I have wasted thousands and thousands of kisses on you — kisses that I thought were special because of your lips and your smile and all your color and life. I used to think that was the real you, when you smiled. But now I know you don't mean any of it. You just save it for all your songs. Shame on me for kissing you with my eyes closed so tight.
—Faye to Jimmy, That Thing You Do!
Met Hell has a new Member. His name is T#m Gl@v!ne.
It is pronounced as it appears: like a curse word.
From here on out in this space, when you see a reference to the pitcher who came to the Mets from the Atlanta Braves in December 2002 but who never, ever gave the slightest impression that he wouldn't have preferred in an instant to be back in Atlanta, it will appear as T#m Gl@v!ne.
Just as it was pronounced on March 31, 2003 when he grimly marched to the mound and surrendered 8 hits, 4 walks and 5 earned runs in 3.2 innings and 32 degrees upon the occasion of his Met debut.
Just as it was pronounced on September 30, 2007 when he trudged to that same pitching rubber under much hotter conditions and gave up 5 hits, walked 2, committed 1 error, hit 1 batter and allowed 7 earned runs in 0.1 innings upon the occasion of his Met farewell.
In saying hello and goodbye, T#m Gl@v!ne posted an earned run average of 27.00.
In between, generally speaking, T#m Gl@v!ne pitched better than that, though it bears noting that he couldn't have pitched any worse. He won 61 regular-season games in five years as a Met, was named to two All-Star teams as a Met, earned two playoff victories as a Met and famously posted his 300th win as a Met. Take away his first and last impressions and T#m Gl@v!ne's Met statistics would give you the impression that he was all right.
Met Hell, however, is not wholly a performance-based destination. In fact, performance isn't the key determinant of whether a Met winds up there. When my partner incorporated Met Hell just over two years ago, he set out the parameters:
[It] takes more than incompetence or not living up to your potential or saying the occasional stupid thing or becoming a Yankee or just being a lunkhead. There's got to be something worse, something that still makes the blood boil…
I like to say style points don't count in baseball, that there's no such thing as a bad win. I would counter that when considering what Met winds up in Met Hell, it's all about style points. It's all about who you were as a Met and how you conducted yourself.
Where T#m Gl@v!ne is concerned, he conducted himself like a professional. That's the word I heard Gary Cohen use on Mets Hot Stove after T#m Gl@v!ne returned to Atlanta. He meant it as a compliment. I don't.
There is being professional, then there is being cold and bloodless. It can probably be viewed an admirable trait under the right circumstances. With T#m Gl@v!ne, it was not. Not here, not as a Met, not at the end of 2007. There was never a worse time to be cold and bloodless as a Met than at the end of 2007. There was never a worse time to be disappointed and not devastated, just as there was never a worse time to compile three consecutive starts in the latter half of September in which you permitted 17 earned runs in 10.1 innings.
We could forgive three consecutive godawful starts from a Hall of Fame pitcher. We could forgive three consecutive godawful starts from any pitcher. We could, perhaps, forgive three consecutive godawful starts at the worst possible moment in team history.
But not when you're as bloodless and cold and professional as T#m Gl@v!ne was as a Met.
Not when the very next thing you do is return to where you were The Enemy and tell everybody what a hardship it was to have been here for five seasons during which you collected massive paychecks and were lavished with praise and gifts for your personal milestone, an event built primarily on your accomplishments as The Enemy. You can wrap it in concern for “trying to keep my family off a plane,” but it still comes off as tasteless self-pity from a man who was paid more than $50 million over five seasons and came up small, smaller and smallest in the last three opportunities he had to come up big as a Met.
Fifty million bucks buys quite a few round-trips on Delta, by the way.
Without labeling it as such, Jason already made the case very well for the induction of T#m Gl@v!ne into Met Hell:
His sneaky alibi-ing, the way he always sounded like he was being diplomatic or philosophical while he was actually blaming his teammates or casting himself as an innocent bystander in the schemes of Dame Fortune.
And without knowing it, one of our all-too-infrequent commenters, Kevin from Flushing, seconded the nomination:
My favorite quote from him on his return to Atlanta was why he didn't come back to New York, because “I couldn't do that to my family”…Seriously?! What's the matter, you don't like your family putting up with unwed mothers, purple-haired guys with AIDS, and people who don't speak English on the 7 train, is that it? I vote that when his plaque in Cooperstown goes up it must have big quotes around “New York, N.L.,” and maybe a few asterisks with it. Ugh…we just HAD TO steal him away from the Phillies in 2003, didn't we?
I've been sort of waiting for some contrarian fan to come along as one often does when I think there's universal agreement on a Met matter and tell us that we're wrong to be so full of bile toward this pitcher, that he was actually somebody's favorite Met, that he will be missed. It hasn't happened — not even the semi-practical concern of replacing 200 innings in the rotation has been mentioned by any of our readers. It is my very strong sense that nobody who calls himself or herself a Mets fan will miss this pitcher.
Jason said he'd like to never, ever think about him again. Amen, buddy. But he will come up in our thoughts and, inevitably, in our conversation. And I won't be able to think of him or speak of him without wanting to curse out the fact that he ever wore a Met uniform along with my decision — born of what I considered fanly obligation — to attempt with as much of my heart as I could muster to respect and accept him as one of our own.
There are phrases in this world that rankle me. One of them is “get over it already,” implying as it does that it hasn't occurred to us that life goes on despite our particular personal hangups regarding something that happened before. Sports engenders a lot of “get over it already” sentiment since there's always another contest and another season on which to concentrate our fullest energies, and nothing's more important than forward progress. Didn't like that call, that decision, that trade? Get over it already.
If I'm at the stage where somebody is telling me to get over it already, I'm probably not going to. If I'm not past it on my own, it's probably because it meant something more to me than today's random score will. That's how baseball works for me, for a lot of us. I'm not a Mets fan because of what the Mets might do next year, but because of what the Mets — individually and collectively — have done for me every year up to this year. I wouldn't care about next year if not for all the years before. I don't forget that. I don't get over it already lightly.
But I have, in my own way and on my own time, tried to get over already what I've considered the ungetoverable. The future is all there is to look forward to in any year. I don't want to miss it altogether.
So I tried to get over my twinned inclinations from five winters ago. I tried to stop being upset and angry that in a three-day span my favorite Met of his time was dispatched to free agentry and my least favorite Brave of his time was signed to a large Met contract and had his face slapped on the front of Met yearbooks and Met pocket schedules and his name on the back of giveaway Met t-shirts.
It may not have been the plan to literally replace Edgardo Alfonzo with T#m Gl@v!ne — I understand that not retaining an infielder didn't directly affect the inking of a pitcher except perhaps by way of an allocation of resources — but the sequence of events from December 2002 charred my soul in a way that all the losing in Metdom couldn't. My identity with and affinity for the Mets of the previous half-decade, coupled with my corresponding disdain for their archrivals, was all at once invalidated. The Met era I'd loved more than any other, already evaporating in '02, was now completely gone.
With the success of '06, I thought I'd gotten over it already. Other Mets came along to help me push the loss of Alfonzo and what he represented to me (believe me, I'm not going to argue on behalf of his post-2002 production) into the past the way others had always come along to help me push the loss of previous favorites into the past. If T#m Gl@v!ne was helping my new favorites create the better future of which I'd been dreaming since '02…well, how bad could the guy be?
After the way T#m Gl@v!ne comported himself on the mound and in front of microphones in his final scenes as a Met, I can't tell you how sorry I am that I caved even that much. The 61 regular-season wins weren't worth it. The All-Star berths weren't worth it. The playoff victories weren't worth it. None of it was worth it. Rooting hard for a guy you just don't like never is.
Thus, he's condemned to Met Hell. He can take his 300 golf balls with him and he can tee off to his heart's content on the steamiest 18 holes in creation…if he can unglue them from that piece of plywood to which they were stuck. And he can play in a foursome that includes Guillermo Mota, Mike Stanton, Braden Looper or any of a rotating series of inept former Met relievers who blew leads and cost him wins. And when he thinks he has an off day, he can rush to the airport and discover all the flights out of Met Hell have been interminably delayed.
They always are.
Also, he enters Met Hell as T#m Gl@v!ne. Since he was a curse on our franchise's history, it is only proper that when you see his name printed here, at least under my byline, you will see it spelled exactly the way it would be spelled in a forum where the explicit spelling of curse words is discouraged.
I've wasted enough curse words on him already.
But let's not be entirely unreasonable about this. He did win those two playoff games, did make those two All-Star teams, did not unleash firecrackers in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. There are worse villains in Met Hell. That's who the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Circles are reserved for.
T#m Gl@v!ne will now and forever be ensconced in the One-Third Circle of Met Hell. We might have assigned him a few circles lower, but he proved on September 30 that one-third is as deep as he goes when it really counts.