I posted this last March, being giddy about the upcoming season for the Twins even though I was halfway across the country. As we inch toward reporting dates and we begin to eye opening day, I thought I'd throw a little love to Brad before he begins what may be his final campaign.
When Radke came into the league in 1995, who would have guessed that he would turn into the poster boy for consistency, loyalty, and throwing strikes?
The man has an unflappable calm about him. It doesn't matter if he's getting shelled, throwing a pitcher's duel or comfortably in the lead, you can't tell any of it by looking at his eyes. Ice courses through his veins. His arsenal is the same...you'll find no searing heat, but a 90 MPH fastball that sets you up for anything else he wants to throw. Two-seamer fastballs to fool you, sliders you'll flail helplessly at, curveballs to throw you off, and a devastating, nearly untouchable changeup that by the time you've regained your balance it's just dropping through the zone.
The man throws strikes. It's what he does. Sure, he might throw one or two out of the zone to see if he can get you to swing, but you're going to have to earn your way onto first base. You'll have plenty of chances...the man is always around the plate. You know coming out of the on-deck cirlce he'll be throwing strikes. He's not afraid, he's coming after you. He wants you to swing the bat. He wants you to put the ball in play. That's how he beats you.
Do you know where you'd like him to throw the ball? He does. If you're lucky enough for him to throw it there, it won't be the pitch you think it's going to be. It's hard to sit on one pitch with Radke because he can throw so many different pitches effectively. Did you miss that one by an inch? That's a big inch. Was that some kind of mistake on your part or did he bait you, knowing how you swing?
Sweat builds, but if he feels it you can't tell. His pitches are always the same. His release is always the same. He turns his back to you and climbs the mound after every pitch...the same. If you've never noticed, the man is a professional. There's no fist-pump, no screaming in the dug-out, no calling out opposing players...he's focused on his job. ESPN won't have a lot of highlights, but it doesn't matter. He's giving his team a chance to win the game.
Brad Radke won 20 games in 1997 for a Minnesota club that won 68 games. When he became a free agent, he could have had his pick of any organization in baseball. He was young, confident, mature, had stuff and was a proven winner. Brad Radke chose to take less money to stay in Minnesota, because he wanted to make a commitment to the team, and to winning. He wanted to help biuld a contender, when he could have jumped ship to a winner. Brad Radke could have been a Red Sock, Dodger or Yankee.
"And your starting pitcher for the New York Yankees...Brad Radke."
I'm sure part of his decision was based on familiarty, comfort and family, but most athletes trade these things for a larger paycheck. Brad Radke didn't. He had different motives. I won't say better, I won't say worse, just different. And this says something completely different about Brad the man, seperate from the game.
Every season you know what you're going to get from Brad. Better than 200 innings, lots of ground balls, not a lot of walks. Excluding 1995 (rookie season) and 2002 (injuries), Radke's highest ERA was 4.49. He hasn't walked more than 30 (YES, 30!!) batters since 2000 (Number one for active pitchers and BB/9). He's thrown for better than 200 innings every season barring, again, 1995 and 2002.
He's a consumate professional, survives on location and guile, and he wants to finish his career as a Twin. Brad Radke saw the darkest seasons for the Minnesota Twins organziation, and fought to help them build a winner.
How can you not love Brad Radke? He's just The Bradke