Glavine puts Mets finale in perspective
Lefty disappointed, not devastated about last game in New York
The Mets had hemorrhaged; Shea Stadium was an exposed nerve. A grotesque inning had begotten a dreadful defeat that completed an epic collapse. It was a hat trick of horror for almost anyone passionate about the team that was supposed to play deep into October.
No words would have served as an effective salve for the events of Sept. 30 and their fallout. Nothing spoken could have made it better. What wasn't said that afternoon, though, made it worse. Tom Glavine didn't say he was devastated; in fact, he said he wasn't.
And all of New York was certain he should have been.
The city was incongruous that he wasn't. It wanted tears, hand-wringing or at least an expression that suggested abject distress. It wanted Glavine to say it had been low point of his career or something akin to that. And when no such sentiment was expressed during the postmortems of Marlins 8, Mets 1, New York gasped at what it perceived as a cavalier attitude.
A question put to Glavine after the game had defined the parameters of his response to his poor performance: "How devastated are you?" It left no room for anything less than devastation.
"Quite" would have sufficed as a reply.
But Glavine is a measured man who knows the weight of words and values life outside the game.
"I'm not devastated, but I am disappointed," he said after allowing seven runs in just one-third of an inning. "Devastated is a word used for greater things in life than a game. I was disappointed in the way I pitched."
That was it? Disappointed? Nothing more? New York demanded that he fall on his sword -- more than once, if possible. Had Glavine slandered Tom Seaver, slurred Gil Hodges, disparaged Keith Hernandez or scorned David Wright, he might have offended fewer people.
Had he characterized the Mets of 1969 or 1986 as counterfeit champions, he might have been less vilified in the days that followed what proved to be his final appearance in a Mets uniform.
He had not yet made his decision to return to the game in 2008 -- much less return to the Braves -- when a New York radio voice suggested he shouldn't be seen in a Mets uniform again. The callers were as angry about his lack of despair as they were miffed about his performance.
But here's the thing: Glavine did ache because of his performance against the Marlins in the Mets' final game. It sickened him, troubled him, interrupted his sleep. It disappointed him and -- yes, in a baseball sense only -- it did devastate him.
"Looking at it from a baseball standpoint, there haven't been too many, if any, lower or more upsetting moments in my career," Glavine said earlier this month. "I was angry how it went, extremely disappointed ... upset, embarrassed. You name it."
But he wouldn't allow for "devastation." Not in the world he knows.
"My parents always taught me to have perspective, to recognize where parts of your life really fit in the overall picture," Glavine said. "When you become a parent, you see things differently. The health and welfare of your family comes first. Maybe I wasn't prepared to hear that word -- devastated. As disappointed as I was, I didn't think about devastation, not because of a baseball game.
"My son is 11, he has a friend who's going to lose his leg to cancer. That is devastation. That was an awful game, a terrible outcome for us. But it wasn't life and death. What I said -- how I answered that question after the game -- was a reflection of how I was raised, that the game is fun and important and sometimes disappointing. But there is a point where your disappointment ends.
"We lost that game, and I wish we'd won. I know a lot of people were disappointed by how it turned out. I'm not happy they're disappointed. But anyone who thinks I took it lightly or questioned my desire to win knows nothing about me."
This story appears in the 47th edition of SCOREBOOK, the journal published annually for the dinner staged by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The 85th dinner was held Sunday at the Hilton New York. Marty Noble, the editor of SCOREBOOK, has covered Major League Baseball -- mostly the Mets -- for The Record (Hackensack, N.J.), Newsday and MLB.com since 1971. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.