Monday, May 14

Life is like a...

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

1. With the stunning success of Friday’s “Life is a Knuckleball” KEY 1, easily the most popular KEY of the year, it has become clear to Jose that if he wants to keep the people engaged, he needs to ease up on the quippy one liners and rededicate himself to melodramatic schmaltz. After three years, Jose can at last see, that it is not the sinewy flesh of analysis that Red Sox fans crave, but the savory fat of emotion. Thus, rather than releasing another KESY book this year, Jose will instead focus his attention on a book of Mitch Alborn style life lessons (note: but not made up) entitled “Everything Jose Needed to Know, He Learned at Fenway.”

The book will be chock full o’ folksy stories illustrating valuable baseball-based life lessons such as “Never pull a pitcher who is dealing after 91 pitches with a shut out and a five run lead, just because some goober dropped a pop up with one out in the ninth.” If you apply that lesson to raising your kids, you know they’ll come out on the straight and narrow.

So, having exhausted the subject of how life is like a knuckleball, Jose will move on to a tale of how life is like the infield fly rule.

Jose has never really understood the infield fly rule. Well, that’s not exactly right. Sure, he understands it technically: If there is an infield pop up when there is a force at third, the batter is automatically out, with the purpose being to prevent easy double or triple plays. But Jose doesn’t understand it on an existential level. Would Sartre understand the infield fly rule? Would Camus?

There are lots of times in the game when a batter fails, grounding into a double play, for instance, and there is nothing protecting him from doing severe damage to his team there. There’s no infield grounder rule. Why is it that one kind of failure, a pop up, should have an offensive safety net strung tight beneath it, and another kind of failure, an easy grounder, should offer nothing but the hard ground three stories below?

Jose supposes that the infield fly rule is kind of like life. There are lots of errors one can make, lots of chances to fail, but the consequences of different kinds of failure aren’t necessarily the same. Why is it, for instance, that if one get fired for gross incompetence, there is not unemployment to cushion the blow, whereas if one gets fired because he is not longer of use, he gets government checks? In both cases there is a failure isn’t there? Unemployment fly rule, Jose supposes.

Or why is it, that if one cries going in for the first day of kindergarten his parents are caring and sympathetic, but if he starts bawling when he gets dropped off for his first day of college, he is a crybaby, to be scorned? Educational fly rule, it seems.

The simple fact is that as a society and as individuals, we are just like the Major Leagues. We place different values on different kinds of failure. For some we say, “tough break, let’s limit the damage” and for other’s we say, “that’s your own damn fault, now live with the consequences.”

And is that fair? Is it right? Is there good failure and bad failure? Deserving losers and undeserving losers? All Jose knows is that when he comes up to bat in the game of life, a base runner named work on first and a baserunner named family on second, and less than two of the life chances blown we call outs on the scoreboard, Jose will put a little uppercut in his swing. Because if he’s going to fail, he’s sure not going to ground into the double play of professional disappointment and personal immorality. He’ll risk popping it up, secure in the knowledge that the infield fly rule of life will limit the damage.

Tomorrow: How the slide step is like getting over the loss of a pet.

2. Long before the Red Sox made their dramatic six run, ninth inning comeback yesterday, starter St. Josh a Beckett left the game after four innings with what the Red Sox termed an “avulsion.” The popular theory in the press and the fan base is that by calling the pitcher’s injury an avulsion, the Red Sox were trying to make clear that this was not a recurrence of the blister problems that had sent him to the DL in year’s past. But has it occurred to anyone that the Red Sox might have used this strange medical term, not to accurately convey a lack of seriousness, but to hide a far graver injury?

Jose actually looked up avulsion on and do you know what it means? According to the American Heritage Dictionary entry it is “The forcible tearing away of a body part by trauma or surgery.” Very reassuring isn’t it? But Jose knows what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Wait, Jose just chose the direst, scariest possible definition for comic effect, and that’s not what it means in this case.”

Fair enough. Do you want the other definition? It’s “the sudden movement of soil from one property to another as a result of a flood or a shift in the course of a boundary stream.” Does that make you feel better? Do you like the idea that our star pitcher is literally being eroded by a shift in the course of a body of water?

No, the use of “avulsion” this strange new technical nomenclature in a world where other technical vocabulary like, ACL, labrum and contusion are used freely, signifies something far more sinister than a blister. Jose is convinced, convinced that either Beckett lost an entire finger out there yesterday, or that he is made out of sand. Either way, it’s bad news.

3. But enough looking backwards. The Detroit Tigers come to town tonight for the first of a four game set that will pit the two best teams in the American League against each other. The red hot Tigers come to the series winners of eight of their last ten. However, they will have to struggle through this series without relief ace Joel Zumaya who is out with an injury presumable sustained playing Dance Dance Revolution or one of those Nintendo Wii games. (Note: Jose knows Zumaya got hurt playing Guitar Hero II, but when are we going to start getting the rotator cuff injuries from the Wii, that’s what Jose really wants to see.)

The Tigers team that comes to Fenway tonight is, save for the addition of Mr. Yankee Gary Sheffield, the same team that bowed to the Cardinals in five games in the 2006 World Series. And that’s why, despite their formidable record and fearsome rotation, Jose has no fear. This is a team that lost a post season game where their opposition started Jeff Suppan without even having noted Suppan’s-bitch Roger Clemens as their starter. You can’t fear that, you just can’t.

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

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