Friday, June 24

6/24/05 – Sox visit Royal Bank of Scotland Ballpark

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

1. Two years ago, the Red Sox made their last visit to Philadelphia and Grady Little made the decision that should have ended his managerial career. In the late innings of a game wherein the Red Sox blew three saves, the bumbling manager waited until after lefty slugger Jim Thome had hit a game tying homer to bring in lefty reliever Alan Embree even though Embree was already warm when Thome came to the plate. You know the details, so Jose will not bother to review them, unless of course, you blocked it out, in which case Jose will not do you the disservice of reminding you. Suffice it to say, the Philly Phanatic came off looking thoughtful and dignified in comparison with Grady that day.

Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry was rumored to be so upset with Grady’s non-move that he wanted to fire him on the spot. His co-owners and general manager thought better of it, however, and talked him out of making such a rash decision. Whoops. So instead of Little’s career being ended by a foolish decision in Philadelphia, it was ended by an even more foolish decision in New York three months later.

And now, as the Red Sox return to Philadelphia with a World Championship under their belt, Jose wonders what, if anything, current Sox manager Terry Eurona could do this weekend that might match Grady’s mistake two years ago and raise such ire in John W. Henry.

• Let Jason Shiell pitch to Thome just like Grady did. If Jason Shiell was on the roster maybe this wouldn’t be such a big deal. But for Tito to let Shiell pitch to Thome, he would have to acquire Shiell by usurping the power of GM Theo Epstein. Launching a coup seems like it might be grounds for dismissal.

• Bring Alan Embree to pitch to Jim Thome. What a difference two years makes. Okay, maybe doing this wouldn’t make Henry want to fire Tito, but Jose can assure you that at no point in this series will he be screaming “bring in Embree” like he did two years ago.

• Urinate on the Liberty Bell. That’s about as offensive and senseless as Grady’s moves two years ago. Of course, as a championship manager, Tito could probably get away with it.
Hmm… maybe there’s nothing Tito could do that would be as bad. Still, one does have to imagine he’ll be put to the test this weekend. Eurona is not a beloved figure in Philadelphia where he managed for four unsuccessful seasons. According to the Boston Globe, he had to park in different places every day out of fear for his safety, and when he returned as a scout, he had a security detail attached to him.

Jose imagines that the fact that he is now a World Series champion will only serve to further antagonize the Philadelphia hooligans. But Jose thinks that rather than ignoring it Tito should embrace it. When he is introduced tonight and the boos rain down, he should take a page from the late wrestling legend “Ravishing” Rick Rude and say “What I’d like right now is for all of you fat, ugly Philadelphia farm animals to keep the noise down while I put on my championship ring so the ladies can see what a real manager looks like.

They’re going to hate him either way, so he might as well get some shots in.

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Tuesday, June 21

6/21/05 – Balki vs. Millwood

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

1. Boston Herald beat writer Jeff Horrigan characterized Sox starter David Wells as putting in “five workman like innings” last night. Since he defined four runs over five innings on what felt like 170 pitches as “workmanlike,” Jose suspects that every borderline incompetent, crooked, or just plain sloppy contractor in greater Boston will be calling Horrigan today to offer great rates on home repairs.

Hi, Mr. Horrigan? My name John Smith. I’m a general contractor, and I’d
like to do some work on your home. What can I do for you? Well, what do you
need? I can have some nice new recessed lighting installed for you. Now, I can’t
promise that the lights are going to work most of the time, but I’m almost
certain that you won’t get electrocuted.

Flooring? Well, I’ll tell you what, a lot of people will tell you that
hardwood flooring is the way to go, but me, I think balsa wood is a more
efficient alternative. After all, the purpose is to cover up the dirt or
concrete or what have you, and balsa will do that just as well as any maple or
oak, plus you can make model airplanes out of your floor if you get bored.

And you want a gas hook up? Sure I can do that for you. But let me tell
you a little secret. Yes, you’re going to smell a little bit of gas, but as long
as you keep the windows open at all times, it’s no problem. Sounds great,
doesn’t it?

And I’m willing to give you a special price. I’ll do this work for you for only $4 million per year for each of the next two years… plus incentives. What kind of incentives? Well, I can get up to an additional $5 million per year, depending on how often I show up to work on the house. How’s that sound to you? Do we have a deal? We do? That’s terrific… I’ll be over next week and will start putting in a workmanlike effort every fifth day.

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Monday, June 20

6/20/05 – Sox vs. The Cleveland South Asians

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

1. When the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years last October, countless commentators, pundits and drunks form around the country speculated that baseball would be ruined for Red Sox fans. They prognosticated that the chase, as long and frustrating as it was, would prove far more enjoyable than the actual catch. They were idiots of course, winning is fantastic. It’s better than fantastic, it’s transcendent. Since Foulke tossed the ball to Mientkiewiecz, every day has been a holiday.

Sure there is pleasure to be found in pursuit, and being unfulfilled drives men to devotion, to action and accomplishment, but did we as human beings, not as Red Sox fans, truly need to have the pursuit of an elusive championship as the motivating force in our lives? No, of course not. Each and every member of Red Sox nation has his own disappointments, his own failures that drive him, that haunt him; he doesn’t need 25 strangers to provide him with existential angst.
With his goal of seeing a Red Sox championship met, Jose has been able to focus on the other great unfulfilled goal in his life. When Jose was in kindergarten many moons ago, he was one of the two hot shot readers in his class. The fame, the notoriety… it was brilliant. Jose and his friend Mark both plowed trough the 53 volumes of the “I See Sam” series of readers. (Note: These were either about the adventures of a friendly lion and his animal friends or the adventures of Sammy Sosa and his animal friends, Jose can’t remember which.) Jose and Mark then moved on to the “Monster Books,” a series of readers for superstars that told the story of a little boy and his friend, a big purple monster. Jose flew though the books and found himself with two weeks left in the school year, and one book to go, “Monster Meets Lady Monster.” Then things fell apart. Some punk kid in the other kindergarten class had “Monster Meets Lady Monster” at home, and had not brought it back.

Each day Jose and Mark would go into school and ask “Is Monster Meets Lady Monster In? Is it? Is it?” But the answer was always no. Well, it was always no until the penultimate day of the school year, when the book made its triumphant return. Bu there was a problem, as any story demands. Only one of us could take it home. The tiebreaker, and the book went to Mark, as he was on his second year of kindergarten. So Jose went home bookless, dejected, shattered, wondering if his day would ever come. His impossible dream season had ended one book short of his goal.

Jose went back to the same elementary school the next year, but he couldn’t stand to go ask if he could read “Monster Meets Lady Monster.” It wouldn’t have been the same. He would have felt the same way the Yankees felt winning the 2005 season opener over the Red Sox after bowing in seven games in the ALCS the year before – sort of happy, but ultimately even more aware of the previous year’s failures.

As the years drifted on, Jose tried to put the little paperback book out of his mind and focus on bigger books like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George and the Brothers Karamazov, but the fact that he had fallen one book short continued to gnaw at him.

The book continued to haunt Jose, keeping him from being the truly great reader he could have been. He never had a single year where he read every book assigned to him, not in middle school, not in high school, not even at Boston University. Some reporters even began speculating that perhaps there was a “Curse of ‘Monster Meets Lady Monster.’” They asked publicly if the big purple monster wasn’t haunting Jose. Jose knew there was no curse, there was no evidence of a curse, but the questions were like a tick burrowing under Jose’s skin and into his psyche.
Jose’s mother asked the school if they still had the book when he graduated from high school, she thought it would be a nice surprise, but the school said they had stopped using those books in 1984 or so. No luck.

Then when the Internet took off, Jose thought that perhaps it could bring him the elusive book. The Internet confirmed that the book existed, that it wasn’t some phantasm that materialized from his addled mind, but it offered no copies. Finally, last week, Jose discovered a copy at a used book store for $4.50 on Jose placed his order immediately.

Jose tried to contain his excitement. He had been down this road before, where victory, which seemed certain in one moment, vanished into the ether in the next. The box arrived. The tension was immense. Jose dropped to his knees as if in prayer, folded his hands, crossed his fingers and began to open the box. As it turned out, it is extremely hard to open a well-taped box while one’s fingers are crossed and hands are folded, so Jose got a knife. He carefully cut the scotch tape, peeled back the paper and stared down on a genuine copy of “Monster Meets Lady Monster” written by Ellen Blance and Ann Cook and illustrated by Quentin Blake in 1973.
Jose sat down with the Melendezette, and he read the book aloud to her, just as he would have read it 23 years before if not for the greed and/or sloth of that kid in the other class. It was euphoric. Charlie Brown finally kicked the football, Don Quixote had fought actual giants, Jose Melendez had completed a series of kindergarten readers!!!

But that was two days ago. It is in the past, which as St. Augustine reminds us, does not exist, it only used to exist. What now, Jose asks himself? What now? Reading doesn’t feel the same anymore. For 23 years, Jose had remained literate for no reason other than being able to read “Monster Meets Lady Monster” should the opportunity ever arise. Now that he’s done it, what’s the point? Why should he bother reading now? What does it even matter if he’s literate. It’s not like reading is any fun any more, or that he can learn anything from it. Now that the goal is accomplished ,the process, the tools that it took to accomplish that goal, are moot.

So now Jose is stuck. He is illiterate since he read “Monster Meets Lady Monster,” and he hates watching baseball since the Red Sox won the World Series. What else is there to do? Perhaps he can fixate on the fact that he got cut from little league in 1987 and try to make an American Legion baseball team. But why bother? Even if he succeeds he’ll probably just lose interest in playing baseball and lose his ability to hit. Of course, if he lost all ability to hit, that would leave him pretty much where he is now, so no biggie.

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