Friday, July 13

A Tale of Two Butches

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

1. Well that’s just great.

David Ortiz has a torn meniscus, which, as best Jose can recall from Introduction to the Physical Sciences in eighth grade, is that shallow parabola of fluid at the top of a graduated cylinder. Jose had no idea that people had graduated cylinders in their knees, but he supposes that it explains why they always count fluid buildup in the knee in milliliters.

Yes, yes, they say the slugger won’t need surgery until after the season, if ever, but Jose can’t help but be concerned. It suggests that he may not recover his power this year, and what if he does need to go under Dr. Andrews’ shining blade?

Either way, there is a good chance that the Red Sox are going to have to add power or as the wonks call it “generating capacity” if they are going to make a run. With the trade deadline slinking towards us ominously yet alluringly, like a Times Square hooker, the Red Sox may need to make a move.

But what move?

A move for a move’s sake is fine on the dance floor but disasterous in these Major Leagues. Adding the 2007 equivalent of Rob Deer isn’t going to cut it (note: we already have that, his name is Wily Mo). Nope, the Red Sox need a blockbuster.

Jose has spent the last 20 hours furiously analyzing trade possibilities, throwing each one into the gas chromatograph of his mind and seeing what gets separated out. And here’s what Jose’s come up with—the Red Sox should make a move to acquire Kevin Garnett.

This makes, absolutely perfect sense, for everyone. Garnett wants to play for a winner and there is no NBA franchise he could actually be traded to that would offer him as good a chance at brining home a ring as the Red Sox. The Red Sox need power, and last time Jose checked, Garnett played power forward. They don’t call it “power forward” because the people who play it are powerless. Well, with the exception of Brian Scalabrine. Moreover, the Red Sox, unbound by the NBA’s restrictive salary cap, could offer Garnett a much more attractive compensation package than, say, the Golden State Warriors.

The remaining question is what can the Red Sox offer the Timberwolves? Lots, it turns out. What’s great about this trade is that, as a basketball team, the Timberwolves don’t value the same attributes as a baseball team, thus they are unlikely to fixate on untouchables such as Clay Buchholz or Jacoby Ellsbury like most Major League teams would. Rather, they are much more likely to be interested in attributes like height, passing ability, rebounding and shooting. Thus Jose proposes that the Red Sox offer the following package for Garnett. First, Mike Timlin who, as a skilled hunter, is the best shooter on the team and is also 6’4’’. Even better, it seems like he’s been trying to rebound or the entire season. Second, catching prospect George Kottaras. Kottaras was acquired in last year’s David Wells trade to be the catcher of the future, but has struggled thus far. However, in the NBA his amazing ability to pass balls will be rewarded rather than punished. Finally, the Red Sox should send Craig Hansen. It’s not that Hansen has any skills that the T’wolves would find particularly appealing. It’s just that he’s 6’5’’, sort of a head case and looks like the sort of guy who smokes a lot of dope. Sounds like a perfect fit for the NBA.

So that’s Jose’s trade proposal. Someone call Peter Vecsey and we can get the talks humming.

2. Mr. Butch the homeless eccentric once known as the “Mayor of Kenmore Square” died yesterday in a scooter accident. The death of the man born Harold Madison Jr. received extensive coverage in the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and on WBUR. Maybe it was on the TV news too, after all, it did involve a tragic death, but Jose wouldn’t know; he doesn’t watch that crap.

That the death of an iconic and friendly homeless man got such extensive coverage made Jose happy. Mr. Butch was a genuinely nice and funny man, who made Kenmore Square a much more interesting place to live in the six years Jose spent living there. He added for more character to the place than 15 Eastern Standards ever could. But it also made Jose wonder about the nature of fame and notoriety.

Call it A Tale of Two Butches.

It is the story, the compare and contrast, of Mr. Butch and Butch Hobson. Both were once fixtures in Kenmore Square and both were drug addicts. Yet one came from the ranks of societies heroes, a baseball player, a manager, a star, while the other was a homeless man, the lowest of the low in this society of winners and losers.

And yet Jose cannot help but wonder, when Butch Hobson passes on, hopefully many years hence, will his image be on the front of the Globe Metro section? Will the slow talkers at WBUR take time in their morning news cast to mention his passing?

When one reaches the end of his days, it seems what people remember about him, what makes them pause and meditate on his life, his meaning as a human being is not whether he was one of the new class of Boston Brahmins or a lowly untouchable on the streets, but whether he was different and kind and funny.

That makes Jose smile, and he would suspect that if Mr. Butch is off somewhere watching the hullabaloo made over the untimely death of a homeless dope smoker from Worcester, he is smiling too.
A Tale of Two Butches

3. The Blue Jays, in town for a four game set, have had catastrophic injuries in the first half, with A.J. Burnett, Roy Halliday, Troy Glaus, Lyle Overbay, Sal Fasano and a whole host of other spending time on the DL.

Why didn’t Michael Moore discuss this in his health expose Sicko? If he’s going to claim that the Canadian health care system is so great, isn’t he obliged to explain why Canada’s only major league team has been among the most injured in baseball this year? Moreover, if only the rich in the U.S. can get decent health care, why have the Yankees been so injured? They’re incredibly rich.

Here’s the dirty little secret of the Canadian Health Care system. If a Blue Jays pitcher needs Tommy John surgery, not only must he wait in line to have the surgery, because the socialist Canadian system does not provide adequate capital for new medical technology, he can’t even get Tommy John Surgery. Instead, he has to settle for an older procedure, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown surgery, which relies heavily on Canadian Club and a piece of wood to bite on for anesthesia and otherwise is exactly what it sounds like.

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

Thursday, July 12

Saufen wir?

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

1. There’s an old joke about a fellow who plans to share a soda with his friend, half and half. When the friend goes to take his share, he finds the can is empty.

“Hey, I thought you were only going to drink half,” says the parched and befuddled pal.

“Absolutely,” replies the fellow. “But mine was the bottom half.”

And so too it is as we come to the second half of the baseball season. The second half, the sticky summer months and crisp of autumn that follows the All-Star break, must be the Red Sox’s half. The Red Sox must not be the considerate gent who takes the top half of the soda, and then waits for the Yankees to guzzle the second, as they are prone to do. No, the Red Sox must be the team that gulps down the first half, only in order to consume the second half with even greater voracity. Having liberated the can’s top half of its calories they must now deprive the second half of its sparkly sweetness, lest anyone else dare to crave so much as a sip.

The Germans have a verb for this—saufen. It means to drink, but not like a man, not like a creature of sentience walking on two firm feet. Rather, it is to drink like an animal, lustily, sloppily, without any consideration for how one’s indulgence might appear. It is a verb meant for swine, and drunks, and, with any luck, our 2007 Boston Red Sox as they go for that bottom half of the can.

2. Sure the All-Star game was fun this year. It was fun to watch Ichiro scramble round the bases, it was a kick to watch A-Rod get nailed at home without even a courtesy slide and it was a blast to watch St. Josh a Beckett pick up a win against the NL’s best. But the All-Star game could use some changes. It is hard for anything to continue for 70 some odd years without getting a little bit stale (note: see the Soviet Union), and the mid-summer classic is no different. While others spent their All-Star breaks frolicking in the Dominican or caring for ailing mothers, Jose spent his plotting how to save the All-Star game.

  • You know how the NHL does North America versus the World for its All-Star game? One of Jose’s highly paid consultants suggested that baseball should go with steroid users vs. non-steroid users. This would settle the argument once and for all about whether steroids actually help one to hit a baseball.
  • Change the voting system to the electoral college. Have fans in each state vote not for actual All-Stars, but for slates of electors who will vote for All-Stars.
  • Losers fed to volcano god
  • Replace home run derby with a bunt derby.
  • McCovey’s Cove reporter Eric Byrnes eaten by sharks.
  • In addition to awarding the All-Star Game MVP, provide the Scott Cooper award to the second time All-Star least likely to make a third appearance.
  • Set up “Tim McCarver Guesses Your Weight” booth outside of stadium. (Note: McCarver kept insisting that Alfonso Soriano was 160 lbs.)

3. Tony Castrati kicks off the second half of the season today with a history of the Red Sox shortstop woes, a story nearly as long as Barbara Tuchman’s epic history of World War I, The Guns of August and nearly as tragic.

The reason Jose brings up The Guns of August is that it describes World War I as a war that no one saw coming, that no one wanted, and that happened anyway. Once the machinery of war began to move, it was simply impossible to stop it. That, it seems, is where we are with the shortstop situation today. No one wanted the revolving door at shortstop that began with Nomar’s trade to the Cubs, no one saw it coming, and yet it has proceeded apace with countless millions of dollars and baseball lives squandered.

As surely as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, led to the inexorable march of boots, the trade of Nomar led to the inexorable march of short stops. Orlando Cabrera came, followed by the great and confusing shortstop rotation among Boston, Anaheim and St. Louis, followed by trade of Edgar Renteria and the rise of Alex Gonzales and, ultimately, the signing of Julio Lugo—the worst hitter in baseball.

Did the Red Sox plan to swap down to a shortstop, who, as Tony Castrati points out, ranks dead last in batting average among major leaguers with enough at bats to count for the batting title? No more so than Franz Josef planned for his empire and his dynasty to be disintegrated when he issued his ultimatum to Serbia. And yet it happened.

But when will it all end? The bloodbath in Europe concluded in 1918 when the Central Powers, simply lost the will to go any further, to absorb any more losses, and decided that an odious settlement was preferable to another year of trenches, gas and death. Will the Red Sox reach that point as well? Will they decide that the awful cost of the shortstop position being semi-permanently reduced to the walking rump state that is Julio Lugo is a fair price to pay for halting the endless rotation of good man after good man in and out of position number six?

Jose doubts it, and perhaps it is for the best, as George Steinbrenner is no more likely to be merciful than Georges Clemenceau.

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