Our car pulls onto the runway. Slight rain, very foggy. Anyone here at this time of night is not safe. We are here. I have the inspector's closer cheat sheet, so he will not try any heroics. We step out of the car as the last instructions are telephoned to the radio tower. We have only moments.
"Inspector, have your man take care of the luggage."
"Now, you fill in the name on the ticket. That will make it even more official."
"You think of everything." The bitterness was evident. How would he explain this to the Chief? "Only one ticket?"
L interrupted. Fear and panic overwhelmed her. "But I thought you were getting on the plane with me? Last night...." She began to stammer. "You promised we'd draft Huston Street."
Now I interrupted. "Last night you said I should do the drafting for both of us. Well I've done mocks all night and I won't draft Street."
"But you've got to...."
"Have you ever had Huston Street on your team? Sure, he saves games. Oakland, Colorado, San Diego. He's been saving games since 2005. Now San Diego signed him for two years and $14 million. He's got the job. He just can't stay on the field. He's had DL time each of the last three years, and two of those three years he was on it for more than 70 days."
"But we have to draft closers. Huston might be available late because of his injury history."
"I can't take that chance."
The pleading continued. "But the ratios. In 2012 he had an ERA of 1.85 and a WHIP of 0.72. Where else are we going to get ratios like that?"
"This has nothing to do with the ratios. This is all about playing time. But, as for those ratios, that 2012 ERA was driven by an unusually high K/9 of 10.8. Street is good for the mid-eights, but 10.8? I'm not buying it. I'll go with an 8.5 K/9 and a 2.2 walk per nine. That puts his ERA in the mid-threes. His WHIP will be fine. 1.12. But I don't give him more than 24 saves next year, and that might be generous. If we draft Street, we have to draft a back up, and that is too many bench slots for closers."
"But it's a 15 team league. Saves will be at a premium."
"Exactly. In that format, I want two solid to semi-solid closers and one or two flyers. Street has only had one season in the last five with more than 30 saves, and only two seasons of over 30 saves in his career. He's a name. He's also, only a flyer. If I draft him, it will be after I have my first two closers, and I won't go closer until late. He'll be gone. I can't....I won't target Street."
She was crushed. She could bring up the pitcher-friendly confines of PETCO and the other NL West parks, but it would be no use.
I continued. "Do you have any idea what you would have to look forward to if we drafted Street? Nine chances in ten we'd end up in the bottom half of saves in the league." I turned to the inspector. "Isn't that right?"
The inspector agreed.
"You're saying this only to make me go."
"I'm saying it because it's true. Inside of us we both know you need to draft Huston Street. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not on it, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And for the rest of your life."
"But what about us?"
"We'll always have Eckersley."
She smiled. "I said I would never draft without you."
"And you never will. But where I have to draft closers, you can't follow. You can't be any part of it. I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of where to get saves from don't amount to a hill of beans in a draft. Choose a strategy you can live with and don't look back. Some day you'll understand that."
Her tears returned.
I cupped her chin in my hand and lifted her head. "Here's drafting with you, kid."
She got on the plane and it began its takeoff. We made it. Just then the Chief's car pulled up. "What's going on here?", he yelled.
The inspector looked at me. "Ask him."
The Chief immediately went to the telephone to have the tower stop the plane. He turned towards me. We each drew, simultaneously. He drew scissors. I drew rock. He fell to the ground, stunned at his loss.
The car full of officers, who had been following the Chief, pulled up and stopped. As they got out they saw the Chief on the ground. The inspector said, "Someone's drafted a closer too early. Round up the usual suspects." He looked at me and smiled.
As we made our way, through the fog, down the runway, I said, "Inspector, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship."