Thursday, June 2

6/2/05 -- Antipope Clement XV vs. Founder of UPenn

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

Jose fears that his hearing is now what it used to be. Or is it his listening? Either way.

Jose walked past Fenway last night at about nine o’clock after finishing an excellent meal at Brown Sugar CafĂ© (note: perhaps the best restaurant relative to price in Boston) and was strolling back to the North End with three friends, one of whom was in town from Baton Rouge. As we walked by the ballpark a cheer went up. Jose paused for a moment and assessed the cacophony. Then he declared “That was a good sign, those were not the sarcastic cheers of fans whose team is way behind. Those were honest, enthusiastic cheers. The Sox are either way ahead, or the game is close.”

When Jose walked a block further his best hopes were confirmed, the scoreboard showed Kelly Shoppach on the Jumbotron. Surely, his insertion into the game proved that the Sox were way ahead.

Then things started to unravel. Jose started thinking that the Sox were only two hours in to the game, and they couldn’t possibly have inserted Shoppach with Wakefield still in the game. Maybe the Sox weren’t up after all? Maybe it wasn’t even close. Then as Jose walked past the bars of Boylston Street, he saw the silhouette of Sidney Ponson’s portly frame on a dozen television screens.

Jose’s concern became denial. As Jose reached Berkley Street and entered a bar, he got his first glimpse of a scoreboard. Boston 3, Baltimore 0. They are ahead! But not by much. Then reality triumphed over hope. Jose’s eyes focused more sharply and a stream of white pixels formed a violent scratch across the zero next to Baltimore. As the zero became a heartbreaking eight, the cold, unpleasant truth of the moment slapped Jose across the face like A-Rod swatting a first baseman’s mitt.

“Eight” thought Jose! “Eight? Chinese lucky number Jose’s *ss.”

And now Jose does not know what to believe. His ears deceived him; his eyes deceived him. But perhaps, Jose is not losing his senses, perhaps the world was just senseless last night. As Jose read the paper the next day, he learned that they were heartfelt cheers that he heard, that the Sox were making a serious push to win the game. And Kelly Shoppach? Shoppach’s appearance was an odd anomaly, the act of a manager who yielded too soon.

No, it was the world that had gone mad, not Jose.

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Wednesday, June 1

6/1/05 – Wakefield vs. Ponson

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

1. Sox manager Terry Eurona removed Johnny Damon from last night’s game after the centerfielder split his head open running into the cold hard steal of the outfield fence. In Jose’s opinion this is an inexcusable managerial failure on Eurona’s part. Yes Damon was bleeding, yes his face was well on its way to becoming the proverbial “crimson mask,” but Damon was prepared to stay in and he should have.

Did King Kong Bundy’s manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan replace him with Big John Studd when Bundy was split open during his cage match with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 2? Did the Undertaker’s manager Paul Bearer yank him out of his Hell in a Cell match with Mick Foley when his face was split by iron? No, because both of those men are competitors who wanted to stay in the game, just like Johnny Damon.

There is a reason that baseball and wrestling are the only two sports that use the term “manager” rather than coach. It is because the two sports share a common flow and continuity that other sports lack, and the job of a manager, unlike a coach is to guide his team or wrestler along that flow, like a rafter managing treacherous rapids. A coach cajoles, urges, inspires, but a manager simply manages; he takes the events that come to him and makes adjustments. Eurona has been a very good manager, the best Sox manager of Jose’s lifetime, but last night’s decision was reminiscent of Arnold Skaaland’s decision to throw in the towel when his man, WWF champion Bob Backlund, was locked in the Iron Sheik’s camel clutch. Of course, the Sheik later claimed that he had bribed Skaaland with oriental carpets. So how many carpets did Lee Mazzilli give you last night Tito? How many???

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Tuesday, May 31

5/31/05 – Miller vs. Cabrera

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

1. For the second straight year, the Boston Red Sox did their absolute best to ruin Jose’s drive home at the end of Memorial Day weekend with a horrific and boring loss to the Baltimore Orioles. (Note: Jose would like to remind the Red Sox that laying down their bats is not an appropriate tribute to our war heroes.) But never let it be said that Jose doesn’t learn from his mistakes. Much like Dale Sveum… wait… bad example… much like George Steinbrenner… no… that one doesn’t work either. Much like Theo Epstein, Jose will not make the same mistakes a second time.

Mistake number one: Jose went to the Cape last year, thereby forcing him to sit in endless bridge traffic during the game. This year Jose vacationed safely on the mainland side of the bridge… in Quincy. Ha ha!!! No Jose, made it a little further than that, but still well to the West of the Cape Cod Canal.

Mistake number two: Last year, Jose left at game time, resulting in the game playing a decisive role in determining whether the three hour trip would be tolerable. This year, Jose left an hour before game time and arrived at home a mere 15 minutes after first pitch, far before the game got out of hand.

Mistake number three: Last year, Jose allowed himself to believe, based on past excellence, that Megatron Lowe was a first rate, front line starter, and therefore that a game he started would at least be competitive. This year, Jose allowed himself to believe, based on past excellence that Balki Arroyo was a first rate, front line starter, and therefore that a game he started would at least be competitive. As a result…wait… crap… that’s not any different at all.

Apparently, Jose learned nothing. On the plus side, he looks forward to Arroyo duplicating DLowe’s postseason heroics this Fall.

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Sunday, May 29

5/29/05 – Malign Fatty Tumor vs. It’s Not a Tumor

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

1. Well, that’s more like it. After dropping four straight games in terrible performances, the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX finally showed some spark yesterday, absolutely dismantling the Yankees 17-1. Shockingly, the absolute best characterization of the days events came in the headline to a Tony Castrati story that read “Pavano no stranger to disastrous routs.” That’s terrific. In fact, it’s absolutely perfect. (Note: Jose would like to remind everyone, at this time, that reporters, as they always tell us, do not write the headlines. So Tony Castrati gets no credit. NONE!!!!)

Of course, Castrati concluded the story with the highly scientific observation that the last time Pavano took a pummeling of this sort at the hands of the Red Sox, his team went on to win the World Series, implying that this may well happen again. Jose would like to address this specious reasoning in the style of Lisa Simpson. Tony, Jose has a rock in his pocket that keeps tigers away. How do you know it keeps Tigers away? Jose doesn’t see any Tigers around him and he doesn’t even have an y Sox Tigers tickets for this year. Therefore it must keep Tigers away. It’s exactly the same as your Pavano Principle. So how about it Tony? Five hundred dollars.
But the real story was that the Red Sox yesterday were like Frankenstein’s Monster, remarkably coming to life and in anger and disorientation absolutely trashing the room and everything in their path. Now that the World Champs have been unleashed on an unsuspecting world, we need only hope that the Yankees don’t realize that we’re afraid of fire.

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