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Friday, December 6
Braves say they did everything they could

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves turned to damage control Friday, saying they made every effort to re-sign Tom Glavine and insisting they will still have a championship-quality team in 2003.

General manager John Schuerholz and team president Stan Kasten, who rarely discuss the specifics of their business dealings, went step-by-step through the negotiations with the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

Glavine, who had spent his entire 16-year career with the Braves, agreed Thursday to a $35 million, three-year contract with the New York Mets, a deal with an option for a fourth year that could make the agreement worth $42.5 million.

''We have great respect and great admiration for this man,'' Schuerholz said. ''We tried to treat him that way.''

Kasten said the Braves reluctantly offered Glavine -- who will be 37 by the start of next season -- a guaranteed $30 million, three-year contract, with an option for a fourth year that could have been worth $6 million to $10 million. But the Braves, hoping to rein in their payroll after five consecutive years of declining attendance, wanted Glavine to defer a substantial portion of the money in the second and third years of the deal.

The sides met for nearly six hours Tuesday, but couldn't reach an agreement on how much money would be paid out after Glavine's playing career was over.

''Some of that was OK with Tommy, and some of it was not,'' Kasten said. ''In the end, we couldn't get it done.''

Schuerholz even brought along a notepad filled with the points he wanted to make. He was especially peeved at those who say the Braves made blunders during the negotiations:

  • Atlanta's first offer -- a one-year deal for $9 million with a series of club options -- was a lifetime commitment, according to Schuerholz. He stressed that Glavine's pay never would been reduced and he would have been guaranteed a job in the organization after his career ended, but glossed over the fact that the team had the power to let Glavine go after each season.

  • Schuerholz also said he tried to respond to a $45 million, four-year proposal that Glavine's agent, Gregg Clifton, faxed to the Braves, Mets and Philadelphia Phillies last week. The GM said he called Clifton twice at his office and twice on his cell phone the following day, but didn't hear back from the agent for three days.

    During the interim, Glavine complained about the lack of response from the only organization he's ever played for. After signing with the Mets, Glavine admitted his criticism of the Braves was unwarranted -- a point Schuerholz reiterated several times Friday by pointing out that he received an apology from the pitcher.

    ''They have a certain way of doing things,'' Glavine said. ''The comment I made a week ago about the Braves was more out of frustration and emotion than anything else. It was not fair for me to say they were unprofessional in the way they do things. My comments were more an effort to get them back in the picture, get something done here.''

    For that matter, the Braves should be more concerned with replacing Glavine than worrying about how their failed negotiations are perceived. The team has lost one stalwart of the starting rotation, and would lose another if four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux doesn't re-sign.

    The Braves did trade for Mike Hampton, a former 20-game winner who struggled in Colorado, but they had to give up promising reliever Tim Spooneybarger. The bullpen took another hit this week when All-Star Mike Remlinger signed a $10.65 million, three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.

    Atlanta did re-sign Darren Holmes to a $750,000, one-year contract, and is encouraged by negotiations with another key member of the bullpen, Chris Hammond.

    Schuerholz refused to say there's a renewed sense of urgency to bring back Maddux now that Glavine has signed with an National League East rival. When it comes to future negotiations, the Braves' front office returned to its usual vagueness.

    ''There's no more likelihood of anything happening,'' Schuerholz said. ''We will try to use our resources to put the best team we can on the field. We'll have 25 guys on the field next year, I just don't know what names they'll have on their backs.''

    Kasten said the team is at the start of a multiyear process to control costs, a process that has taken on added urgency because of the tenuous financial position of franchise owner AOL Time Warner Inc.

    No one will say how much the Braves are planning to spend for players next year, but Schuerholz insisted it will be enough.

    ''I've been given a budget that, I believe, will provide a championship club for the fans of Atlanta,'' he said.

    Still, the loss of Glavine was a blow to a franchise that has won 11 consecutive division titles with him on the mound.

    ''You can't dismiss what Tommy has meant to this organization,'' Schuerholz said. ''It's hurtful to know that Tommy Glavine won't be in a Braves uniform anymore.''

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