Reardon believed there was reason to be wary. The Expos drafted him in the 23rd round in 1973, but he passed up their offer to attend the University of Massachusetts. Nobody drafted him thereafter, and in 1977 he signed a free-agent contract with the Mets. He was traded to Montreal in 1981 for outfielder Ellis Valentine.
"I always was the type who thought they (the Mets) were throwing me to the back burner because I wasn't drafted out of college," Reardon said. "There was always the feeling inside that they'd rather take someone else who they had more invested in. I just thought this was another example. But it wasn't. They really did want me to be the stopper. I went to (Class AAA) Tidewater as the stopper."
Reardon has some theories about why he wasn't drafted: "Probably because we didn't play a lot of games, and I've heard since that a lot of scouts didn't think I wanted to play because of my attitude. I had a temper. I got upset with umpires because I wanted to win I had long hair. I wasn't the All-American image, and that could have turned them off. Who knows?
"In college I'd show up umpires, and they would get upset. At the end of the game they'd be squeezing me and it was my fault. Going into the minor leagues, my pitching coach, Bill Monboquette, told me to watch how I acted on the mound. He told me you get one umpire against you, you'll get them all against you. Now I get mad once in a while, maybe once a week, but I'll just ask where a pitch was or something."
The sole gripe one can have over the last two years has been Reardon's tendency to weaken in July and August. He had a 5.73 ERA in those months last season and similarly high numbers in 1985, a flaw that puzzles him. One theory is that his arm tires a bit, and, as a result, the fastball flattens out enough to be hittable. Maybe it's the manager's challenge to use him in such a way to avoid that lull.
"We have other people here who are capable of pitching in relief," said manager Tom Kelly. "There are others who can take the pressure off Reardon. I think I know how to operate the bullpen. If he needs a day off, he'll get a day off."
At this stage of his career, secure in both ability and status, Reardon knows he's accepting a challenge in coming to the Twins. He's heard all the tales of past problems and has a hint of what's being expected.
"I think every reliever's dream is to have a year like Willie Hernandez did (1984) when he only blew one game," he said. "That's pretty hard to do. If you're successful 70 to 80 percent of the time, I think you've done the job. If you start blowing two, three, four in a row, that's when you should get worried. A good reliever usually bounces back.
"Coming here, I know Ron Davis took a lot of criticism. I know he had a few good years, but all I hear is about how bad he was. They must have liked him at one point. At last I hope they did when he was getting 29 saves."
Like Davis, who was traded to the Cubs last August, Reardon has been booed by fans. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me," he continued. "Then when you do the job, they say that's what you're supposed to do. When a home-run hitter doesn't hit a home run, they don't say, `He's supposed to hit a home run.' They say, `He'll hit one tomorrow.'
"Usually a home run doesn't mean whether you win or lose a game. A stopper is going to mean the win or loss. That's why I think they pick on the stopper the most. But I wouldn't want to change. I've always enjoyed the role."