Baseball: Big Apple of Glavine's eye

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 4, 2006

By Ronald Blum

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Tom Glavine looked at his son, Peyton, and knew he had made the right decision for himself and his family.

“I just told my 7-year-old five minutes ago that we were going back to New York, and he jumped out of his seat with excitement,” the pitcher said. “They’re excited about it, and that makes me excited about it.”

Glavine decided to stay with the Mets, agreeing Friday to a $10.5 million, one-year contract and opting against a possible return to the Atlanta Braves. Now the Mets can relax as they talk to free-agent ace Barry Zito and discuss possible trades this offseason.

“With Tommy now on board, I think we still will look at ways to improve the starting rotation,” general manager Omar Minaya said.

Ten wins shy of 300 after going 15-7 with a 3.82 ERA this year, Glavine helped the Mets win their first division title since 1988. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner then went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in three postseason starts as New York advanced to Game 7 of the NL championship series before losing to St. Louis.

Glavine lives in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, and his family commuted to New York on weekends during the school year to join him. He thought long about whether he wanted to return to the Braves, his team from 1987-2002, or stay with the Mets, who signed him before the 2003 season. He told the Mets he would make his decision before the winter meetings, which begin Monday in Florida.

“I wrestled with it. I think that everybody who knows me knows how important my family is to me and knows how much strain it is on my family for me to be in New York,” he said. “After four years, it’s grown on me. I like the city. I like the fans. I love the organization. They treated me with the utmost respect and that pull to come back to New York was a very strong pull. In the end, it’s where we felt like we needed to be, and where we wanted to be.”

Glavine’s deal calls for a $7.5 million salary next year and contains a $9 million player option for 2008 that would become guaranteed if he pitches 160 innings next season, when he will be 41. The price of the option would increase by $1 million for each additional 10 innings up to a maximum price of $13 million. If the option isn’t exercised, he gets a $3 million buyout.

Glavine has the right to decline the option if it becomes guaranteed. He also gets a full no-trade clause.

He spoke with Braves manager Bobby Cox several times and with Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz once, but his old team never made an offer. Glavine and his wife made the decision to return to the Mets on Wednesday, then waited two days to make sure they were comfortable with it.

“I’m sure at some point in time they would have made me an offer. What that offer would have been, who knows?” Glavine said. “I’m not going to sit here and say that if the Braves had come to me with an offer that was close to where we are with the Mets, that that wouldn’t have made my decision tough. Of course it would have. There are certainly advantages to me for my family to be home here in Atlanta. But in the end, that didn’t happen. It didn’t get to that point.”

Schuerholz did not respond to several messages seeking comment on Glavine.

For a time after the Mets were eliminated, Glavine thought returning to the Braves might be his preference.

“When I got home and I’m in my own house and I’m in the routine and I’m going to my little guy’s Little League games and going to my daughter’s softball games and going to the hockey games that my kids are playing on and getting out there coaching my 12-year-old’s team, it’s real easy to be like: Boy, life is so much easier with me here and I get to do all this stuff,” Glavine said. “But in the end, it’s generally not as glamorous as you portray it to be. You’re still on the road a lot. You’re still traveling a lot. You’re still at the ballpark a lot.”

He credited Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and Minaya for giving him time to make his decision.

“We very much wanted Tom back to win his 300th game here,” Wilpon said.

Glavine and 41-year-old Orlando Hernandez anchor the Mets’ rotation, with Pedro Martinez sidelined for at least the first half of the season following rotator cuff surgery. Oliver Perez, John Maine, Brian Bannister, Mike Pelfrey and Dave Williams also could compete for spots.

“You have two veteran guys you know you can go to,” Minaya said. “Then we can build around those guys.”