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BEST TWINS PLAYER Minneapolis 2004 - Johan Santana

Readers' Choice: Torii Hunter

Every time a local sports scribe includes the words "ace" and "Radke" in the same sentence, he should be immediately banished to Bemidji to serve as the paper's curling correspondent. (Yes, Gordon Wittenmyer, we're talking to you!) There's simply no evidence that Brad Radke is capable of being the ace of any pitching staff, and he's most certainly not filled that role for the Twins since signing his four-year, $36-million contract in 2000. Consider the numbers: Since 1998 he's gone 74-70. Last year he had an E.R.A. of 4.49; the year before, 4.72. Those are, at best, the stats of a No. 3 starter on a competitive team. Last season, Johan Santana emerged as the most dominant starting pitcher on the Twins' staff. This was evident by May to anyone who ever played whiffle ball. Ron Gardenhire's inexplicable insistence that Santana remain in the bullpen during the first half of the season (despite the dire state of the team's rotation) was exasperating. When Gardy finally relented in July, all the 25-year-old southpaw did was finish the season by going 8-0 with a 2.51 E.R.A, frustrating hitters with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating change-up. This season Santana will be in the rotation from day one, and by autumn, hopefully he will have nailed down the "ace" moniker for himself.

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