Tuesday, May 8

Get With the Losing Team

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

1. Once, there was a man.

He was a great man, a rewriter of history, the idol and envy of millions. From modest beginnings, he rose to become greater than any before him, to become, perhaps, the greatest of all. But you know what happens to the great don’t you? Pride flows from power, heroism becomes hubris and nemesis, as the Greeks might say, is a bitch.

From his height of power, from the peak of his influence, he had nothing left to do save submit to Newton’s cruel discovery and fall, fall ever faster to Earth. Into exile he went, a comfortable exile an exile softened by all the riches of the age, but an exile nevertheless, away from the power, away from the intrigue and off to a gilded prison.

But for great men, a comfortable retirement is no comfort at all. Power is the only comfort, adulation the only opiate. And so he escaped from his exile, as fate demanded. Oh, he escaped with visions of glory restored, power reclaimed and in short order those visions were fulfilled. Hysterical woman screamed his name, praising the nobility of his return, weeping, saluting what seemed an inevitable restoration of a powerful and feared empire.

His name, you might be surprised to hear, was not Roger Clemens. Not at all.

This is the story of quite a different author of history, one of smaller stature than Clemens, and with, remarkably, a smaller ego to boot. You have, perhaps, heard of him. His was called Napoleon Bonaparte.

On March 1, 1815, Napoleon returned to France, having escaped from exile in Elba, that Houston of the Mediterranean, and, after converting the French Fifth Regiment of the Line to his cause upon encountering them at Grenoble quickly regained his position as Emperor of France.

Like Napoleon before him, Roger Clemens returns in dramatic fashion, taking in the cheers at Yankee Stadium, like Napoleon on that first day of March. Clemens standing in the owner’s box might as well have declared “Soldiers of the Fifth, you recognize me. If any man would shoot his emperor, he may do so now.” And he might as well have been greeted with cheers of "Vive L'Empereur!"

But the story does not end there. Nor does it proceed neatly to the French Empire reclaiming the continent. For all of the enthusiasm his return generated, Napoleon’s restoration ended a scant 100 days later in disaster.

And with barely more than 100 days left in the baseball season why should the Clemens restoration end any differently than that of Napoleon? Is Clemens a greater man? Is he more heroic? Has he faced adversity with more bravado?

No, he has not. No he is not. Like Napoleon before him, Clemens comes to save, to restore an empire that has crumbled, that has turned to dust as luxury, as decadence, as an endless thirst for domination overextends resources and engenders a certain incurable madness.

And like Napoleon the crowds may cheers Clemens’ return, they may envision a restoration of the grandeur that was. But like Napoleon, Clemens will battle his Wellington, he will meet his Waterloo and he will end up on his St. Helena.

Seperated at birth?

2. You know who Jose blames for Clemens signing with the Yankees? Grady Little.

Now this isn’t a reflexive thing, like Jose automatically blaming Grady for a warehouse fire in Lawrence or World War I, this is serious. Grady is responsible, because he attempted to change destiny, which, as anyone who has read Oedipus Rex or seen Terminator 3 knows, is impossible.

Roger Clemens is fated, absolutely guaranteed, to end his career by picking up the loss in a pathetic performance against the Boston Red Sox.

The script was written. Game 7, 2003 ALCS and a Roger Clemens who has vowed to retire is nothing short of pathetic. His last game ever, will be a classic Clemens playoff implosion against the soon to be World Champion Red Sox. Except Grady attempts to alter the future. He kneecaps John Wilkes Booth, he poisons FDR, he hand delivers the Zimmerman Telegram, he does everything he can to fight off destiny when he leaves Pedro in and the Red Sox lose. Thus, Clemens goes on to pitch again.

But you can’t fight destiny any more than you can fight nightmares. It just keeps coming.

Since that day, Jose has been waiting for a season ending match up between Clemens and the Red Sox, such that the circle may be closed. He thought we would have it in 2004 when Clemens’ Astros nearly battled the Red Sox in the World Series, but Clemens couldn’t overcome the kryptonite that is Jeff Suppan.

So Jose has waited, waited each year as Clemens has put off retirement again and again, waited as he has taunted and teased Red Sox fans with the prospect of a return, waited for the final chapter. And here it is. Roger Clemens is, once more, a Yankee. And his last start of this season, the last start of his career, will come against these Boston Red Sox. Clemens will collapse. The Red Sox will win. Destiny will take its bounty.

3. Last year as Roger went through his absurd little process, Jose compared him to Italy in World War I, waiting to see who was most likely to triumph before jumping in with the winning team in return for a stunning ransom. It is now clear that this analogy was incorrect. For the second straight year, Clemens has chosen to go after the king’s ransom, but he has chosen to do so with a losing team. Thus, Jose would like to formally apologize to the nation of Italy circa World War I for the comparison. For you to be like Clemens, you would have had to assess the situation, bide your time and then join up with the Central Powers shortly after the Second Battle of the Somme in 1918, once defeat was assured. Jose regrets the inaccuracy.

Jose would like to find a substitute historical analogy, but he is, as yet, unable to find any nation, any person, so eager to freely choose what will clearly be the losing side in any conflict. It appears, that in the entire history of statecraft, there is no one as stupid or as arrogant as Roger Clemens.

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

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