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Glavine back in the playoffs

Glavine back in the playoffs

NEW YORK -- The switch was a difficult one, but necessary.

Having matured and developed into a mainstay for an organization considered once a laughingstock in the National League, Tom Glavine was forced to leave a club he helped build into a perennial playoff inhabitant.

Once the Braves made the decision not to resign the two-time Cy Young Award winner, Glavine consulted with his wife, Christine. Then, after the two visited with Mets management in New York, which included a lunch at Tavern on the Green, it was clear the best place to finish an illustrious career would be with the team that the Braves had abused for so many years.

"It's almost surreal the way things have happened," Glavine said. "You can't help but reflect on something that was so good for so long. It's a unique perspective and position to be in. To know that I was a part of the team that started the run in Atlanta, and now to be a part of the team that stopped it. It's pretty fun for me in that regard."

And Glavine's cherished the notion he'll be back in the playoffs, a location he and the rest of his Atlanta teammates secured for over a decade since first staking a claim to it in 1991.

The Mets, who finished in second place four times during the Braves' run from 1991-2005, made the playoffs twice, courtesy of the Wild Card addition in the mid-1990s. Glavine helped end the Mets' season in 1999 when he contributed to the Braves' six-game National League Championship Series title with a seven-hit, shutout performance in a 1-0 win in Game 3. In 2000, the Mets went all the way to the World Series as a Wild Card, only to lose in the Subway Series to the Yankees, four games to one.

Following a 2001 season in which the Mets faltered late, finishing the year in third place at 82-80, the Mets went 75-86 in 2002, a year before Glavine arrived. The first two seasons looked bleak and the option to sign Glavine appeared to have dire results as the club suffered a 66-95 season in 2003, with Glavine going 9-14. The Mets and Glavine improved only slightly in 2004, going 71-91, with the veteran left-hander compiling an 11-14 record.

It was a peculiar place for Glavine, who hadn't tasted as many defeats in a season since his second year as a pro, which was his first full season in the Majors, when he went 7-17 and led the league in losses.

But Glavine knew changes were imminent and success was shortly behind.

"When I came here four years ago, it was a part of the Mets trying to change their direction and persona," said Glavine, who finished 13-13 in 2005, helping the Mets improve to a tie for third at 83-79. "It's much the same as it originally was in Atlanta. It went from when I was there, no one wanted to play there, and it became a place where everyone wanted to go. Now, much the same is happening here and will continue to happen here with the continued success."

Glavine was drafted by the Braves in 1984 and endured three last-place finishes with the club before it won its first division title in 1991. He posted the best season of his career that year, going 20-11 with nine complete games. Then in 1995, Glavine helped the Braves win their first World Series title since 1957 when he went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts in the Fall Classic.

Now, Glavine has been able to rekindle some of that magic he created in Atlanta when he led the league in wins five times.

The 40-year-old lefty has suddenly become the ace heading into the playoffs with Pedro Martinez ailing from a sore right calf. After starting the season with an 11-2 record, Glavine cooled a bit in July and August, going 1-4 with four no-decisions in nine starts. A blood clot diagnosed in his pitching shoulder seemed to derail the 10-time All-Star, but after a prescription for baby aspirin and 15 days of rest, he returned on Sept. 1 and pitched five innings in the Mets' 8-7 victory over the Astros. Even though he allowed seven hits and six runs, the fact that he was out on the mound pitching was spectacular enough. Six days later, Glavine had a five-hit, scoreless performance in 6 1/3 innings in the Mets' 7-0 win over the Dodgers.

Since that game, his ERA is 2.77 in four starts with 18 strikeouts and seven walks.

"I feel as healthy and strong as I've felt all season," said Glavine. "It's nice to be heading back to the playoffs, especially when a month ago, I wasn't sure about my career even continuing. Knowing that it is means a lot."

Glavine also knows how precious an appearance in the postseason is as well, even though he spent so many years involved with it.

"Knowing that we came here, and wanted to do this and have this happen is special," said Glavine, who reiterated the fact that it was a family decision. "[The Braves] had so many good years, and then we missed the playoffs the last three, so it's difficult to see them go through what they did this season, but at the same time, it's nice to be back."

When Glavine talks of winning the division with a new team, he refers to his past team with an obvious sign of distant memory.

"I kind of hoped they would call, but when they didn't, I knew I had to start focusing on getting something done with someone else," Glavine told the Associated Press in 2003 after he reached a deal with the Mets.

Glavine has moved on, acknowledging the team he created so much success with as "they," a clear sign his heart now resides in New York.

"There's no question, to win the division is quite an accomplishment and being able to beat them and end their run adds to it," said Glavine, who went 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts against the Braves this year. "I never thought I would play for someone else. I thought I would play my whole career with the Braves."

Glavine chose the Mets because it gave him the opportunity to win 300 games without having to search for multiple teams to do so. He and Christine also agreed it gave them a chance to reach the postseason.

"More than anything else, knowing how tough the first couple of years were, to know that this has all come to fruition is a good feeling," said Glavine. "This is the main reason we came here, and to have this happen is special. Of course, you think of the things you've been able to do to help two organizations succeed. And to be able to do this, with both the Braves and now the Mets, there is a certain sense of pride."

Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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