“I hate that guy. Rad would get
you 0-for-4 and you’d go home wondering, ‘How did he do it?’ That’s the
type of guy he was. He was one of the best pitchers they had in a long
time.” -Ozzie Guillen
- Twins induct Brad Radke into franchise Hall of Fame
Radke was honored
in a pregame ceremony before Saturday’s loss to the White Sox, and that
turned out to be the only thing worth watching in that game (well,
maybe Joe Crede’s two homers). I’ve written a piece about Radke here, and I think this is the perfect time to post this commercial he did for SEGA “World Series Baseball” way back in the day:
Radke has always been a fan favorite, and it’s really no wonder
why. Besides being a consummate professional and (as far as we know)
decent human being, he gave us something to cheer for during the lean
years when there wasn’t much to look forward to. To be honest, he was
really the only decent starter on the staff for about half of his
career, and though his career numbers certainly aren’t good enough to get him into Cooperstown, they sure look good compared to Frankie Rodriguez.
Fans probably love Radke the most, though, because he turned down
more lucrative offers from other teams to remain in Minnesota. He had
never been particularly overpowering, and he certainly wasn’t a
dominant pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, but his ability to
rack up strikeouts and eat innings was valuable enough that he could
have gotten a better deal elsewhere. The era of free agency was just
hitting its peak, and pretty much everyone was eager to cash in. Not
Radke, though. He opted to re-sign with the Twins simply because he
liked it here. He liked the organization, his family loved the area,
but he also wanted to see the team through its rebuilding process.
After years and years of being one of the worst teams in baseball, the
Twins had finally started to put together a decent team, culminating in
a string of four playoff appearances from 2002-2006. Unfortunately,
his arm started to give out during the 2006 season, and he decided to
retire rather than have surgery and try to keep his career (and chances
of winning a World Series) alive.
- The late George Brophy was inducted, as well
Brophy is often overlooked by fans, since his job as the director of
scouting and minor-league operations was mostly behind-the-scenes, but
he did play an important part in building the 1987 World Series-winning
team. Patrick Reusse wrote a very good article (as well as this one
from 1998) about former farm director last week, detailing the conflict
within the organization at the time and his thankless task of trying to
build a championship-caliber team on a shoestring budget (seriously,
then-owner Calvin Griffith made the Pohlads look like the
Steinbrenners). Obviously he played a key role in drafting and
developing players like Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett, but he made a
number of other moves that would help shape the 1987 team. He was the
one who insisted that the Yankees throw in Greg Gagne as part of the
Roy Smalley trade, and demanded the Angels throw in Tom Brunansky as
part of the Rob Wilfong-Doug Corbett deal. He also found guys like Larry Hisle, Bobby Darwin, and Doug Corbett (who, like I said, was instrumental in bringing Brunansky to the Twins). Brophy
was one of the original members of the Twins’ front office when he was
hired in 1961. He was later fired by then-team president Howard Fox in
1985 (the two never did get along), and he served as a scouting
assistant for the Astros before his ill health forced him to retire in
1996. Sadly, he passed away in 1998.
In the grand tradition started by Jimmy over at Baseball, the Yankees, and Life, I will dedicate my ranking on the leaderboard to the most notable Twin to wear the number 8: third baseman Gary Gaetti. The G-Man played a crucial role in helping the Twins during their incredible playoff run in 1987, and was an important part of the organization for nearly eight seasons. He was an ALCS MVP, a two-time All-Star (1988 & ’89), and won four consecutive Gold Glove awards for his work at the hot corner. The Twins inducted him into the franchise Hall of Fame during a pregame ceremony on August 19, 2007, nearly twenty years after he helped the team clinch its first World Series title since moving to Minnesota in 1961.
Gaetti was always one of the most productive hitters in the Twins’ lineup. He hit .255/.308/.434 with 360 home runs in his career, though is best seasons came with the Twins. The G-Man lead the league in home runs three times (’86,’88, and ’95) RBI twice (’87 & ’88) and slugging percentage twice (’86 & ’88). It is his postseason heroics, however, that have made Gaetti a fan favorite. He was, after all, named the MVP of the 1987 ALCS for a very good reason. The ’87 team was absolutely stocked with talent both in the field and on the mound, but it was Gaetti’s two home runs in his first postseason at-bats during the ALCS against the Tigers that proved so valuable in clinching the series. At the time, Gaetti was the first player to ever hit back-to-back home runs in his first career at-bats during the playoffs (a record that would stand until last season, more on that later). The heavily-favored Tigers would lose the series four games to one, and wouldn’t make another postseson appearance until 2006.
There are a couple of major-league records the G-Man set while wearing a Twins uniform. Besides the aforementioned post-season home run record, he was also the first player in MLB history to record an assist on two triple plays in the same game. It was on July 17, 1990 against the Boston Red Sox. The Twins would of course lose this game 1-0.
As Over the Baggy helpfully pointed out, I forgot to mention that Gaetti was called upon to pitch a couple of innings in relief for both the Cards and the Cubs. He posted a 7.71 ERA in 2.1 innings, so he was obviously much better at the hot corner than he was on the mound.
Gaetti left the Twins via free agency after the 1990 season, and his career kind of went downhill from there. He had a couple of mediocre seasons with the Angels before being released in 1992. The Royals took a chance on him after their regular 3B, Keith Miller, went down with an injury. Gaetti managed to turn his career around in Kansas City, and enjoyed one of his most productive seasons in 1995: batting .261/.329/.518 and hit 35 home runs, barely missing the franchise single-season record set by Steve Balboni in 1985. The G-Man signed with the Cardinals following the ’95 season, and he rewarded them with two very productive seasons, but he was never again able to match the offensive production he enjoyed with the Twins. St. Louis released him in favor of rookie phenom Fernando Tatis in 1998, and he then played a couple more forgettable seasons with the Cubs and the Red Sox before retiring after the 2000 season.
Interestingly enough, Gaetti is now the hitting coach for the Durham Bulls, Tampa Bay’s AAA affiliate. He coached a young Evan Longoria, the same player who would go on to break his post-season home run record during the 2008 playoffs.
- Bad news for our other number 8
Nick Punto is having an X-ray on his elbow after being hit with a pitch in the WBC game against Venezuela. Apparently it’s swollen and extremely painful, so it is probably broken. Although I am hardly Punto’s biggest fan, I certainly don’t wish bad things on the little guy. He might not be the greatest shortstop in baseball history, but he’s certainly not a liability in the field. He can make some very tough plays (although he sometimes struggles with the routine ones, especially in close games), and he can be a pretty good hitter (see his 2006 & 2008 stats). Considering that Brendan Harris is his backup, I really hope Punto will be back in the lineup by Opening Day.
I wasn’t too thrilled when the Twins re-signed Punto to a two-year $8 million deal during the offseason, but I wasn’t all that surprised, either. I have to say, though, that the ’06 & ’08 versions of Little Nicky will be well-worth the investment, although the Twins probably could’ve gotten either Orlando Hudson or Orlando Cabrera for less money. Either one would’ve provided a much-needed upgrade in the infield defense, and both are much more productive at the plate, as well. However, Hudson and Cabrera are also both Type A free agents, so the Twins would have had to surrender a first-round draft pick if they signed either one. I realize that this is too high of a price to pay for an organization that relies as heavily on its farm system as the Twins, so in this case they probably did the right thing in sticking with Little Nicky.
Besides, if signing Punto keeps the likes of David Eckstein off my team, then I am all for it.