Saturday, September 18

From SoSH: Re: 9/18 - Sox vs. Yanks -- Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It's time for Jose Melendez's KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. Sadly, Jose missed the thrilling conclusion to last night's game. He had budgeted 3.5 hours for the game before going off to a party, and he had assumed that it would be plenty of time, that the game would be over then either due to rain or by natural causes. But it wasn't over, so when Jose left at 10:30 with the Sox down 2-1, even with Tanyon Sturze on the mound, he did not see good things on the horizon.

At about midnight, Jose learned the result thanks to the Melendezette's Internet phone, and yet even then he wasn't relieved. Indeed, Jose went home and fell into a drunken, tormented sleep, still worrying in his dreams that the Yankees had won and were poised to capture the next two. But remember this, Jose's sports dreams are the anti-Doppler radar of prognostication. If Jose's dreams it, it's not certainly false, but it probably is...and you know what that means? Sox sweep.

2. Jose Melendez has just received this special report from the Bronx -- Miguel Cairo is still running around the bases at Yankee Stadium muttering to himself, "It must have been a homer, it must have been a homer."

Jose knows that the Yankees are desperate and hear the hungry wolves out of Boston at their door, but he had never thought that they were delusional until he saw Cairo high fiving in celebration of his long, hard out. Frankly, Jose is worried about Cairo's mental health. He is even more worried, because he has heard that the Yankee health plan does not cover Lithium.

3. At about 2AM last night, Jose found himself standing at the drive through window of a McDonald's in East Cambridge trying to get a little bit of late night gnosh. Jose discovered that when you are not in a car the sensors will not pick you up and they will not ask to take your order; it is as though you do not even exist. In other words, if things are not as they are "supposed to be," as they normally are, the system cannot recognize that circumstances have changed and cannot adapt. This is what is happening in this division race.

The Yankees are McDonald's, rich, fat and greasy, and the Red Sox are walking through the drive through. Every year before, the Red Sox showed up atthe drive through window in a car, and the Yankees saw them coming and got ready to serve them. This year the Red Sox are walking through undetected, it dosen't fit the old patterns of behavior, and the Yankees are structurally incapable of adapting on the fly. They keep expecting the fold that will never come.

This year, when the Red Sox arrive at the pick up window, they won't get "served;" the Yankees won't hand them their Big Macs and fries, take their money and send them away. This year, the Red Sox will reach through the pick up window, grab the Big Macs, grab the fries and empty the register while their at it, and the Yankees will never have seen it coming. (Note: Just to be clear, Jose did not rob a McDonald's last night, it is a metaphor. He just had a quarter-pounder and fries.

I'm Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Friday, September 17

From SoSH: Re: 9/17 - Sox vs. Yanks -- Here we go

It's time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. Today was supposed to be the day Jose really brought the hammer down on Eric Kneel. He was going to be Kurt Rambis to Jose’s Kevin McHale, Moondog Spot to Jose’s Hulk Hogan, Alf to Jose’s Major Dad. Jose was going to go on about his mother, make other jokes about why his name is Kneel (think about why some people kneel) and generally shred the guy, but Jose just can’t do it. Why? Because Eric Kneel discovered Jose Melendez’s kryptonite.

Jose had Kneel right where he wanted him and was poised to snap shut the pincers and deliver the touch of death (Note: Mixing metaphors is fantastic), and then…then Eric Kneel wrote Jose a really nice letter...not obsequious nice, just friendly and complementary. He explained that he was glad Jose had played along with the sarcastic good humor, and that he really enjoyed Jose’s stuff. Then Jose sent him a reply suggesting that he take further pot shots and pointing out that feuds are good for business. After all Family Feud has made it through four hosts. (Note: As Jose pointed out in a previous KEYS.) Eric Kneel sent another answer asking for Jose’s story and his opinion on the Sox. Now it is possible that Jose is being suckered and Eric Kneel will use his kneeling posture to deliver a low blow, but it just doesn’t feel like it.

Quite simply, Jose cannot be cruel and vicious to someone who appears to be so nice. Jose thinks of himself as a nice person, and that demands that niceness be reciprocated. Maybe this is why Jose isn’t a sports reporter. Jose recalls Shaughnessy writing about how Wade Boggs had been so nice to his daughter when she was fighting cancer and then he still had to go rip him. Jose couldn’t do it…unless he was getting paid a lot.

So here are Jose’s options. One, Eric Kneel officially becomes Jose’s pal, and Jose will only say nice things about him and compliment his baseball wisdom, writing skill and personal hygiene. Two, Jose attacks Kneel so viciously that Kneel will be forced to either become an ass right back or completely be Jose’s bitch. This is what mean people do. They make one sink to their level or be overwhelmed. Three, Jose continues to rip Kneel publicly, but carries on a cordial posture in any communications that are not public.

The third seems like the way to go. You all will read Jose and Eric Kneel spewing bile at each other and assume we’re enemies with hate running through our veins. Then one day you’ll read a story about how Eric Kneel was arrested for driving drunk on the Jersey Turnpike and Jose Melendez was in the passenger seat, and you’ll say “Weren’t these two supposed to hate each other?” Don’t say it could never happen. It happened to the Iron Sheik and Hacksaw Jim Duggan when they were feuding about which is better the U.S.A. or Iran. (Note: Jose expect Eric Kneel comes down on the Iran side in this debate.)

So Eric, Jose understands you work for ESPN, which Jose assumes must stand for Eric Steals, Plagiarizes Names. Bring it!

2. Now as the biggest series of the year begins, let’s take a look at what Dan Shaughnessy, the aforementioned mean writer, has to say in his column today.

“John Kerry…and…cover boy…Dan Rather…feel…vilified.” (Note: That’s a great scoop Dan, are you sure that’s yours or did you pull a Kneel?)

“Alex Rodriguez…has…blown…Tanyon Sturze…and showered upon...Don Zimmer” (Note: Man, Shaughnessy really gets the freaky stories. The Herald must be pissed that the Globe got that one and blew its chance to write a back page story on deviant sexual practices in baseball.)

“What is beyond dispute is…the USA-USSR missile race…is…back.” (Note: While it’s good to see Dan (mis)using some of his precious column inches to express concern about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to use the events in Beslan to further centralize power, the sports page may not be the best venue for it.)

3. Yesterday the Yankees won a coin flip to determine who would host a playoff game for the AL East crown. According to Jose’s sources, George Steinbrenner provided the coin for the flip out of funds obtained by liquidating the dental plan for non-Baseball Yankee employees, making them pay for the air they breathe at work and pay for their own urinal cakes from a dispenser in the men’s room. Also, all non-baseball employees who are rained on at tonight’s game will have to pay a share of the Yankees’ water and sewer bill.

I'm Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Thursday, September 16

From SoSH: Re: 9/16 - Sox vs. Rays -- The final tune-up

It's time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. Unbelievable!!! After all of the time Jose spent trying to bait Tony Castrati into a feud, after all the bashing and meanness, all it takes is one kind email to Eric Kneel asking him to simply give due credit and the ESPN columnist crumbles like Kevin Brown’s fist against a concrete wall. (Note: Get it “Kneel?” Like he’s “kneeling” before Jose’s greatness? Of course, some schoolyard bully probably thought that up when Kneel was in second grade, so Jose shouldn’t take to much credit. Eric, if you send Jose the bully’s name, he’ll be happy to run it.)

So how to handle this? For starters, in the spirit of giving credit, Jose would like to thank an EZmailer named ekim colorwaterpit who had the following exchange with Kneel in a live chat.

“Nick (Atlanta)Did you make up the name Balki for Arroyo all by yourself or did you get it from somewhere?ERIC [K]NEELI'd never seen it anywhere else. It just seemed like a natural. There are two Bronson's to work in here: Pinchot and Charles. Charles seems like a stretch...”

Chat with Eric Kneel for money

And there is still more credit to go around. Jose would like to thank you, Eric Kneel, for having the integrity to admit, however bitterly, that someone else got there first, that when you landed on the shores of Balki, the flag of Melendezville was already there. And yet Jose cannot help but feel that perhaps your “mea culpa” was a bit backhanded. You know that mea culpa means “I’m sorry” or “my bad” right? It doesn’t translate as “someone thought up an idea before me and called me on it and now I have to swallow hard, but I don’t want to, so I think I’ll be sarcastic instead.” (Note: Or maybe it does, Jose’s Latin is not so good.) Given all of the fancy foreign language, perhaps Jose should just run Mr. Kneel through the old translator. Sorry Tony Castrati, today you’re off the hook.

Eric Kneel is so very, very, sorry

What Eric Kneel says: “A weblogging reader from Boston who calls himself Jose Melendez (after a one-time Mariners and Red Sox pitcher)”

What Eric Kneel means: Even with all of ESPN’s resources, I could not bother to even send an intern to look at or a reference book so I would know that Jose Melendez pitched in San Diego too.

What EK says: “My sincere apologies, Jose.”

What EK means: My completely insincere apologies, jerk.

What EK says: Far be it for me to tramp on a man's legacy.

What EK means: Your legacy is talking to nerds on an internet chat group, I on the other hand work for the great ESPN, a major cable network that still covers sports almost 40 percent of the time!!!

What EK says: “I honestly didn't know you'd been down the Balki road before me. Still, I wish now that I had gone with the other Bronson reference I was thinking of at the time, and called him Death Wish Arroyo. My bad.”

What EK means: Yup no one had ever thought of the Charles Bronson route before me. Not posters at the world famous And certainly not Bob Hohler Boston Globe who on April 9, 2004, reported that Bronson Arroyo IS ACTUALLY NAMED ATER CHARLES BRONSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One can’t really trust the Globe anyway, it’s not like it’s a major metropolitan newspaper with hundreds of thousands of readers or anything. (Note: Oops Eric, Jose thinks you owe Bob Hohler an insincere apology now too.)

What EK says: “I'd also like to apologize for my reckless use of the terms ‘Boston,’ ‘Red Sox,’ ‘pitcher,’ ‘starts,’ ‘offense,’ ‘GM,’ and ‘Theo,’ any one of which you may also have used on or about May 21, 2004, or at any time since.”

What EK means: I hereby take back of all of the apologizing I may have done on or about May 21, 2004, or at any time since.

Geez. Once it’s all been translated it doesn’t sound very apologetic at all does it?

2. Yesterday, token German SoSH poster ossie schrekngost suggested that Jose was a German soul trapped in the body of an American. Ossie is so close and yet so completely wrong.

Jose is in fact one-eighth German (Note: His great grandmother was from Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a scenic walled town on Germany’s Romantic Road.) Jose has studied the German language and lived in Freiburg Germany. He loves German culture and literature and art, but he is no German at heart. Yes, in his soul Jose is an Austrian.

Granny Melendez is an Austrian Jew who emigrated from Vienna in 1939 across the Atlantic. Her parents went the long way, across Eastern Europe, Siberia, Japanese-controlled Manchuria, the Sea of Japan, Japan, the Pacific Ocean and the American content to escape the Nazis. Thus, Jose grew up with moehntorte, Mozart and knowing that Schwarzenegger meant "black plowman" long before he was Governor. Yes, in his soul Jose is an Austrian.

Indeed, when Jose, after two years of college German, went to study in Germany, Granny Melendez had one simple dictum "If you come back speaking like a Prussian, I’ll kill you." Yes, in his soul Jose had no choice but to be an Austrian.

But, Jose would not want anyone to think that his soul is Austrian on the basis of history or heritage. Frankly, Germany has done a far better job of coming to terms with the dark periods in its history than Austria, where the temptation to view Austria as Hitler’s first victim remains strong. Austria was not a victim – it was a perpetrator, just as Germany was.

No, Jose identifies with Austria because he is from Boston and not from New York. The relationship between Boston and New York is remarkably similar to that between Austria and Germany. In both cases the latter is huge, dominating, numerically much larger, much richer and much better known and understood by people around the world. Just as obnoxious New Yorkers flood the Cape, Vermont and other scenic New England locales, the Germans in their big BMW’s, with their loud voices and heavy drinking invade Austria, and everyplace else in Europe every summer. (Note: That said, heavy drinking German tourists are a hell of a lot of fun.) The former in both cases is a center of high culture and intellect, and its people know in their hearts…they know for certain that they are actually better. Jose knows in his heart Boston is better. Yes, in his soul, Jose is an Austrian.

And in the sporting realm both Boston and Austria have suffered defeat after defeat to their rivals. Just as the Yankees lead the Red Sox by a considerable margin in rings since 1918, Germany has dominated Austria in soccer and won both World and Euro cups. Indeed, every Austrian sports fan knows the last time their team beat the Germans. (Note: Jose doesn’t know though, so maybe he’s not so Austrian. He thinks it was 1979.)

So, sorry ossie, Jose’s soul is Austrian, not German. But this year to have an Austrian soul will not mean a quiet sense of superiority in the face of superior numbers and resources. No, not this year. Jose wouldn’t dare make a baseball prediction, but let’s put it this way, the first time after October that Austria plays Germany, bet the farm on Austria.

3. Congratulations to Tim Wakefield who passed Roger Clemens for number two on the Red Sox all time appearances list when he took the mound last night, despite his shaky performance. But appearances are a funny statistic. If a pitcher enters a game but clearly isn’t really “all there” does that count as an appearance? Jose is thinking about Calvin Schiraldi here.

Jose is also a little surprised by the list. Jose knew that Bob Stanley would be number one, but he didn’t expect Clemens to be number two. Jose sort of figured it would be Greg Harris, because as best Jose can recall, Harris appeared in 236 games in the 1990 season alone.

Still, congratulations to Wake are in order. When Jose bought a Wakefield jersey in 1995 in the middle of his 14-1 streak, Jose never thought Wakefield would be the last member of that team still with the organization. Jose was almost sure Dwayne Hosey would hang around longer.

(Note: Because Jose worked at Fenway that summer, it is one of his formative seasons, along with 1999, when he lived in Kenmore Square, and this season, when he writes KEYS. To this day, every time Alan Embree runs out of the pen wearing number 43, Jose thinks, look we reacquired Stan Belinda.)

I'm Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Wednesday, September 15

From SoSH: Re: 9/15 - Sox vs. Rays -- Taking it home

It's time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. As much as Jose is infuriated by the Red Sox bowing to yet another rookie pitcher they’d never seen before , he has to hand it to young Scott Kazmir. (Note: Hopefully the Yankees haven’t noticed this or they’ll be bringing up their AA team to pitch to us, maybe that 45 year old Almonte kid from the Bronx). Not only did the 20 year old show tremendous poise before an enormous, juiced up Fenway crowd, he managed to pitch well despite the fact that two nuclear powers lay claim to him. After last night’s performance, Jose can see why India and Pakistan have gone to war over him on three occasions. He would be brilliant on the cricket pitch.

2. Jose would have been concerned about injury to Umlaut at any time, but usually the knowledge that Kevin Youklis was waiting in the wings would calm his jangled nerves, but not now, dear God not now. Tonight, missing Umlaut is really going to hurt. Jose can only assume that Mark Bellhorn will be your starting third baseman tonight and Pokey Reese will be your second baseman, what with tonight being Rosh Hashanah or ‘Jewish New Year,” the second holiest day on the Jewish calendar. (Note: Instead of saying “Buenos Noches” Amigos tonight could Jerry Remy say “Shana Tova Amigos” tonight—happy New Year amigos—you know, to reach out to the Juan Epsteins—or Theo Epsteins out there?) The Sox also stand to lose The Jewish God of Walks (Therefore the only God) and The World’s Most Perfectly Sculpted Jew for the September 24 game against the Yankees(Note: Yom Kippur) …unless…you know… they’re as observant as Jose who has been known to eat ham and cheese and trip his sideburns on all manner of holy days. This is the only time Jose will say this, but he would prefer that they not be like Sandy Koufax.

3. Yes, yes Jose knows that it was malicious and wrong, but there was a little part of Jose that was glad to see Rangers reliever Frank Francisco give a chair shot to a couple of fans two nights ago. It is not that Jose likes to see people get hurt; he does not. What he does like, however, is the possibilities this creates, the possibilities to bring the genius of pro wrestling into baseball in a richer way.

Imagine it is game three of the ALCS, Red Sox/Yankees live from Fenway Park. In the third inning, Bronson Arroyo pitches A-Rod inside and the jittery slugger takes exception. As he trots down to first, A-Rod, not bright enough to learn his lesson no matter how many times he visits Harvard’s campus, talks back to Jason Varitek yet again. Varitek approaches A-Rod, but this time A-Rod sucker punches him. Varitek, a tough SOB, refuses to drop from A-Rod’s flimsy punch and a brawl ensues. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a cloud of blinding green mist shoots from Varitek's mouth blinding Rodriguez. As A-Rod squirms, Varitek drops the big leg for the pin 1-2-3.

Jose knows the blinding mist is traditionally an Asian thing (Note: Jose knows he uses it every time he gets in a fight) but since BK Kim isn’t likely to be on the roster, Tek seemed as good a person as anyone to engage the deadly arts of the Orient.

I'm Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Monday, September 13

From SoSH: Re: 9/14 Tampa vs Boston

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. The most interesting result of Sunday’s game has been the lack of criticism of Manny Ramirez for his counting error in the first inning. (Note: Maybe we should have a team accountant to keep track for him.) This is the sort of think people get mocked for. George Will mocked Trot Nixon for it at BU graduation one year. Jose imagines William F. Buckley probably ripped Ted Williams for the same thing once upon a time. And perhaps in the future Anne Coulter will rip Allen Iverson for forgetting about the number of outs. Wait Allen Iverson doesn’t play baseball? He plays basketball, where there are no outs? So it would be impossible for that accusation to be true? Well don’t worry, that won’t keep Coulter from saying it. (Note: It is completely unfair for Jose to group principled, intelligent conservatives like Will and Buckley, who Jose respects even if he deeply believes everything they stand for is wrong, with Coulter an unprincipled, unintelligent harpy. Sorry about that.)

Moving away from the mischievous undertow of politics that drive down Jose’s broad appeal and back to Manny, Jose has had a hard time believing what he heard. It might have been too early in the morning for him to have heard correctly, but Jose is pretty sure that the despicable Gerry Callahan, always ready to attack minority athletes (Note: Jose thought about not writing this, but he really thinks it’s true gave Manny a free pass. Even more surprisingly, Dan Shaughnessy seems to have been able to forgive Manny. Much like the proverbial Grinch, Shaughnessy’s heart appears to have grown three sizes in quite the short span.

Tony Castrati, never quite as dour as Callahan or Shaughnessy was also forgiving, but let’s take a look at what he really meant. Back when Tony was a girl

What TC says: "About once a month, the laws of nature dictate that Manny Ramirez will suffer from mental cramps."

What TC means: "Manny was just going through male menstruation yesterday. I guess, I came up with this metaphor since our next series is against Tampax Bay. Not that I made that up or anything.

What TC says: "All you can do is hope that they don't come at the wrong time."

What TC means: Because if it comes at the wrong time it can be really embarrassing. When I was sixteen, I was at the movies and I was sitting on my legs and was wearing white knee socks. When the movie ended and the lights came back on, I discovered that my socks were covered in blood because my…wait, I’ve already said too much.

What TC says: "Ramirez' brain locked up like a zoo gate."

What TC means: OK enough menstruation analogies, let’s move directly on to caged wild animals. Maybe this one next. "Ramirez’s mistake was worse than a discount lion safari." (Note: Apologies to the Simpsons.)

What TC says: "Sox third base coach Dale Sveum suggested that Ramirez simply misread Varitek's liner."

What TC means: Is Dale Sveum saying Manny is illiterate? Do I smell a scoop?

What TC says: "Making it mathematically impossible for there to be more than one out."

What TC means: He can’t do math either, but I’m not going to just out and out call him stupid.

What TC says: "Manny Magoo."

What TC means: Manny is also blind. (Note: This one actually annoys Jose. TC is just totaling butchering a cartoon analogy. This is like calling him Manny E. Coyote because he always fails to catch the roadrunner. It just doesn’t make any sense.)

What TC says: "Trying to explain Ramirez' thinking can be like trying to determine the cause behind a crying, inconsolable infant. You can come up theories, but the reality is you just never know for sure. Eventually, however, the crying stops. And all you can do is focus on the good things."

What TC means: I am a new father, and I think that I have invented fatherhood. (Note: In all seriousness, it’s great that you’re enjoying your child. Jose is genuinely happy for you, but this is not the place for this analogy. Do we have 18 years of child rearing sports analogies ahead of us.

Actually, Jose should not be so quick to judge. Jose was trying to organize a public meeting a few weeks ago for work, and he suggested that instead of offering a morning time or an evening time, on which the attendees would never agree, we should offer only two different evening times. "Do you want the meeting at 5 or 7?" Jose suggested we ask. It would be like asking a child "Do you want to use your red toothbrush or your blue toothbrush?" rather than asking "Do you want to brush your teeth?" It creates the illusion of choice. Jose has no children and all of his bosses do, so they looked at him like he was nuts, but Jose insists the metaphor was valid, more so than TC’s anyway.)


I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Wait, Jose thought that was the third KEY. Nuts. He must have lost count.

Sunday, September 12

From SoSH: Re: September 12th - We Crush Them

It’s time for Melendez Jose’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. Before the Seattle series ends, Jose has to address the issues that came up in the SoSH game thread a few days ago. There was a lot of talking about how Ichiro has his first name on the back of his jersey rather than is last name. That in turn led to issues about whether Ichiro was, in fact, his first name or his last name, and that in turn led to a broader discussion about Asian names, which in turn led to the Melendezette getting really angry. (Note: The Melendezette is half Irish-half Chinese).

To her mind, Asian athletic heroes were being torn down, and to use her words "I love the fact that Asian players are playing in the big leagues. Growing up I had very few Asian athletic role models - even fewer, okay no, half-Asian role models." Jose of course reminded her of Michael Chang, the athletic role model for all boys and girls having ethnic origins in Asia or the Pacific Islands (Note: Jose is pretty sure Margaret Cho did a lot of Michael Chang jokes once upon a time. See Eric Neel, giving credit, it’s great!!!)

Jose guesses the point is that despite the cultural confusion it may cause us, it is good to have people of all different ethnicities and nationalities in our professional sporting leagues. Heck, it may even be good that Wendall Kim is in the majors, because, despite his incompetence, he has paved the way for future generation of Korean third base coaches, who will hopefully be just as likeable, but a lot less incompetent. Actually, the whole thing has made Jose reexplore his own Japanese roots. That’s why from now one, Jose wishes to be known, in the tradition of his people, as Melendez Jose.

2. During Thursday night’s Patriots game, ABC used some ridiculous new feature that clocks a quarterback’s pass and then translates it into the speed of a baseball pitch. Apparently, Peyton Manning’s 56 mph pass would be 83 mph if he was throwing a baseball. Do the Yankees know about this? A starter who could bring the gas at 83 mph would be a huge upgrade to their rotation.

3. If the Scott Williamson elbow saga has shown anything, it’s that doctors don’t know anything and are just people who like to get up in other people’s business. Jose urges the Yankees to keep this in mind, as we go down the stretch. The next time a doctor tells one of your pitchers that if he doesn’t have surgery, he might never pitch again, just ignore him and send it out to pitch. He’ll be fine. Remember George, that Doctor just wants to take your money. If he really cared about the winning he’d tell players to get right back out there, not "rest a day" or "have reconstructive surgery. Isn’t that what you’d do?

I’m Melendez Jose, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.