Friday, September 28

Enema of the Mind

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

1. This will be Jose’s last KEYS of the regular season. Jose doesn’t write on the weekends, out of respect for Jews, Christians and the labor movement, and he’s not going to start now, at least not without overtime. (Note: Though two times zero dollars is still, lamentably, zero dollars.) So Jose thought this might be a good time for him to put everything that’s been building up in him over the course of the season on the table, to purge his system, to perform a high colonic cleansing of the mind and the soul before the playoff run.

First things first, Jose cannot tell you how delighted he is to not be writing a eulogy for the 2007 season in this space. Writing eulogies is an art, to be sure, but it is a gutter art, like needlepoint. Fueled by sadness and the icy void of loss it is easy to write, so, so easy. After all, art flows almost mellifluously from tragedy. But to write when one is happy, to create out of joy rather than out of sorrow, that is the jackpot of artistic creation.

And throughout this season watching this team has been a source of happiness far more often than it has been a source of pain. True, Jose does not love this team like he loved the 2004 squad. There is no jovial Pedro or wisecracking Millar, and the team only has one Jew. But there are things to rejoice in as well. While the team got less Jewish, it got more Japanese. Ramiro Mendoza will not see any playoff innings. There is a zero percent chance of Dale Sveum getting Papi thrown out at the plate by 25 feet with no outs. Perhaps, if the season drags on to the brink of November, Jose will learn to truly love this team. Like a couple in an arranged marriage, Jose and this team may learn to love each other simply by being required to stay together far longer than they would if they’d met in the wilds of the bar scene.

But there are more things Jose needs to clear from his soul. He might have been wrong about wanting Papelbon to stay in the rotation. He might have been wrong about loving the DJ Dru signing. Jose may have been in error about thinking J.C. Romero would be a splendid fit. Out go the toxic ideas, the festering thoughts of the season leaving Jose free clean and at peace for the start of the post season.

And with his soul pure and his mind relieved of fallacies past Jose has room for new ideas. He has built the proverbial birdhouse in his soul and is waiting, just waiting for a chickadee of wisdom to move in. And he is now ready to accept truths that were once unacceptable, concepts that once would have been heresy. So as the season concludes and the post season commences, Jose offers you these few sweet thought of Zen.

• What is the sound of an Eric Gagne 1-2-3 inning?
• Coco Crisp is a funny name, but it is not nearly as funny as if Boog Powell and Sean Berry had a child and named him Boog Berry.
• Wily Mo Pena may have been as bad defensively as Pete Incaviglia, but he was much better looking.
• If Jessie Ventura was covering Red Sox games he would insist that Tito Eurona’s real name was Chico and he came from Tijuana just like he did with Tito Santana.
• Joba is a really stupid name.

These are pearls of wisdom. It is your choice whether you string them into a necklace, whether your rub your teeth over their smooth yet barely irregular surfaces to test for authenticity or whether you cast them before swine, which is apparently also a popular custom.

See you in the playoffs.

2. At the game last night, a couple of people sitting behind Jose were talking about the Red Sox bullpen cop, who they affectionately called Chief Wiggum, and commenting that he must have the best job in Boston.

“Think about it,” one of the fellows commented. “He gets to stand there watching every game and hanging out with the relievers and he probably gets what? $50 per hour? $70 per hour?”

Jose thought about it. He pondered whether this was indeed the dream job he had been looking for, easy, lucrative and fun. But then he realized something, something ghastly.

“You shouldn’t dismiss the difficulty of the job,” said Jose. “In fact, Jose is not sure that they pay him enough. The man has to sit there in the bullpen every night, with a revolver at his side, and he has to not shoot Eric Gagne. That’s hard work.”

3. Jose heard an interesting analogy on, of all places WEEI, yesterday. A caller suggested to Herald scribe Steve Buckley that perhaps Eric Gagne was a lot like Scott Williamson circa 2003. As you recall, Williamson struggled after being acquired by the Sox mid-season and yet settled into a nasty groove at playoff time.

So far Gagne has completed the first part of the challenge, struggling in the regular season. He also, like Williamson, has a history of grotesque arm problems. But will he start to look like Williamson in the post season? Who knows? But the first sign that he is truly Williamson-like will be if he develops the enormous cold sore, the festering lip ulcer that gave Williamson the strength for his playoff run.

Jose’s theory is that the cold sore was so painful that Williamson could no longer focus on the pain in his arm, thereby allowing him to cut loose for the first time all year. If Gagne is going to be successful, he needs that cold sore. But there are disturbing indicators. Jose cannot recall ever seeing a cold sore on Gagne, so if we want him to develop one in time for the playoffs he either needs to go make out with Scott Williamson or possibly perform certain sexual acts upon allegedly herpetic Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

Alternatively, Papelbon could just kick him in the nuts. That might work too.

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

Thursday, September 27

Twins in the Pen

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

1. Does Jonathan Papelbon have an identical twin? Jose knows he has a brother Josh who is in the minors, but they’re not twins. Do they look a lot alike maybe?

The reason Jose asks is that he’s got a really great idea—the Red Sox should focus on developing relief pitchers who are identical twins. Yes, Jose knows that even though twins share the same genetic code they are not the same people and that just because one brother is a standout closer does not mean that his twin will be, but that is irrelevant. You only need one twin who can pitch and one who can sit on the bench and be identical for Jose’s strategy to pan out.

Jose was at Tuesday’s game when Papelbon came in with two out in the eighth and got the final out on a first pitch pop up. The Sox added a few runs in the bottom of the eighth, so Papelbon was done for the night and Brian Corey came in to pitch. Corey was awful, he eventually got out of the inning, but not before yielding two runs and a ton of hard hit balls. Jose started hyperventilating at the thought that the A’s might some how make it a game and Papelbon would already be done for the evening. And that’s when it hit him. Like an apple falling before Newton or Archimedes hanging out in the tub, Jose had a moment of pure and profound vision and understanding—twins!

Imagine for a moment, if Jonathan Papelbon had a twin in the bullpen, let’s call him Demosthenes Papelbon. And let us imagine that Demosthenes was not a good pitcher. Let us even say that he was Toby Borland bad. Sure, Jonathan would be out of the game, but if the Red Sox needed him in the ninth, he could simply change uniforms and enter pretending to be his brother Demosthenes Papelbon. The DNA is the same, so how could anyone prove anything? This could even allow the Red Sox to play righty-lefty-righty in certain situations.

Jose has no idea why he never thought of this before. Twins have been used to great effect in other sports. Tiki and Ronde Barber have both been stars in the NFL, and referee Earl Hebner suspiciously replaced his twin brother Dave in a Hulk Hogan-Andre The Giant match up in 1988 thereby ensuring a win for Andre.

And with the steady increase of the numbers of twins born in recent years, why shouldn’t this be a strategy? And what about conjoined twins would they count as one or two players on the field? They could cover more ground couldn’t they. Okay, Jose is now addressing issues posed by a Greg Kinnear movie. He will stop this silliness.

2. Congratulations to the New York Yankees on clinching the American League Wild Card. You must have had a very nice time spraying champagne all over each other. Sure, you and your fans were critical of the Red Sox for celebrating the wild card like they’d, you know, won something in 2003, 2004 and 2005, but that’s fine. It’s not like hypocrisy is reserved for U.S. Senators or anything.

In fact, Jose would like to salute you by paraphrasing a quote uttered by President John F. Kennedy when meeting a group of Nobel Laureates. Kennedy said, though he is quoted a few different ways by different sources “This is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Thus, in the spirit of your wild card celebration, Jose offers this toast to the New York Yankees.

Last night was the most extraordinary collection of alcohol that had ever been gathered in the Yankee clubhouse with the possible exception of when Mickey Mantle drank alone.

3. Baseball metaphors are great. They work for sex (getting to second base) they work for politics (a terrific speech is sometimes called “hitting a home run”), so why can’t they work for urination?

Small bladders are the curse of the Melendez bloodline. Jose, for instance, has the bladder of a nine-month pregnant woman. If he could change anything about his body, it would be the size of his bladder. Ergo, when Jose and his brother Sam go to a game together, there are likely going to be a few bathroom breaks. Which is why Tuesday’s game was so extraordinary. Jose only went once during the game, which is solid for a game where he had two beers pregame but none during the contest. But Sam, Sam performed the astonishing feat of going an entire game without going to the bathroom. From first pitch to last out, he maintained his poise, declaring only after the game was complete “Sam has pitched a no-hitter.”

This prompted some debate about whether this was really a no-hitter. Certainly there were some similarities. He did not talk about it in the middle for fear of jinxing it, and it probably provoked some anxiety by the ninth, but was it really a no hitter? Jose says yes. Whatever else it was, it was a grand achievement and deserves to be in the Urination Hall-of-Fame in Flushing, Queens (Note: Thanks Simpsons). What it was not, however, was a perfect game. After debating whether a perfect game would be not even thinking about urinating through nine innings, we concluded that the analogy seemed inadequate and too psychological. Ultimately, the achievement must be about what the body does regardless of the stresses on the psyche. In baseball a perfect game is no less perfect if the pitcher was nervous about blowing it.

Thus, we settled on defining a perfect game as not going to the bathroom from the moment one leaves home or work, until the moment one steps back into the safety of one’s home bathroom. It is rare, it is difficult and I suspect that there has not been one in Fenway Park history.

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

Tuesday, September 25

Jose Doesn't Want to Bug You But…

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

1. Will you people give it a rest? Stop accosting Red Sox players and coaches in elevators, at hotels and, worst of all, in restaurants and asking them for autographs. You’re better than that. Well, many of you are anyway. The Globe today put a spotlight on this irritating practice, and made it as plain as a Cleveland Browns helmet that prefacing one’s intrusion by saying “I don’t want to bug you but…” does not make it okay.

First, of all, you do want to bug them. You do. If you didn’t want to bug them, you would leave them alone.

Second, if “I don’t want to bug you but…” offered one absolution from the sin about to be committed, it would be most easily attained indulgence since the wrong side of the reformation. Think about the words that could follow that qualifier; it works for everybody.

Robbers: I don’t want to bug you but… I’m going to have to ask you to give me your wallet.

Vice Presidents: I don’t want to bug you but… I’m going to be keeping you in a secret prison for a while and hooking electrodes up to your private parts.

Atlanta Falcons Quarterbacks: I don’t want to bug you but… but I’m going to have to electrocute that dog.

Telemarketers: I don’t want to bug you but… I thought you should know about this amazing offer.

Pro Wrestlers: I don’t want to bug you but… would you mind if I hit you in the head with a chair?

Spammers: I don’t want to bug you but… have you ever wanted longer more powerful sexual experiences?

Supervillains: I don’t want to bug you but… I kind of need the Earth’s molten core for a personal project. You’re cool right?

Chinese manufacturers: I don’t want to bug you but… we’ve been inadvertently poisoning your children.

Negligent surgeons: I don’t want to bug you but… I should probably let you know that we amputated the wrong leg.

See anyone could use it for any nefarious reason, so let’s just agree that “I don’t want to bug you but…” should not be used ever.

So if you see a Red Sox star at a restaurant, don’t go up to him and say “I don’t want to bug you but… could I get your autograph?” If you really don’t want to bug him, either don’t go up at all, or just go up and as for a bite of his food.

According to National Public Radio, a San Diego couple has been doing a social experiment just going up to people in restaurants and asking for a bite of their food. The overwhelming majority of the time, not only do the diners consent, they offer up a bite with their own fork.

Why be a nuisance and ask for Doug Mirabelli’s autograph when you could get a bite of his chicken parm? And who needs David Ortiz’s signature when you could have some of his beans and rice off his very own fork, tainted with his very own saliva?

Asking for a taste is no big deal, and you should do it whenever you see a pro athlete or other celebrity out eating.

2. Remember those “Where’ Waldo?” books. Jose could usually find Waldo in the books even though he is pretty sure he has never found anyone named Waldo in real life. (Note: Waldo is in Kansas. It is a city with 48 residents.) Still, they were kind of fun. And it is in this spirit that Jose presents an actual KEYS TO THE GAME contest.

Jose will be hidden somewhere in Fenway Park tonight. If you are the first person to find him, Jose will send you an authentic, American-made, wash-and-wear, lead paint-free, low-carb KEYS TO THE GAME thong.

But how will you find Jose? It will be easy. He will be the guy in the Red Sox shirt. (Note: But seriously, you’ll know Jose when you see him.)

All you have to do is be the first person to come up to Jose and say “Jose give me a thong.”

At which point, whoever it is that you’ve talked to will give you a quizzical look and punch you in the face.

Happy hunting!

(Note: Members of the Melendez family and “real life friends of Jose are ineligible for this contest. If you guys want a KEYS thong that bad, just ask.)

3. There is no KEY 3 today.

Jose isn’t writing one. It’s not that he couldn’t write one if he needed to, but he just doesn’t see a need. The Red Sox have clinched a playoff spot, there are six games remaining in the regular season, and Jose just thinks it makes more sense to pace himself. Sure, Dan Shaughnessy is going to quote Warren Zevon and bring up Earl Weaver’s 1969 Orioles to make the case for why Jose should be closing out this KEYS with his best stuff, but Jose doesn’t buy it.

All of this “you can rest in November stuff,” is nonsense. Who rests in November? Pulling together Thanksgiving is a ton of work, and then it’s a madhouse straight on to Christmas, then forward to Greek Christmas. Maybe, you can rest in February, if it’s not so miserable out weather-wise that you have to shovel every day.

So why wouldn’t Jose rest the last week of the season with a playoff spot clinched? Really, complain all you want about Jose’s competitive fires, but he’s not writing a third KEY today.

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