Thursday, December 21, 2006

And now repose 

Finals have been graded. They no longer even send you a form to sign -- you just log into the university computer, enter your grades and a password and off they go. More students needed my long final than ever, and took it. (A few who should have didn't.) So grading was longer than usual, and I'm more tired.

Before heading off for the night, a few words about another sports team and the end of a quietly very good career. Buster Olney blogged (ESPN insider only link) about Brad Radke's retirement from the club. What caught his eye was not Radke's matter-of-fact goodbye, but the way the club handled it.

But if you want to understand some of the reasons why the Twins have been successful over the last decade, in spite of their modest payroll, in spite of once being a theoretical target for contraction, take some time to watch a videotape of Radke's press conference. Listen to how the organization shares, particularly when general manager Terry Ryan takes the microphone (about six minutes into the event).

Using notes that he apparently jotted down, Ryan tells the story of Radke's career. He mentions the draft, and all the players taken ahead of the pitcher. He mentions the area scout who followed Radke. He mentions the team's minor-league director, Jim Rantz. He mentions Radke's managers, his pitching coaches, his catchers. He talks about Radke's wife, Heather, and his children.

If you didn't know better, if you didn't know that Radke was an All-Star who won 148 games and averaged more than 200 innings a year and made more than $60 million in salary during his career, you'd think you were watching a company picnic. The press conference for a Major League Baseball team somehow had all the intimacy of a farewell picnic for a 40-year employee at the local hardware store.

This kind of culture means something. You can't put a number on it, you can't quantify it, you can't always recreate it. But it means something.

A guy that went 20-10 on a team that was 68-94 (1997 -- Buster was generous with that decade of goodness) deserves more than just being sent off to the Hall of Very Good. I compare it to how the Red Sox let Dwight Evans go spend one last, wretched season in Baltimore rather than have him retire in Boston -- the only other guy with 2500 games as a Red Sox was Yaz -- and I agree with Buster that the Twins do many things right.

On a week when teams trade their superstars for pennies on the dollar and others allow their players to spit on opponents, it means something.