Our reporter enters Front Street with Tractorpull's ace reporter in tow. It's very early Sunday morning and, as usual, the place is almost empty. Avril is in ring gear, sans gloves, on her tablet. Clearly waiting for Jamie Lynn to return for some sparring. Rufus sits nearby reading the paper. And the Man In The Hat walks around, looking, hands locked behind his back. When he sees them, he hurries over.
Man In The Hat: "Tess! Yu! On the way to church?"
Reporter: "Yes, thanks to the inadvertent touchdown. The ladies still doing roadwork?"
Man In The Hat: "Sure are. And, as for church, think of it this way, it's the last one. Season's over."
Tess(smiling): "Actually, it's NOT. I LIKE going to church with my boyfriend. So, I think something good came out of me losing all those bets...a nice Sunday tradition!"
Man In The Hat(smiling): "You weren't THROWING some of those bets, were you..."
Reporter: "Like YOU need any help winning..."
Tess: "I still remember the bet you won when the Metrodome roof collapsed!"
Man In The Hat(smiling): "Some of my BEST work!"
Tess: "Speaking of 'best work', sometimes I wonder where Smackey's head is at. Because sometimes he leaves an obvious question unasked."
Man In The Hat(smiling): "Does he now?"
Tess(looking at the reporter): "Yes, he DOES. And here's an example. This week you talked about how 2012 is about EVALUATING. And, I assume those evaluations are going to be based on a lot more than just wins and losses..."
Man In The Hat: "Indeed, they will be."
Tess: "So, could you give us an explanation of what factors might be involved?"
Man In The Hat: "Let me tell you a story..."
Reporter: "Oh, FOR...See? This is why I don't ASK those questions!"
Tess: "Be quiet and you might LEARN something!"
Man In The Hat: "See, son, THIS is why this girl is so GOOD at her job. She knows when to LISTEN. Now, let me tell you about a guy named Luke Walker."
Man In The Hat: "Walker was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the late sixties and seventies. Guy had all the tools in the world. Left handed. Great stuff. Threw harder than anyone on the team except Bob Veale, who could throw a hundred. Team thought Walker could be a top of the rotation starter. And there were times you couldn't hit the guy. And there were times he couldn't get anyone out. One game in 1971 might encapsulate his career pretty well. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Dodgers. Joe Ferguson broke it up with a home run. It was the first of Ferguson's career."
Reporter: "Is this GOING somewhere?"
Man In The Hat(ignoring him): "Course, a better game might be Game Four of the 1971 World Series. Bucs were down 2 games to one and Walker got the start. Gave up three straight hits then a couple of sac flies. Left with the bases loaded in the first. Rookie named Bruce Kison came on in relief and held the Orioles so the Bucs could come back and win the game. Kison had about a fourth the talent Walker did. But he won seventy more games and played twice as long. But. This ain't ABOUT Kison..."
Reporter: "Mind telling us what it IS about?"
Tess: "Hush, dear."
Man In The Hat: "It's about evaluatin' and how you do that. See, I can TEACH you to be a better defensive fighter. I can teach you proper head movement, footwork, and hand movement. I can NOT teach you reflexes like Nicole has. You have 'em, or you don't. A good pitching coach can teach you how to throw a good fastball. He can't teach you how to throw it 95 miles an hour. You can DO that, or you can't. Now, some managers will say, 'Give me the guy who knows how to pitch.' I say, 'Give me the guy who can throw 95 and I'll TEACH him to pitch.'"
Reporter: "What does this have to do with..."
Tess simply elbows him and puts a finger to her lips.
Man In The Hat: "Which leads me back to Luke Walker. The Pirates knew how many tools the guy had. And, every time he'd stink up the place and they'd send him to the bullpen, he'd show them something in relief. And they'd give him a start. And he'd be awesome. Got to the point where one of the writers who covered the team began calling those starts 'a three-loss win'. Because the writer knew Walker had shown the team enough to get three or four more starts. And that Walker would likely be awful in at least a couple of them. And, therein lies the issue of evaluatin'..."
Reporter: "I'm not following..."
Tess: "I think I AM..."
Man In The Hat: "A guy like Kison is easy to evaluate. Bruce was a very good major league pitcher, don't get me wrong. Had good stuff, excellent control, and an iron will. But evaluating Bruce was simple. Look at the results, that's all. A guy like Walker was harder. Because he had so MUCH ability and could be so good. And then so bad. It was a question of what you had. And the Pirates spent the better part of a decade trying to decide, moving Walker in and out of the rotation and around in the bullpen from long to middle to short relief. He was 29 when they finally gave up on him. He went to Detroit for one season with the Tigers and was out of baseball at 30."
Reporter: "So, the moral of the story is that the Pirates waited too long to pull the trigger on him?"
Man In The Hat: "No, it is NOT. The moral of the story is that the Pirates handled Walker just about perfectly."
Man In The Hat: "Son, left handers with awesome stuff who can throw 95 miles an hour DON'T GROW ON FREAKIN' TREES! You find one of those, you gotta do EVERYTHING you can to help him succeed. And you've gotta give him EVERY chance to do that before you finally decide it isn't going to happen. Now, in hindsight, you can say, 'They should have given up on him sooner.' But, in reality, they handled it just right. They made SURE. That's what evaluatin' is all about. Making sure. Finding out. It ain't easy, but it's the job. You might end up with a few 'three loss wins' along the way, but you gotta be SURE. Because you don't wanna be the guy who gave up on the girl who went somewhere else and won the belts. Now, I been talkin' long enough. Get outta here the both of ya, before you're late for church!"
They head for the door and when they're out of earshot the reporter says, "He never really answered the question..."
Tess: "Oh, but he DID, dear. He most certainly DID."