LONG BEACH— Hall of Fame pitcher, Tom Glavine, was released by the Atlanta Braves yesterday. This was to be Glavine’s farewell tour with the team. Or at least, a redux of his failed farewell tour from last season.
Last year the Braves declared themselves a contender with a strong pitching staff. That staff was made of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mike Hampton and Tim Hudson. All four of those guys were injured by mid-season. John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson all required season ending injury. Mike Hampton was just doing what he did best, wearing out the cushions on the DL. So after that train wreck of a season was complete the General Manager, Frank Wren, made a declaration. A statement of purpose. A Road Map to peace (of mind) in the South East. The team would completely rebuild the rotation and then hopefully bring in a bat for the outfield.
So the time came and the Braves made their moves, or non-moves. John Smoltz was allowed to walk. Mike Hampton traveled to the last team he had any success with and Tom Glavine was left standing. The Braves acquired Javy Vazquez, signed Derek Lowe and picked up Kenshin Kawakami. Those three along with returning young stud Jair Jurrjens would make for a solid 1-4 pitching rotation. The fifth spot could be stuffed with anything until Tim Hudson was ready. “Anything” turned into Number 47.
Unfortunately for old 47, health would not be so kind. Glavine had a set back in his rehab forcing him to be out even longer than the original expectation of an early April debut. Such an early debut would have made keeping Glavine in the game and on the team much easier. He would have filled the void and provided leadership, as well as pitching depth. The team would have cruised along in the thick of the battle in the NL East with strong pitching and steady hitting. The main question and worry of the Braves Nation would be, “What are we going to do with all these pitchers?” Atlanta would look at Vazquez, Jurrjens, Lowe, Kawakami, Glavine, Hanson, Medlen, Reyes, Morton, and eventually Hudson, smile and say “This is a problem I like to have.”
It is a problem the team had. And this problem was coupled with a troubling complement. The Braves offense was decidedly lacking. The big bat never was acquired. Francoeur has yet to be “reborn” and the new Golden Boy center fielder was merely a whiff machine made of pyrite. The Braves were treading water, staying at .500 with the team as currently constructed. The division and wild card are starting to slip away. A move to improve was needed. Either a big thumper needed to be slipped into the fourth spot in the line up or a capable and fast lead-off man needed to be put in the top of the order. Both would be ideal. The team lacked speed and power which makes it hard to manufacture or knock in runs.
So the Braves demote Jordan Schafer and traded for Nate McLouth, a player who currently has single handedly matched the entire Braves outfield home run production from the beginning of 2008 to the present. He is not the big thumper that will hit fourth. But he is an exceptional lead-off hitter who will instantly make the offense better (forcing Kelly Johnson lower in the order). And he’s not a bad glove either. Another move for an additional bat in the outfield and this team will have a real offense.
In the mean time though, the next best thing is to make your rotation 1-5, as strong as possible. That means, even if old number 47 had been pitching since early April he’d still be the odd man out as the stronger man came in. The Braves have more need for Tommy Hanson than they do for Tommy Glavine.
It’s sad. It’s always sad when an icon, a face-of-the-organization is removed from said organization, but it has to happen some time. Typically everyone wants it to be on a wonderful road of success with an off-season announcement of retirement. The Braves didn’t have this chance due to the pressing need to remain relevant in the NL East. So the ties were cut. 47 has been released. A new Tommy is in town.
I don’t believe this move will have a long lasting negative impact. I don’t think potential free-agents will think twice about signing with the Braves because of this. In the end it shows this team is more interested in winning and that will be a stronger selling point than anything else.