No. They did not need Tom Glavine. They knew that. He was just going to be in the way. They had already traded for Javier Vazquez and signed Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami. Sure, it's okay to have an insurance policy, but the Braves knew they were going to have enough starters. They knew they would have Jair Jurrjens, Lowe, Vazquez, and Kawakami. Plus, they knew Jo Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton, and Kris Medlen were around, with Tommy Hanson waiting in the wings. And they knew Tim Hudson would be back later in the summer. So why in the world would they bring Glavine back?
Well, I think it was because of the John Smoltz situation. That was a mess, and they thought Glavine's chances of coming back were lower anyway. So if they offered him a deal, and then he didn't make it back, they'd look good compared to how they looked with the Smoltz situation. But they painted themselves into this corner they were in this week by bringing him back in the first place. It was a mistake. They should have told him, "Look Tom, we can't wait around for you. We've got people ready to pitch. So if you do bounce back, there's no guarantee there is going to be room for you." If they had said that to Glavine, he probably would have retired, instead of attempting his comeback. So the first mistake was bringing him back in the first place. If they had needed depth, it would be an entirely different matter. But Glavine was just going to be in the way, and a 43-year-old future Hall of Fame pitcher coming off surgery, with younger and better options around, is a nightmare waiting to happen.
Can Glavine still get big league hitters out?
Probably. He's Tom Glavine. But could he have gone more than five or six innings in each start? Could he have been consistent? Could he have made every start when his turn was up? Why would they sign him knowing they may have to wait on him, especially after last season? Those are the questions the Braves worried about.
In spring training, I saw one of Glavine's simulated games on one of the backfields at Disney. Glavine looked awful. Yes, he was just getting started in his recovery, but he just looked so ordinary. I wanted to pick up a bat and go take some swings. Even Glavine didn't look comfortable. But he kept going anyway, pushing to get back for that April 18th start against the Pirates. When he didn't make it for that start, I thought he'd retire. But he kept going. He was determined to make it back. And it was very easy to wonder if he could get big leaguers out after his success in his final few rehab appearances. But getting South Atlantic League hitters out for six innings is a big difference than getting major leaguers out. His stuff did remain ordinary, and that's what concerned the Braves.
How should the Braves have handled Wednesday?
There is no doubt that of the two pitchers named ‘Tommy,' it was Tommy Hanson who needed to be in the Atlanta rotation. So after Tuesday night's game in Rome, the Braves should have brought Glavine in and said, "Look Tommy, we're in a bind here. We need to get Tommy Hanson in the rotation. We have to ask the question, ‘what's best for the organization?' We have to ask the question, ‘who is going to help us win?' Yes, we wanted you to get back, but our rotation is crowded now, and even with Hanson needing to get in there, we have Hudson coming back in two months. So we're in a bind."
I would have explained it like that and then seen what his reaction would be. The one option that could have been on the table would have been to piggyback Glavine with Kawakami. But what if Glavine didn't go for that? Then if that got out publicly, it would have been bad for Kawakami. So even that might have been difficult. But they needed to explain to Glavine that it's even going to be a chore to get Tim Hudson into the rotation in two months when he's ready – and Hudson was the ace when he went down a year ago. So instead of sitting there and telling Glavine, ‘we don't think you can pitch anymore,' I would have explained the dilemma they were in and seen his reaction.
Now, if the Braves told Glavine, when he was signed, that he would be guaranteed a spot in the rotation if he got healthy enough to pitch, and then went back on that, it's their fault. And why would they have guaranteed Glavine anything? That was stupid. They should have just said, "Look Tommy, if you get ready, and if there is room, we'll activate you. But if this lingers into the season, there is no guarantee we're going to have a spot for you." That might have deterred Glavine to the point where he would not have come back. So again, the Braves could have avoided Wednesday's mess by more clearly communicating with Glavine of the long odds he might face to get a roster spot. No one at the age of 43 should be guaranteed a roster spot, and if they did that, it was stupid. And if they did that, and then went back on what they guaranteed, that was truly unprofessional and unnecessary.
If they did guarantee Glavine anything, then they should have activated him and put him in a piggyback with Kawakami. Then maybe Glavine would have at least finished his career in a Braves' uniform and probably retired after a few appearances. But to just sit there, a day after he pitched six scoreless innings, and tell him they didn't believe he could still pitch, was a little stupid. It made is awfully difficult to call the decision ‘performance-based.'
Does Bobby Cox's anger say something louder about what's going on?
Look, if you heard Cox's audio from Wednesday night, you know how tough the Glavine issue was on him. And it's also obvious he did not agree with the decision. Glavine is special to Cox, since Glavine more than anyone represents the change in this organization from a joke to a perennial contender. Cox was obviously upset with the decision and with Wren. And I wouldn't be surprised if Cox's reaction on Wednesday is what really spurred Schuerholz to issue his apology on Friday.
It's no secret that Wren and Cox aren't the best of friends. They co-exist, but they are clearly not on the same page, at least compared to how Schuerholz and Cox worked together for so many years. Cox is still upset about the Smoltz situation. He wanted Andruw Jones back, but Wren didn't. Now Jones is getting on track in Texas. He never wanted Ken Griffey, Jr., when Wren was making that push in February. And now the Glavine debacle.
All of this makes you wonder if Cox will throw up his hands at the end of the year and retire. The environment between the manager and the organization is not good right now.
Should Glavine be upset?
Absolutely. He came this far in his rehab, only to be released right when he thought he was going to be activated. However, he probably should have just kept quiet instead of calling a press conference. If the Braves had handled Wednesday right, Glavine would not have reacted as he did. So he probably thought he didn't have a choice but to share his feelings. And yeah, he's got a right to be royally pissed off.
Was Glavine being hypocritical in talking about money?
In a way, yes he was hypocritical. Whether the Braves did release Glavine to avoid that $1 million dollar bonus or not, fact is the fans are going to remember that Glavine left the Braves for a few extra million dollars six years ago. And the fact he left the Braves for the Mets does not help matters. That's still a sore wound for many fans. So for him to talk about a million bucks, when he left for a few million extra to go to the Mets, was not a smart thing to do.
Should Schuerholz have apologized?
Well, he felt he had no choice but to come out and say something, but he ought to be more upset with how he and Frank Wren handled the situation Wednesday. But to come out and apologize only made Wren look bad, which complicates matters even more. Schuerholz has now had to step in twice in the last six months. He did it after the Rafael Furcal matter in December. His apology only represented something that is apparent: this organization is not the same since he left as the general manager. Schuerholz was not perfect, but when he was in charge everyone was on the same page. That's questionable right now. He should have apologized to Glavine – in person – and left it at that. But he somewhat called out his own general manager by doing that, and if I'm Frank Wren I'm not too happy about it.
Is Tommy Hanson ready for the major leagues?
Absolutely. Make no mistake about it – the decision to release Tom Glavine had more to do with Tommy Hanson's readiness for the major leagues than anything else. This kid is ready to be a star. He's got tremendous makeup, along with above average stuff. The Braves will be better with him in the rotation for the final two-thirds of the season.
Did the Braves make a good trade acquiring Nate McLouth?
Yes, it was an outstanding trade. The Braves had to have a bat. We all know that. But to get one in early June, with two-thirds of the season remaining, is amazing. And to get a player under contract for a few years, and to not be a rental player, was key. McLouth might not be the answer, but he can only help improve an outfield that has been brutal offensively.
The price was not cheap, but in the grand scheme of things it was very fair. Charlie Morton, in my mind, is going to be a quality major league starting pitcher. But how was it going to happen in Atlanta? He was simply blocked. There was just not going to be room for Charlie unless several pitchers got hurt. So it was almost inevitable that Morton would be used in a deal to get a bat sometime this summer.
Jeff Locke, in many ways, was in the same boat. Yes, he's got the potential to be a quality major league starting pitcher. But even two years from now, when Locke could possibly be ready, the rotation might be packed. Hanson and Jurrjens will be the anchors of the rotation, and Lowe and Kawakami will still be under contract. And chances are if Hudson is re-signed, he will still be an anchor in the rotation. The Braves will certainly develop additional starting pitching prospects between now and then, so Locke was expendable in the right deal.
Gorkys Hernandez will also get a better shot in Pittsburgh's organization. The Braves now have McLouth under contract through 2012. Schafer will be back and is under control for five more years. Francoeur, for now, is still around. And then there's Jason Heyward and Cody Johnson, two players with a higher upside than Hernandez. So you're not going to hold on to Hernandez with that depth, and in the right deal, particularly for a position that plays the same position, Hernandez was simply expendable.
There will be comparisons between Schafer and Hernandez for many years to come. But in my mind, Schafer is still a better prospect. Sure, Schafer has shown us the questions about his game. But in my mind, Hernandez is not going to be an impact player. He's got speed and he plays well in the outfield, but Schafer is just better.
How should the lineup be set with McLouth now on the roster?
If I were the manager, McLouth would be leading off, followed by Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Garrett Anderson, Casey Kotchman, and Jeff Francoeur. Of course, Cox had McLouth hitting third in his first two games, with Johnson still leading off. But it just seems obvious that McLouth is more of a leadoff man than Johnson. It will be interesting to see what Cox does with the lineup once Kotchman returns from his injury.
Are the Braves finished making trades?
No. There's no way they are finished. McLouth is a nice addition, but he's not enough. Right field is still a worry, and unless Francoeur has a good stretch here, he's a lame duck. They will evaluate this team the next six weeks, and if something comes up that makes sense, they will pull the trigger on another trade. And if Cleveland does, officially, put Mark DeRosa on the block, the Braves will be interested.
What does this week tell us about this organization?
Well, in many ways, it represents a mess right now. There's a lot of dysfunction in this organization. The Glavine situation was just not handled well. Was their decision a bad one? Not necessarily, but you have to be careful about a situation like that. He does mean a lot to the history of this organization, so you can't just bring him in and talk to him like he's a 24-year-old and you're sending him down to Gwinnett. It was Tom Glavine, and yes, while he did piss a lot of people off by leaving for New York six years ago, he was still a huge piece of this organization's turnaround almost twenty years ago.
The environment around this club is poor. There is little chemistry in the clubhouse. There's not a lot of joy in there, and the personalities just don't mesh well. You've got Chipper Jones, who is what he is. You've got Garrett Anderson and Casey Kotchman, who rarely mingle with anyone but each other and frankly would prefer to still be in Anaheim. Yunel Escobar mainly sticks with the Latin players, and just does not associate with his teammates like Edgar Renteria and Rafael Furcal did. Jeff Francoeur is still lost, and he knows his tenure with this club is on shaky ground. So the mix is just not good – at all.
And now you have resentment about how one of the players they all looked up to was treated. There's not much respect for the front office right now. They know the Smoltz issue was bungled. They know the manager and the front office are not on the same page. And they know there are players on the team that would prefer to be elsewhere.
Despite all the mess of this week, are the Braves better off with Glavine gone, Hanson on his way, and McLouth in center field?
Absolutely. There's no question about that. And for that, Frank Wren should be commended. This 25-man roster is going to be better Sunday when Hanson is added. Tom Glavine was never needed, and he didn't need to be on the roster this summer. It's just a shame the events have caused such a negative stir. You just hope that talent can overcome everything that has transpired. That's what Frank Wren is banking on, because if the Braves do not finish strong, his job could be in jeopardy. Another 90-loss season may not be tolerated by the ownership – well, that is, if they even give a damn.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.