I know there have been 50,000,000 (roughly) posts about how miraculous the Twins season has turned out to be, and that I personally have already written several. Sorry, it's just been a damn amazing season. After we lost Puck this past spring, it was a huge blow to Minnesota. He was everything we value here in the Midwest: happy, content, loyal, and hard-working. Hell, he even had the short stature and imposing gut so common amongst the simple folks out here.
The only other guy who comes close to that is Brad Radke. He may not get the acolades of Puck, but he's been an amazing man over his career. You'll never see him in the Hall of Fame, and his jersey wont get retired. Hell, in 5 years, no one outside of Minnesota will remember him. But that doesn't mean he hasn't been great. He won 20 games way back in 1997 when the Twins won only 68 games all year long. Only if you're a devoted baseball fan can you understand how fucking impossible that is. It means that he won just under 30% of the Twins games that season. I'm no baseball historian, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone else who's ever accomplished that kind of feat.
But he, possibly even more than Kirby, is emblamatic of everything that is the Minnesota Twins. He's not a name most people recognize. He's not over powering. He just gets the job done. But most of all, he's the grittiest player in any sport alive today. The man has been throwing on a torn ligament in his pitching arm and a stress-frature in his piching shoulder all season long. Has he complained once? No. Like a true Midwesterner, he simply goes out every fifth day in the rotation and pitches a damn good game, and then spends the rest of the week unable to lift his kids or even shampoo his hair because his arm won't raise, no matter what he does.
But on game day, he does it again.
He's gone after this season. He possibly may not even pitch in the postseason. But again, it's in true Midwestern fashion: to pitch again he would have to have extensive surgery, and it just isn't worth it to him. He's said that he's on his way out, and if his arm falls off, than it falls off, but he's got a job to do on the field. Not to name names, but can you see Randy Johnson, Curt Shilling, Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera, or any of the much, much more celebrated pitchers even comtemplating saying something like that? No, no you couldn't.
Possibly one of the most important games of this entire season was the third game of a 3-game sweep of the Tigers in Detroit with Brad on the mound. A day after we heard that Franchise was out for the season (and as such, would not get Rookie of the Year, even though he still deserves it. Quick: name a better rookie. You can't. Case closed.), Brad went out and pitched a gem of 7 innings against the best team in all of baseball. I think the most telling was after he walked off the mound in the 7th, Mauer came out and gave him a huge hug. Not the manly, half-handshake-half-hug kind of thing, but a genuine thank you to the cagey old man who's literally giving his arm to the Twins.
It was hard not to get misty-eyed watching Brad pitch last night. Sure, it was the Royals. But it was a huge game we absolutely could not lose, and Radke made sure we didn't.
So he may never get the awards or the accolades that he would have gotten if he pitched like this for New York or Boston, but his worth will be measured by the fact that for generations to come, everyone who pitches or even plays in Minnesota will have their toughness and dedication measured against Bradke.
And if you ask me, I'm pretty sure he'd be just fine with that.