Monday, October 29


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES.

1. It is 2090 already?

Dear God how the time’s gone by. Jose will confess he is still a little surprised to be alive at 114, but modern medicine is pretty amazing stuff. He’s even more surprised to still be working in the same job for the same pay.

Wait… What day is it? What day is it??? You out there, what is the date?

It’s October 29? But of what year?

2007? Then… But how… that would mean… The New York Daily News was wrong? How can that be? We’re talking about the New York Daily News and they assured, they assured us all on October 28, 2004 that the Red Sox wouldn’t win another World Series until 2090, another 86 year drought.

Jose looks forward to the correction.

2. As Jose writes this the players the owners and even the newspaper columnists have already taken up all of the best clich├ęs.

“I think 2004 was for the parents and grandparents who suffered t, Dru, Lhrough eight decades. This is for us and our children and everyone in Red Sox Nation, proving that we could do it again.'' – Tom Werner, Red Sox Chairmen.

“See this is what happens when you win it all under the simple guise of being the best team, absent the melodrama.” Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Columnist

“Now, when history repeats itself, the refrain is one of celebration, not condemnation.” Tony Castrati, Boston Herald Columnist

“If you go to a high school graduation in the year 2026, you will hear a lot of Jacobys, Dustins, Jonathans, and Hidekis when they call the roll.” – Dan Shaughnessy, Local Cynic.

It doesn’t leave many angles for those blessed among us who do not write on deadline. Yes, having the convenience of being able to go into the streets of Boston and celebrate without having to worry about pounding out copy in time for the first edition was a relief, but it left naught but scraps for World Series perspective.

Thankfully, for Jose, there is always Steinbeck.

In The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights, Steinbeck wrote “Somewhere in the world there is defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.”

This is the true story of the Boston Red Sox. For 86 years we were defeated and defeated and defeated again. We found our defeat in the world and were gravely wounded by it, but we never allowed it to destroy us. Ted Williams was not destroyed by defeat. Carl Yastrzemski was not destroyed by defeat. Johnny Pesky was not destroyed by defeat. Jim Rice was not destroyed by defeat. Bill Buckner, Calvin Schiraldi, maybe they were destroyed by defeat, but if so, they are not us. These fathers of the Red Sox Nation knew defeat and knew it well, but they rose above it, towered above it to become loved, revered made into icons both sacred and profane. We fans loved them no less for their failure to win, saw no less in their brilliance for their lack of the big, shiny trophy. Yes, for generations Red Sox nation triumphed over defeat.

And then came 2004. Victory. Sweet, sweet victory, for which, as General MacArthur reminds us, there is no substitute. But what would victory do to us? Who would we become? Would be made small and mean by victory like a turtle necked shipbuilder? Would we grow smug and self-satisfied, content with nothing but endless affirmation of our own superiority? No. We would triumph over victory just as surely as we triumphed over defeat.

We saw the nobility in the quixotic quest of wounded 2005 squad to defend its championship. And even as the 2006 team crumbled into dust, we rejoiced at the brilliance of David Ortiz, and were grateful to live in this time, in this town, with this team.

And when 2007 arrived, and when we struggled to maintain our 14 ½ game lead, we did not fret and fumble and insist on playing the role of tragic hero. And when we held the lead and clinched the division, we celebrated with a divine silliness rather than self-righteous entitlement. The Idiots were, perhaps, gone to history, but they were not succeeded by fools in cap and gown. If the 2003 team, the last to know truly bitter defeat were cowboys and the 2004 team, the first to know true victory were idiots, then perhaps this 2007 squad were prospectors, content to labor hard day after day, month after month, in the optimistic hope that they would eventually find gold.

And when the pan was shook, and the silt had slid through the little holes and back into the stream of the season all that was left were shiny nuggets of victory. It was not the shallow victory of inherited wealth, of having the good fortune to be born rounding third, but victory won methodically, through persistence, through effort and through grit.

Far from destroying them, defeat made the Red Sox strong and humble, and victory did not make them small and mean, but great and good.

They are our Boston Red Sox, and once more they are the Champions of the World.

3. Poetry has meant a lot to Jose this year, and thus he closes this season where we won with the brutal meter of ruthless consistency, in a final verse.

When Euro took the ball on opening day,
And Boston bowed to Kansas City’s nine,
The pundits screamed and started to inveigh,
Against the Red Sox and their quick decline.

Our team rebounded and soon took the lead
And grabbed the A.L. East about its throat.
And though the Yankees never did concede,
Their competition soon became remote.

The youngsters hit and pitched the veterans too,
Though some might say we failed to dominate,
And placed the blame on Lugo and on Dru,
But Boston’s team would not deny its fate.

With bats, and starting pitching and our pen,

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


Sunday, October 28

World Series Game 4: Thus Spake Nietzsche

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

1. “God is dead.”

Thus spake Nietzsche.

Of course, Jose doesn’t believe that God is dead, he’s something of a Pascal man, determining that the potential benefits of belief are a far better gamble than atheism.

But the Colorado Rockies must be wondering this morning if Nietzsche wasn’t right after all? Because if God is alive, why oh why would the Rockies be down three games to none?

Jose wants to be clear. He is not mocking God. He is not mocking religion. Heck, his parents just went to church two minutes ago. Sure, it’s a Unitarian church so it doesn’t count, but at least they’re going through the motions.

What Jose is mocking is the incredibly foolish and self-indulgent notion that God is the equation changer in baseball games. It is nonsense, and it holds one’s faith up to ridicule and doubt. If one proclaims as Rockies Chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort did that “I believe God sends signs, we're seeing those" or as Team President Keli McGregor told Time that God is "using [The Rockies] in a powerful way," does it not follow inevitably that should the Rockies lose this series one of two things is true: either a) the Rockies have done something displeasing to God or b) if God really does care about baseball games, He is not powerful enough to actually win them?

The way Jose sees it the Rockies have put God in a terribly awkward position, and if Jose were God (note: he is not) he would be really resentful.

This is why God is best left out of baseball. Jose decided long ago after praying for Celtic playoff wins, that athletic victories were too small, too unimportant in a world of suffering to waste valuable prayers on.

We do not need religion in baseball; the intermixing of the two demeans them both. What we need in baseball is what we have—superstition. For decades, forever really, the true faith of baseball has been the soft animism of superstition. When Curt Euro hops over the base lines is he not appealing to some mysterious force in the universe? When Wade Boggs shoved chicken after chicken down his curious gullet was it not a form of prayer?

When Jose crosses his fingers, or kneels on the floor or rocks back and forth or visualizes base hits, is it not an appeal to some troublesome spirit? (Note: Or possible signs of an anxiety disorder?)

That said, the funny thing is that Jose has become a baseball atheist. Out in the world he is a deist, but with his eyes on the ball field, he has come, albeit slowly, to reject the heathen gods of bat and ball. It does not matter if he crosses his fingers. It is irrelevant if Curt Euro steps on a baseline. What matters is having the best players, the best preparation and the strongest minds. Now ritual can play a role in that. Simple repetition can focus the mind and relax the body, but it is vestigial, nothing more than the token remains of a rite that once had meaning.

Perhaps this is the legacy of 2004, the lesson at last learned by Red Sox fans, that one wins or loses not on the strength of one’s superstition, but on the strength of one’s bats and arms, and on the competence of one’s management.

Superstition would demand that Jose now, yell out “UNO!!!!” as he did three years ago, to proclaim, as in the card game, that there is just one win remaining. But he no longer feels the need. What he says and what he does are irrelevant to the outcome. What matters are the men on the field and the minds in the dugout.

UNO! UNO! UNO! UNO! UNO! Of course, Jose did say he tends toward Pascal’s Wager, so let’s not anger the baseball gods, just in case they are real.

2. As the seen shifted to Denver and National League rules, there has been an absolutely appalling amount of silly talk about how the Red Sox should rejigger their defense to keep David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, and Mike Lowell all in the lineup. While the solution last night was to sit Youkilis, that is not particularly creative. We have heard calls for Youk to play right field, for Mike Lowell to play shortstop, and for all Jose knows, for David Ortiz to catch. (Note: David Ortiz has bad knees. He should not catch.)

But no one has come up with the most obvious solution—let Mike Lowell pitch. Jose knows it sounds crazy at first, but this could totally work. The guy’s got a gun for an arm, and… well, that’s about all Jose’s got. Maybe it isn’t such a good idea.

Okay, let’s try a variation on that. Mike Lowell should be on the lineup card as the pitcher and should bat in the nine hole, but Jon Lester should do the actual pitching. How would this work? Disguise.

How hard can it be for Jon Lester to pass for Mike Lowell? They are both cancer survivors, so if Lester just constantly chats up the ump about “When I had cancer,” and remembers not to say it was lymphoma, as Lowell had testicular cancer, that’s a start right there. Then all you need is some modified Groucho glasses that keep the eyebrows but shrinks the nose a little bit, and some makeup to make Lester look 50 years older and presto—Mike Lowell is your pitcher.

Now, Jose knows what some of you are thinking “Hey, that’s cheating!” But come on, it’s not that bad. It’s not like they’re doing something really reprehensible like video taping the game or hitting umpire Chuck Meriwether with a steel chair or anything.

3. As Jose searched desperately for material for this Game 4 KEYS, he naturally looked back to Game 4 of the 2004 World Series for inspiration, and what he found surprised him. Three years ago yesterday, Jose in his second KEY relied heavily on the Transformers, the cartoon about robots that transformed into vehicles, comparing Derek Lowe to Megatron and St. Louis starter Jason Marquis to Bumblebee.

Cut to today and Major League Baseball has finally caught up with Jose, flashing Transformers logos throughout the World Series in efforts to move DVDs of the ho-hum summer blockbuster. The result, naturally enough, is that Jose needs another shtick. As an aspiring hipster Jose cannot keep using Transformers references once they get in vogue any more than he can keep drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon once they start underwriting National Public Radio.

Ergo, Jose will now explain to you how the 2007 Colorado Rockies are exactly like Go-Bots, the Tonka equivalent of Transformers.

Like the Go-Bots, the Rockies entered the series with a lot of hype and to significant excitement, but ultimately they were simply defeated by a vastly superior product.

Also, Jose is almost positive that there was a Go-Bot that changed into a bird called Latroy Hawk-Ins and one that was a three-way changer from a robot to a diet book to a TV maid named Garret Atkins.

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