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METS ONLINE: Surprise! Mets come up big with Glavine

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That spring in the step of fans you¿ll be seeing this week is well-deserved, because the holidays have most certainly come early to Shea Stadium. Pending the results of a physical Monday, the have coerced free-agent lefthander to leave the only team he¿s ever known in a 16-year major league career, nudging him out the door of the ¿ clubhouse by offering up a three-year deal worth $35 million with a vested option for a fourth season. The acquisition of Glavine is a refreshing change of pace for an organization that has been so beaten and beleaguered in the free-agent market in recent years, dating from their half-hearted pursuit of in 2000 to coming up lame in pursuit of to last winter¿s flirtation with outfielder . Just like with Gonzalez, public sentiment seemed to indicate that Glavine was most likely using the to drive up the bidding for his services, which was conducted in a three-team feud over several weeks between the , and . In Glavine¿s perfect world, the probably would have stepped right to the table with the long-term security the lefthander was seeking. Glavine, who will be 37 by Opening Day, is just 58 wins shy of his elusive 300th victory at 242-143. It¿s a task he would have loved to have undertaken from the comfort of his home in Alpharetta, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. But no such proposal ever came forth from the , who instead swung a wild three-way trade with the and to land lefthander and appeared reluctant to get involved in the bidding for Glavine until it was almost a given that he¿d be pitching in either New York or Philadelphia ¿ perhaps due to concerns over Glavine¿s age and his projected effectiveness at the end of such a long-term contract. That caused a great deal of coexisting friction and coldness between Glavine and the ¿ front office, especially team president Stan Kasten, who met with the eight-time Cy Young Award winner this week and refused to conjure up any offer better than a two-year deal with a club option for 2005. In the end, Atlanta¿s hesitation turned out to be the ¿ gain, with agent Gregg Clifton announcing after 6:30 p.m. Eastern time that Glavine would indeed be donning the orange and blue in 2003. The acquisition is arguably the ¿ biggest free-agent signing and their most important public relations move since convincing not to test the free agent market with a seven-year, $91 million deal after the 1998 season. The fact that the signing played as such a shock in New York is a testament to the defeatism that had permeated the organization in recent years ¿ just Thursday morning, the New York Post had blared a back page trumpeting Glavine¿s imminent arrival in Philadelphia, where he was to serve as a crowning centerpiece to the club¿s free-spending acquisitions of first baseman and third baseman . Instead, the got exactly the player they needed. Glavine gives the not just a strong A-quality ace to complement and at the top of their pitching rotation, but also a well-spoken clubhouse leader who will no doubt step to the forefront and lend the the same credibility he gave Atlanta. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the ¿ pursuit of Glavine was the way in which the club pulled out all the stops to get his signature on the dotted line. Owner Fred Wilpon has been adamant about flexing his newfound muscle since taking over full control of the team this summer with a buyout of former co-owner Nelson Doubleday, and made his first splash to mixed reviews with the October switch of manager Bobby Valentine with Art Howe. Even as critics lambasted his decision to axe Valentine and keep Steve Phillips on as a lame-duck general manager, Wilpon maintained that the would be ¿a world-class organization¿ again by the time he had finished with it. This was evident in the tenacity by which he pushed after Glavine, personally telephoning the star lefthander numerous times and whisking him around Manhattan and its suburbs on a sightseeing excursion in November, even going the extra length to arrange star-studded meetings with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York ¿ icons Mike Richter and Rod Gilbert. ¿In the end, there was just something telling me in my gut that New York was the right choice,¿ Glavine told the Associated Press Thursday. The can tell that Glavine was their right choice. Just a few hours old, his acquisition has already gone a long way to get them back on the track to respectability. Bryan Hoch is a contributing writer to FOXSports.com. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.
Tagged: Yankees, Rangers, Braves, Mets, Phillies, Rockies, Marlins, Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez

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