Grim Memories of a Consistent Disappointment

by Eric Freeman Jr., Special to
December 20, 2006
Pitchers are supposed to improve with age, Brad 

            2001 was my first season of fantasy baseball. I was swept into a world where it didn’t matter whether or not the Cubs won that day, as long as Ricky Gutierrez got me some fantasy points. Division standings and wild-card races took second place to my unquenchable thirst for fantasy points. Needless to say, I sucked (and the entire Baseball Evolution staff will tell you that I still suck) at fantasy baseball, constantly trading for “promising” players, only to be racked by injuries, suspensions, and Tim Wakefield. But there was some satisfaction to be had from the experience, and his name was Brad William Radke.

            Four years removed from what would be his only 20-win season in 1997, Brad Radke appeared to me at the top of the free agent standings, and he looked good. Sure, after his only good year, he amassed three straight 12 win seasons, and his career ERA hovered around the 4 mark. Anyone else with common sense would have stayed away. They would have seen the tendency for mediocrity, and would have not clicked on “Add to Team.” But I only saw a 28-year-old pitcher on a solid team that would eventually get it together and start challenging for the division. Ah, to be 14 years old, pining after a relatively solid pitcher on a team I couldn’t care any less about.

            I hate you, Brad William Radke.

            I hate you with a passion. Even more than I hate the Yankees, even more than I hate the designated hitter (which, F.Y.I. Radke, only intensifies my hatred for you).  I owned Radke as he posted a solid 15-11 record with a 3.94 ERA, and my favorite stat: 6 complete games. I’m a sucker for league leaders in complete games (see Hernandez, Livan). But Radke’s individual starts did not reflect his overall performance.

            Whenever Radke was scheduled to take the hill, I only had one thought: “Radke’s gonna dominate. Let’s go B-Rad-Rad!!” The nickname never worked, and neither did the pitcher. I bore witness to countless disappointing matchups against the Devil Rays, Tigers, and Royals, resulting in home runs, blowouts, and Radke walking off the hill thinking to himself, “I just got traded in about 200 leagues today.”

            The pinnacle “I Hate You” moment occurred in late April of 2003. I just picked up Radke, in a seven player trade that ridded me of some dude named Halladay. Yes, that Halladay. I traded the eventual Cy Young winner of the AL for one of my favorite fantasy players. It worked for a while, as Radke netted a couple wins together. Meanwhile, Halladay was UNHITTABLE. Throughout May and June, the Blue Jays were 14-0 when Halladay started, and his record at the break was a not-so-dismal 12-2.

            Radke, on the other hand, went two whole months without winning. And it wasn’t that he was pitching poorly that got to my head. It was that he decided to stink against teams that already stunk. If the Diamondbacks smelled like a trash can, Radke’s performance against them on June 15 reeked of a giant field of cow manure covered in used baby diapers. Halladay stepped into a park and just beat you. Radke resembled a three-year old case of eggs sitting at the bottom of Oscar the Grouch’s home.

            To be honest, I never knew why I focused so much anger at Radke. He really was a solid player on a good team, and I picked him up whenever he was in the middle of sucking. I should have been mad at myself, or even depressed that I didn’t know (and still don’t know) how to win at fantasy baseball. Maybe it was all bad luck, or maybe there’s a conspiracy against me. But I refuse to believe that he was actually a good pitcher. He was just good enough on a division winner, and one must be careful when picking up players with deceptive records. Look past the stats, look past the points, and eventually, you will have success in fantasy baseball. But until Pedro Feliz, Jamie Moyer, and Tim “Freaking” Wakefield all retire, I will still be angry at you, Brad William Radke, and I hope you stay retired.

            At least, until I’m in last place again.

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