Now Glavine may find himself on the other side again. Now he may move into position to help the Braves end the Mets' run -- even before it reaches a second step. The veteran pitcher now is free to rejoin the club with which he made his Major League debut and his primary mark in the big leagues.
The Mets freed him -- and made him $3 million richer by the term of a buyout provision -- Monday when they declined to exercise their option on his contract that assured them of having his services. The deadline for such action was to pass at midnight for the veteran left-handed pitcher who played an integral part in helping the Mets end the Braves' run of division championships at 14 in 2006.
Not that Glavine won't or can't return. He hasn't decided for which team he wants to pitch in 2007. But he has decided he will pitch for no team other than the Braves or Mets. And if he can't find work in Atlanta and be comfortably close to his Alpharetta, Ga., home and his family, he will pitch a fifth and likely final season with the Mets.
His decision, vis-a-vis the Mets, is expected after Thanksgiving and before the Dec. 4 start of the Winter Meetings. Glavine told Mets COO Jeff Wilpon he would end the suspense by then and allow the Mets to move forward with a degree of certainty they have lacked.
"We hope to continue to speak with the agent, negotiate, and hopefully be able to bring Tommy back," general manager Omar Minaya said. "We let them know ahead of time that we were going to make this move."
Glavine is vacationing this week, according to his agent Gregg Clifton, and weighing the many factors -- his family, the comparative likelihood of reaching 300 career victories with each team, "going 'home' again," playing again with his buddy John Smoltz and, of course, his family.
The Mets will hold their breath while Glavine deliberates and perhaps they will ponder -- and sweat -- the pitcher's words of Nov. 9. Glavine provisionally filed for free agency that day, declining to exercise his option and make himself a Met for 2007, saying, "I'm trying not to be overly influenced by how much I'm enjoying myself being home now."
The Mets hardly were encouraged by that sentence.
"I'm a little surprised that I have so little sense of what I'm going to do," he said that night. "I'm listing all the positives for each [Mets and Braves] in columns and trying to assess what I have as educatedly as I can. I don't want to jump at any one thing."
Clearly, he hasn't jumped at anything. Though it hadn't been his intent, nor was it a surprise to the club, Glavine has left the Mets hanging. They haven't been paralyzed by his indecision, but Minaya has shown himself to be an anxious, offseason pursuer, and even now he has no idea whether he needs to replace the pitcher who won 15 games in 2006 and started 32 games and 24 Mets victories.
It is a daunting task given the thin ranks of quality free agent pitchers. The injury/surgery/rehab that will prohibit Pedro Martinez from pitching until August and the club's decision not to pursue Steve Trachsel as a free agent leaves the Mets minus two veteran pitchers. Glavine will make the void larger if he chooses to stay and play at "home."
His departure, along with Trachsel's, would mean the hole the Mets would have to fill is enormous. The pitchers' combined record was 30-15. Moreover, the Mets' winning percentages in Glavine's 32 starts (.750) and Trachsel's 30 starts (.667) were higher than any those of any other National League team in the games started by any other pitcher(s) (minimum 25 starts). The Mets' percentage in those 62 games was .710; it was .530 in the other 100 games.
And now, with Glavine off the roster -- and perhaps off to Atlanta -- the Mets have but one experienced pitcher, Orlando Hernandez, available for the Opening Day rotation.