Saying Good-Bye Is Never Easy

Then the rift happened. Frank Wren refused to give Smoltz what Smoltz thought he deserved, but it was pretty easy to dismiss him. Smoltz was known for his competitive fire, but he could also be stubborn. You could love Smoltz like a brother, but you knew the parents were making the right decision by not giving him everything he wanted.

Glavine was a bit harder, though. He was always the consummate professional, always polite, and wasn’t asking for the moon. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury during Spring Training that kept him out of the starting rotation, and when Tommy Hanson blew through AAA hitters, the Braves had to make a decision—put Glavine in the rotation or let the rookie begin his career. The Braves chose Hanson. Glavine was understandably upset, and I had no idea how to feel. On one hand, Glavine wasn’t the best choice for the rotation, but on the other, this seemed disrespectful. Didn’t Glavine deserve one more chance? Would two or three starts hurt the Braves that much? But I knew the Braves made the right decision.

And you knew it pained the Braves to make that move as well. We often see front offices as the unemotional tyrants of the franchise, but I see them more as parents. They want the best for their children, but they know they also have the responsibility of making the decision, some of which require tough love. While the Braves may not have handled the situation perfectly, they handled it the best they believed they could. I imagine the Braves liked Glavine as a person, and they didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I imagine they wanted to do right by him. And I imagine they also knew that, no matter what, the end wasn’t going to be pretty.

Because in the end, it’s up to the player for things to end well. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a player, but it’s true. Players are competitive by nature. It’s that drive that made them better than 99.99999% of the people they faced. It’s that drive that got them to the majors. It’s that drive that made them successful major-league players. We cheer them on and laud them for this while they are playing well, but we often forget the side effect—that drive makes it harder to walk away. Smoltz wore those emotions on his sleeve, and as he kept pushing to pitch in the majors, you knew he wouldn’t stop until both of his arms literally fell off. Glavine was less overt about it, but you knew it was there. When the Braves had to tell both of these players “no”, it was going to end one way or the other, but it was up to the players.

Player thrive on doing the improbable, and when they are told they are aging/declining, it seems like just one more hurdle to jump. They don’t feel much different than the past year or the year before, but they’ve long forgotten the energy of their youth. And when baseball is the one thing you’ve always done, it’s hard to imagine your life without it. And when you’ve always been told you’re the best, it’s hard to be told that you’re not for the first time. Anger and frustration are really the only rational emotional reactions to this. It’s actually somewhat surprising when someone has a “rational” reaction to this because it’s not rational. The goal these people have been working toward their entire life is over. It’s acceptable to scream.

So when episodes like the Posada situation come up, I’m not sure it’s right to blame anyone. Posada is having the response we should expect. We know it’s somewhat “irrational”, but that’s also because we are so far removed from the situation. Teams know and love the players, and they understand the situation will be difficult. But how do they handle it? Is there a way to explain the situation and have the player respond in a calm manner? Because when it comes down to it, it’s all about how the player responds. It’s only when he responds negatively that it becomes news. Then, we struggle against our affection for the player and team. It’s not a good situation. It’s certainly not an easy situation. Sometimes, we run up against situations that are just … difficult. There’s really nothing we can do except try to understand where the sides are coming from. There really isn’t a great way to handle it.

6 thoughts on “Saying Good-Bye Is Never Easy

  1. What you said, especially para 2. I've been a Yankee fan forever; got an autograph from Joe Pepitone when they played up in the Cities – at the first outdoor stadium. !

    Players have changed; for a while, they were kinda like the Joe Pispico years of SNL – then they got better, much like the golden resurgence of SNL.

    But mainly, I watch them, continue to watch, and love to watch them, because by now, I "know" everyone on the team. At least until they bring up someone from AAA. So last week, when Cerveli hit his Grand Slam, I was cheering and hopping up and down, for HIM. I was so happy for Franco – only days before folks were talking about sending him down or just dropping him. Same with Nova, with his excellent "last game before he's sent down and replaced by Millwood" game. I root for the team, but care about the players. But I have to admit, its getting downright painful to see my old "friends" struggling.

  2. We have to view things, as you say, through a fan's eyes, which are very subjective. I'll miss all the 4 ring guys but the team has to move on.

    • They were all 5 ring guys ('Sada as an extremely limited role in '96). You might be mixing up the "core four" on rings when it refers to the players.

      The Braves did Glavine wrong…injured in ST, coming back with 11 scoreless innings of AAA rehab but they cut him to save 1M$ (as it was to kick-in in a few days). MLBPA should have sued for that because it clearly disregarded the contractual intent & the Braves only had Glavine perform AAA starts to clear him from any injury liabilities.

      Posada has looked lost (it isn't an easy adjustment to go from a C to a DH), but is a .275 guy in May. They gave him the fourth year because of the market at the time, he has been a proven solid hitter that should translate to a solid (above average) DH. I feel they should give him to the break to get above the Mendoza unless it gets really bad. Ortiz was worse last year until late-June and still had a great year.

      About 3-4 weeks too early IMHO. Afterwards they can try JoVa or Jesus in a part-time role, but until that time they need to give him enough rope to either pull the wagon or hang himself.

      • I feel worse for Glavine than Smoltz. The thing about Glavine's starts were that he was having a tough time clearing 80 mph. He may have thrown some scoreless innings, but the scouting reports weren't good at all. But as you say, it didn't look good, and it probably wouldn't have hurt to give him a few starts to see what there was. And there actually was a suit. Well, Glavine and his agent pushed for one, but the MLBPA actually told them they had no chance.

        As for Posada, he is still showing patience and the ability for power. I'd give him a little bit more time to see if the BABiP situation doesn't work itself out a little.