants. With John Smoltz both starting and saving games during this period and Greg Maddux’ dazzling array of pitches, this trio was the best in MLB history. The last time a rotation was so dominant was the Baltimore Orioles trio of Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cueller. In 1970, Palmer went 20-10, McNally 24-8 and Cueller 24-9. In 1952, the Indians’ trio of Bob Lemon (22-11), Mike Garcia (22-11) and Early Wynn (23-12) also accomplished this feat. But this was in only one year, certainly not at the sustained level as the Braves’ trio.
From 1993 when Maddux joined the Braves until 2003 when Glavine left via free agency, they won 498 games. In 2002, Smoltz went to the bullpen and saved 55 wins. In that 11-year span, the Braves won an incredible 1,245 games including the strike-shortened 1994 season. That means that the Glavine/Smoltz/Maddux combo won 40% of these games and would’ve won even more had Smoltz not missed a year and spent 2002 in the bullpen!
It was a dominant pitching performance like no other. All three will go to the Hall of Fame. Smoltz will certainly go in as a Brave, as will Glavine. Maddux has to choose between the Braves and the Cubs.
But the real subject of this piece is about when a player should leave the game. Many hang on way too long and go out not on their terms but on managements. Some great players who recently fall into this group include Frank Thomas, Pedro Martinez and Kenny Rogers.
Current players who are on the verge of falling into this sort of humiliation include Jamie Moyer, the aforementioned Smoltz, David Ortiz, Ken Griffey, Mike Sweeney, and, yes, Randy Johnson. Since Glavine stated that he has no intention of retiring, he will also join this team.
Now that Johnson has his 300 wins, maybe he will finally give in to Father Time and admit he’s lost much of his effectiveness.
Too many players hang on beyond their usefulness. That’s because there’s always a team willing to fork over money for marginal returns.
So I don’t blame the Braves for this decision. It was bold and unpopular. But it was the right choice. More teams need to let veterans know their time is up because most will never admit it.