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Glavine supports, appreciates players' unions

Former Brave assists former MLBPA head Fehr, now in same position with NHL

TAMPA, Fla. -- We learned a few years after Tom Glavine had left the Braves to sign with the Mets, that he had significant after-the-fact misgivings about his decision to change uniforms. We learned from the pages of a book written by then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz that Glavine spoke to the Braves the day after agreeing to sign with the Mets and that he seriously considered reversing field.

Glavine certainly didn't need to move to the larger market to make his mark in the big leagues. He had won 20 games five times and won two National League Cy Young Awards before he left Dixie for the big city. Length and value of contract were issues, of course. But it's not as though Glavine would have retired a baseball pauper had he re-signed with the Braves for less than the $50,025,000 million he earned in five seasons with the Mets. The New York area did have some intrinsic lure, of course. The Glavine family anticipated enjoying its time in the suburbs north of Shea Stadium. And it did.

Other factors influenced Glavine's decision, not the least of which involved his extended family, which was located in the Northeast. His standing in the Major League Baseball Players Association was not one of them, contrary to what some believed. Glavine was more than active in the union; he was the NL player rep for the better part of 10 years and an articulate and candid spokesman for the union. None of that should suggest he chose the Mets rather than the Braves because of what it would mean to the MLBPA.

"One hundred percent nothing to do with my decision," Glavine said late Tuesday afternoon by phone from his home outside Atlanta. The Braves' offer wasn't at all comparable to the Mets', but ...

"It ticked me off that people suggested that when I signed," he said. "Anyone who knew me knows my family came first. The union never tried to influence me, and there was nothing I was considering that had anything to do with what was best for the union."

Shortly after Glavine signed with the Mets -- early December 2002 -- he made that clear by saying, "The players who did so much to gain freedom for themselves and for the guys who have followed didn't go through all that so another outside party could influence our decision. They won freedom, and now we have it and we should use it. No one's whispering in our ears."

* * * *

Glavine retains strong feelings and an abiding appreciation for the MLBPA. Understandably; his baseball salaries totaled nearly $130 million. Glavine and his family live in comfort. He readily understands how it came to be that they are financially set for 30 lifetimes.

Thirty franchises and 25 roster spots per club yield merely 750 job openings. And at any time, how many millions of 20-somethings and veterans of past big league seasons seek jobs in that competitive field? Those 750 are indeed elite and, as the founding father of the union, Marvin Miller, taught this disciples, elite skills warrant elite compensation. Winning 305 games clearly put Glavine among the elite of all time.

Glavine is fully aware of what his post-career life might have been without the rights players gained through decades of collective bargaining bloodshed. So when he had the chance, he helped another group, the National Hockey League Players' Association.

Glavine, of course, had worked closely with Donald Fehr when Fehr was the executive director of the MLBPA. And after the hockey players hired Fehr and gave him the identical title in 2010, Glavine's interest shifted to the sport that had been one of his two passions as an adolescent. Fehr hardly was familiar with the hockey players, and he wanted them to become familiar with him, to develop the level of trust the baseball players had in the union staff.

Fehr asked Glavine to share his thoughts with his new members.

"I just had a couple of conversations with some players," Glavine said Tuesday. "I don't know how much influence I had."

Glavine spoke of the need to remain united, as the baseball players had. And he stayed in touch with Fehr during the lockout that threatened the 2012-13 season.

Of course, Glavine isn't directly responsible for the Jan. 12 settlement. But introducing Fehr to some of his membership and characterizing him was a positive step.

"Don's a smart guy," Glavine said. "And I wanted to dispel in the improper perception that he makes demands the players follow him.

"Mostly Don and I spoke about experiences. We compared what the hockey players were going through to what the baseball players had experienced. Some of it was eerily similar."

Glavine worried that the entire NHL season would become a casualty of the third work stoppage -- all lockouts -- once the Winter Classic was canceled. Settlement came 12 days after the scheduled Classic date.

"I'd been through that before," he said, a reference to cancellation of the 1994 World Series. "I didn't want anything like that to happen again."

Those worries gone, Glavine moved deeper into the sport he left behind once he signed with the Braves in 1984. He and two of his sons -- 12-year-old Mason and 14-year-old Peyton -- spent 10 days in Toronto last month. The boys, members of a travel team from the Atlanta area, were competing in the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament, a prestigious event Glavine missed when he was skating in Massachusetts as a teenager and attracting the attention of NHL teams.

"It's big to-do," he said. "It was great experience for them, and I really enjoyed my time there. A little costly, but well worth it."

And Glavine had the money because of the union. His gratitude is understood.

Marty Noble is a columnist for

Atlanta Braves, Tom Glavine