Wednesday, May 23

Jose's Secret Love

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

1. Jose has a secret.

It’s not a secret that he readily admits to family and friends, and sometimes he even has a hard time admitting it to himself. Deep down, Jose sort of maybe possibly thinks that he might love the Celtics more than the Red Sox.

Jose would never have guessed it. He certainly doesn’t watch the Celtics religiously like he does the Red Sox, and he would never blog about them incessantly, and yet there is real evidence that he loves them more.

In 2002, when the Celtics made their return to the playoffs, Jose had more anxiety from their first round series with the Sixers than he did for any of the Red Sox playoff games. (Note: Which, as anyone who watched a Sox playoff game with Jose knows, is saying something.) Why would he have that kind of stress, that kind of agony, about a first round series by a team that was certain to not win a championship? Love. Sweet love.

When Jose was a kid, his father introduced him to Johnny Most’s coffee and nicotine ruined larynx, and at the age of five Jose listened to the Cs come back from down 3-1 to the hated 76ers and then beat Houston for title number 14. He changed his favorite color from red to green, because red may have been a Red Sox color, but it was a Sixers color too. He prayed for playoff wins and for unspeakable tragedy to befall Tree Rollins who had bitten his favorite player—a fiery, yet strangely incompetent two guard named Danny Ainge.

In recent years, Jose’s love has ebbed and flowed, and as the tragedy of decades wore on him, he went from being a fan who went to six games in the Szabo-Hamer era, to a fan who could not pull himself together to walk three blocks to the Garden for a game a single time last year.

And then came last night. The Lottery. You know how they say buying lottery tickets is not an investment strategy? Well, the same holds true for the NBA Draft Lottery—maybe you’ll get lucky, but if winning the lottery is your plan, you’re probably screwed. On the upside, it could have been worse than the Celts finishing with the fifth pick. Though Jose’s not sure how. The only lottery he can think of with a more ominous result was the one in the Shirley Jackson short story, though who wouldn’t enjoy seeing Danny Ainge in that Lottery today, waiting to see if he’ll be stoned to death.

Does Jose really love the Celtics more than the Red Sox? Maybe not, but all he know is that on a night when the Red Sox beat the Yankees and the Celtics lost the future, Jose’s heart bled. Perhaps the love of a sports team is more like loving one’s children than like loving a spouse. Even when one feels the joy of one child, it cannot drown out the pain of another. And while Jose felt the Red Sox joy last night, they weeping of his beloved Celtics is what sat, heavily, in his heart.

2. On cheerier subjects, the Yankee team’s brief try at metaphorical sobriety ended last night, as they fell off the wagon. The return to figurative alcoholism was due largely to Mike Mussina throwing 85 mph fastballs with the obvious difficulty of an alcoholic handing a shot of Jack to a pal while waiting for his seltzer with a twist. Say what you want about amphetamines in baseball, they are clearly not a problem for Moose.

But while drugs are not the problem with Yankee pitching they may be the problem with Yankee bats. In his story today, barbiturates,” the Yankees have an even bigger problem, as barbiturates are central nervous system depressants that “produce a wide spectrum of effects, from mild sedation to anesthesia. Some are also used as anticonvulsants ,” Not exactly the thing to get bats hopping. On the other hand, it kind of makes sense. These Yankees have indeed showed symptoms ranging from mild sedation to anesthesia, yet George Steinbrenner has, somehow, been prevented from convulsing thus far.

Poor Yankees. They can’t pitch, they can’t hit and they can’t even medicate properly.

3. In other news, Manny is still Manny, Julian Tavarez is still crazy and Alex Rodriguez is still an *sshole.

The evidence? Manny popped out of his slump last night with a three run homer in the first, Tavarez was wearing shower shoes with David Ortiz’s face on them, and Alex Rodriguez was throwing elbows at Dustin Pedroia on a most dubious slide.

Basically, Rodriguez slid hard in to second as part of an effort to break up a double play. Fine. But when he popped up he headed in an entirely different direction, lofting an elbow at Pedroia’s nether regions. After watching it again on tape, the diminutive Pedroia complained to umpire Joe West.

The incident is, of course, the latest in a series of Rodriguez missteps designed to demonstrate hard-nosed play. The most famous of these, his slap during Game 6 of the ALCS, made him look less hard-nosed and more like a lady in the midst of a catfight. This is a recurring trend, as last night’s play featured him trying a little too hard to come in contact with another person's genitals. Jose is not being homophobic not at all. He just thinks it is wrong to try to grope someone under the cover “playing tough ball.” If Dustin Pedroia had been a woman it would have been just as wrong. Ultimately, the play, rather than making him look tough, made him appear weak, pathetic, and more than a little creepy.

Tonight, Jose fully expects Alex to continue this sort of behavior by attempting to break up a double play by calling Pedroia names like “whore” and “bitch” and if that doesn’t work, by scratching him and pulling his hair.

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

Tuesday, May 22

12 Easy Steps

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME. In his New York Post column today, George King compared the streaking Yankees (note: they’ve won two in a row!) to a drunk struggling to make it through his first days of sobriety, constantly reminding himself that the goal is not to be sober forever, but simply to “make it through the day.” If this analogy were correct, Jose would declare that the relapse is coming any day now, and that the men in pinstripes will, very soon, find themselves once again passed out in a Bronx gutter, their mouths bloodied, their wallets missing and stinking of Rubinoff Vodka, cheap Kyrgyz perfume and failure.

But Jose does not accept the analogy. The Yankees are nothing like an alcoholic slogging timidly towards a better life. If they were, they would be following the twelve steps, and they decidedly are not. Just look.

1. Admitting that they are powerless over bad baseball—that their lives had become unmanageable.
Do you remember any Yankee suggesting that they weren’t “better than this?” Or that the team was unmanageable? They have a manger right there.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than themselves could restore them to sanity.
They’ve got the great Power in Georgie Porgie Steinbrenner, but Jose is pretty sure restoration is not typically what he does with sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn their will and their lives over to the care ofGod as they understood Him.
Money does not count as God. Sorry Roger.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves.
Yeah. Not the most reflective bunch. Think Johnny Damon is going to give up skanks, Derek Jeter is going to give up looking in the mirror, Jason Giambi is going to give up HGH or Jorge Posada is going to give up being a little bitch any time soon?

5. Admitted to God, to themselves, and to another human being the exact nature of their wrongs.
Note to Yankees: Your agent does not count as a human being.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of charachter.
See step 4.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove their shortcomings.
Humility, not really at a premium in the Bronx.

8. Made a list of all persons they had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Have all of the women in Boston with the now unfashionable Damon shirts gotten that apology call yet? Has Balki Arroyo gotten a call from A-Rod apologizing for striking him? Has Doug Mientkiewiecz returned the World Series ball?

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Come on, this is the same as step 8.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when they were wrong promptly admitted it. Trying to release a steroid riddled Giambi six years after you signed him, when he had stopped producing is not prompt. You were wrong sure, but not prompt in admitting it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out. Signing Carl Everett would be a huge move towards step, he knows exactly what God wants.

12.Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, they tried to carry this message to bad baseball players, and to practice these principles in all their affairs.
Jose eagerly anticipates the Yankees intervention for the Kansas City Royals, where they will gather together the 15 remaining Royals fans, each of whom will explain how the Royals have hurt them.

So, as you can see, even if the Yankees are indeed like alcoholics, they are not exactly skipping down the 12 steps to recovery.

No, if anything, the Yankees remind Jose of the patients in the De Niro/Williams film Awakenings. In the movie, patients suffering from sleeping sickness who have been catatonic for years, suddenly regain consciousness when given a drug called L. Dopa. But here’s the catch: They don’t stay conoscious. No matter how much the dosage is increased, the patients cannot remain permanently lucid and return to their vegetative state. There is no noble struggling against personal vice for these New York Yankees, only brief awakenings followed yet again, inevitably, by a return to unfathomable lethargy.

2. Jose noticed a lot of empty seats in the rain soaked final innings of last Saturday’s nightcap drubbing at the hand of the Braves—a lot. And for that Jose has a message.


You shame yourself, and you disgust Jose. You claim to be true Red Sox fans, the best baseball fans in the world and yet you are deterred by a 14 run deficit and driving rain? Pathetic.

Do you know how many people have told Jose that they missed the Mother’s Day miracle because they left after the eighth inning? They are even worse.

A real fan never leaves early no matter the situation. A fire in the stands? Tough it out, you’re allowed to bring in a bottle of water now. An earthquake? Like that didn’t happen every time Rich Garces ran in from the bullpen anyway? A nuclear disaster? Well, going home isn’t really going to help, now is it?

Jose didn’t even leave early during Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, or as he prefers to call it “the worst night of his life.” No, real fans never give up, they never leave early. They do, however, occasionally forget that they have tickets and miss a game entirely. For instance, it turns out Jose had tickets to the Mother’s Day game, but didn’t realize it. Whoops!

But this is what they call a “good problem,” like too much pitching. Jose has so many tickets to so many games, that he can afford to occasionally forget a game all together. So for those of you who rant and rave about your inability to get any tickets, kindly remember Jose lighting his gas grill with unused tickets while you suck it.

3. For the first time in many moons, the Celtics will draw more interest tonight than a Red Sox-Yankees game, as the not-so-greats gather in Secaucus, New Jersey for the NBA Draft Lottery.

While the Celtics have the potential to rapidly turn around their ailing franchise by landing the first or second pick, Jose is deeply concerned for two reasons. First, as a religious Mormon who is philosophically opposed to gambling, Jose sort expects Celtics GM Danny Ainge to opt out and accept the fifth pick in order to be faithful to his values. Second, it can’t be good that Tommy Heinson, the Celtics representative at the lottery keeps saying “I hope I win those lifetime Red Sox season tickets.”

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

Monday, May 21

Be Precautious

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

1. While Jose mentions politics in the KEYS from time to time in order to make a funny point funnier or a salient point…ummm… salienter, Jose has, as a rule stayed away from the most controversial issues of the day. Today that changes as Jose addresses—abortion. (Note: Gasp.)

Why would Jose take the risk of jumping directly into the middle of one of the most polarizing issues in American society today? Comments. Jose would like to get some more comments on this blog, and short of attacking Pride and Prejudice or Bob Stanley, he can’t think of any better way to do it then by tackling the abortion issue. Besides, the door was opened this morning when conservative/Red Sox blogger Dean Barnett took a crack at the abortion issues in today’s Boston Globe.

In the column, Barnett argued that even without believing in the Creator, pro-life is the only moral position one can have on abortion. His argument can be boiled down to one simple, logical fallacy. “Because we don't know where life begins, the only logical thing to do is to err on the side of caution -- the side of life. In other words, because an abortion might take an innocent life, it should be avoided. It should also be illegal in most cases.”

While Barnett declines to say so, he is applying the famed “precautionary principle” to abortion. The precautionary principle dictates that if the consequences of an action are not scientifically certain, one who might act should err on the side of caution and refrain. In other words, unless one is 100% certain that doing something will not cause irreparable harm, don’t do it. It is the case for inaction.

The irony of Barnett using the precautionary principle is that conservatives typically hate it. (Note: And rightly so.) Most often it is used to advocate for environmental controls to prevent global warming or to battle against the use of agricultural biotechnology. It is also, of course, insane. If it is even a tiny bit possible an action could cause harm, you shouldn’t act? What if you know that inaction will cause harm?

Allow Jose to illustrate the absurdity with a number of hilarious baseball examples.

In Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Grady Little, lacking certainty that his relief staff would be effective, chose not to bring in Mike Timlin, even though he had certainty that Pedro Martinez was tired. He chose the known danger over the hypothetical risk of danger, with predictable results.

In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, John McNamara failed to remove Bill Buckner from the game, choosing the certainty of playing with a hobbled first baseman over the uncertainty of putting in Dave Stapleton. But wait… maybe that’s an issue of him not applying the precautionary principle? Maybe since he had uncertainty about whether Buckner could scoop a ground ball, putting Stapleton in would have been the right act?

Ah…Jose gets the problem now. The precautionary principle is stupid. It can be played either way. You can use it to justify inaction unless one is 100% certain that action will cause no harm (note: see frankenfoods, abortion, Grady and Pedro) or if you prefer you can use it to demand action unless you are 100% certain that not acting will cause no harm (note: see global warming, pretty much any pinch hitting situation in history.) Since there is precious little certainty in this world, you can use it to argue either side of any issue. As the Red Stripe beer spokesman might say, “Hooray pointlessness!”

What the precautionary principle is, at the end of the day, is a cute philosophical mask for a value-based decision that one wishes to make anyway. McNamara made the evaluation, incorrectly mind you, that having Buckner out there for last out was worth the risk that his injury would yield disaster. Grady left Pedro in because his baseball values told him to leave in a gassed “best pitcher” rather than go to an inferior fresh pitcher. And Barnett advocated the pro-life position because his values dictate that a risk, however small, that a cluster of cells a few week old is a person, is more important than a risk of physical or psychological harm, or any other consequence for the woman . All of those decisions are fine. They are wrong, but they are perfectly good values based decisions. But it is every bit as absurd for Barnett to claim that some pseudo-scientific moral calculus validates his belief as it is for McNamara or Grady to do so. They all hold their positions because of what they believe, not because of scientific evidence.

All of human endeavor is about weighing values and risks and making the best decisions in light of imperfect information. It is certainly what baseball is about, and it is just as certainly what public policy is about. So let’s weigh the pros and cons of the hit and run with two men on or of abortion or the death penalty, but let’s not rely on the precautionary principle as some pseudoscientific basis for our own values, be they moral or sabermetric.

2. The Red Sox head in to New York this week to take on a struggling Yankees team that has lost more pitchers than Crate and Barrel during a shoplifters' convention.

It is also a Yankees club that is considering trying to void Jason Giambi’s contract, now that Giambi, after many years and a grand jury leak, admitted to using “stuff.” Jose can understand how the Yankees would feel misled. After all, when they signed Giambi, they had no idea he was a stuff user, unlike say, Steve Howe, whose problem putting “other stuff” up his nose was legendary.

In related news, the Yankees announced that they will no longer allow Oreos in the clubhouse, particularly “double stuff” Oreos.

While coming clean about his stuff abuse, Giambi also appeared to be unrepentant about other enhancements.

“It’s a lot better with the new orthotics,” boasted Giambi to the New York Post, predicting that his new performance enhancing devices will lead to a turn around. Whether the Yankees will try to use these orthotics as additional grounds to invalidate Giambi’s contract is unknown. What is known is that they do not plan to validate the contract of Alex Rodriguez for his lip implants.

3. Javier Lopez came in for a struggling Brendan Donnelley in the sixth yesterday and got yet another double play. As SoSHer Steve Brady points out, that gives him eight double plays in 24.2 innings with the Red Sox since last year. That is downright absurd. And it gets more absurd. If you count the double plays he was involved in while masquerading as catcher Javier Lopez last year, he’s got 85.

Seriously, he is so good at turning double plays that Jose’s heard that sometimes he walks a man just to set up a double play. Other times, after a strike out he’ll run up and tag the guy in the on deck circle. It doesn’t count, of course, but Jose appreciates the enthusiasm.

Moreover, Jose can’t confirm it, but he’s pretty sure Lopez stared alongside William Shatner in the 1997 film Double Play, which describes as “The Prince and the Pauper meets The Parent Trap, which is, ironically, exactly how The New York Times described the last Yankees-Royals series.

Okay, that was completely all over the place but the important thing is that Javier Lopez got some well-deserved love, and maybe, just maybe, moved one step closer towards not being known as “the other Javier Lopez,” or even worse “the guy Jose keeps calling Javier Vasquez by mistake.”

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