Mets History: The 2002 signing of future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine
By Kevin Strauss
On December 5, 2002, the New York Mets signed longtime rival Tom Glavine. Let’s look back at his time in Flushing.
What were you doing on December 5, 2002, the day the New York Mets signed Tom Glavine? Thirteen-year-old me spent that Thursday shuttling between English, Chemistry, and Algebra classes before the news broke that the longtime Atlanta Braves left-hander was making his way to Queens.
Just two years removed from the National League pennant-winning season in 2000, the Mets finished 2002 with the worst record in the NL East, 26.5 games behind the Braves. That Glavine would leave Atlanta – a town he’d called home for his entire 16-year career to that point – was significant in and of itself. The decision to join the Mets – a division rival trying to rebuild – instantly gave fans new life heading into 2003.
The veteran Glavine, who’d been selected to eight All-Star Games, won two Cy Young awards, secured four Silver Slugger awards and was the 1995 World Series MVP, brought success, experience, and leadership to the clubhouse. And although he was entering his age-37 season in 2003, the Mets had every reason to believe he could help lead the team back to the postseason.
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Glavine had a rough first year with the Mets in 2003. He ended the season with a losing record (9-14) and fewer than 10 wins for the first time since 1988. The team as a whole wasn’t much better; the Mets finished last in the division and were 16.5 games behind the fourth-place Montreal Expos.
Fortunes changed for Glavine in 2004, however, as he pitched well enough to earn a spot on the NL All-Star team. While he struggled down the stretch and finished 11-14 overall, his season highlight came early on in the year when he threw a one-hit shutout against the Colorado Rockies on May 23.
Glavine’s record improved once more in 2005 before serving as a cornerstone of the Mets’ rotation during the 2006 NL East Championship season. In addition to making the All-Star team for the second time since joining New York, he finished second in the league in wins (15) and compiled a 3.82 ERA.
The elder statesman of the staff brought the Mets back to the postseason after a six-year hiatus and helped pace the team through the first two rounds of the playoffs. In Game 2 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Glavine allowed just four hits and zero runs over six innings to earn the victory in his first playoff appearance since leaving Atlanta.
After the Mets swept Los Angeles to advance to the NLCS, Glavine took the mound in Game 1 and turned in seven shutout innings to notch another win. He came back to start Game 5 but took the loss after allowing three runs in 4.0 innings of an eventual 4-2 defeat.
While 2006 marked the final time Glavine pitched in the postseason, his final year with the Mets in 2007 still gave fans much to be excited about – through August at least. The Mets were firing on all cylinders that summer in a bid to repeat as division champions and Glavine was an important piece of the puzzle.
A Sunday Night Baseball game at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs on August 5 helped cement Glavine’s legacy as a Hall of Fame pitcher. It was on that night that Glavine earned the 300th victory of his career after pitching 6.1 innings and allowing two earned runs while scattering six hits as the Mets won 8-3. He also went 1-for-2 at the plate with a walk and a run batted in.
It is unfortunate that most will remember Glavine’s final season in Queens only for his final start, which came on the final day of the year against the Florida Marlins. That day, he could only get one man out as the Marlins plated seven in the first and the Mets’ late-season collapse was complete, blowing a seven-game lead over the final 17 games.
After the 2007 season, Glavine declined a one-year option and returned to the Braves. He pitched a handful of games for Atlanta in 2008 before being shut down with an injury. While he officially retired from baseball in 2010, his final appearance was on August 14, 2008 against the Cubs.
The Hall of Fame came calling for Glavine in 2014 when he was inducted with 91.9% of the vote in his first year of eligibility. Fun fact: I have a “Tom Glavine HOF ‘14” signed baseball on my bookcase – one of my favorite pieces of Mets memorabilia.
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Glavine certainly had his ups and downs with the Mets but his experience and presence helped the team fast-track its rebuild and win a division title in 2006, the first for the franchise since 1988. What is your favorite memory from Glavine’s time in New York?