Thursday, December 18

Henry: Red Sox are not X-Factor

According to the Boston Globe the Red Sox will not "be a factor" in the bidding for Mark Teixeira. The Red Sox were long believed to be the favorites for the All-Star first baseman.

Jose isn't exactly sure how he feels about this. On the one hand, if it was really going to take $200 million to sign the guy, Jose is sort of happy to let him walk, at that kind of value he would be far too appealing a target for Somali pirates. (Note: Jose is pretty sure he stole that joke from someone, but he has no recollection of who.)

On the other hand, Jose was looking forward to Teixeira coming here, so he could finally get an explanation for how the hell the "X" in his name makes a "zh" sound.

Of course, this might all be nonsense, as Sox owner John W. Henry sent word by email. Maybe he was just really, really mad about how things were going so he wrote down an angry email, with no intention of sending it, but then accidentally clicked send. That seems at least as plausible as Texiera getting $200 million from Baltimore or Washington.

The other possibility is that the Yankees have suddenly jumped into the running. This would make sense. As usual the Yankees can exceed any cash offer the Red Sox might make. Also, unlike the Red Sox, the Yankees have an open Senate seat to offer.

Oh, Jose just though of one other possibility. Maybe the word "factor" in the statement is a clue. As Jose recalls, in the early days of the comic X-Factor, the original X-Men joined together and pretended to be a group of vigilantes called X-Factor that captured mutants. After they seized a mutant, they would secretly train him and take care of him. Maybe the Red Sox have a similar plan. They are going to pretend to be anti-Teixeira, and then will capture him and secretly train him to play catcher, thereby allowing Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis to remain on a team including Teixeira.

Come on, it's at leastas likely as the guy actually wanting to play in Baltimore.

Monday, December 8

Delcarmen for President (of Zimbabwe)

For the last few days, Jose has been working furiously on a paper about the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe. But he will confess, it has been a struggle. First and foremost, it is challenging to write about a government so thoroughly destroying a country without becoming terminally depressed. However, Jose has also struggled with confusion.

It’s not just that he can’t click properly for the Ndebele words, it’s that he can’t figure out the opposition. Among the big issues is whether the duly elected MDC will actually get to take over the government. Here’s where it gets complicated. Jose cannot figure out for the life of him, why Manny Delcarmen would do a good job as President of Zimbabwe. Does he know anything about agriculture? Banking?

Besides, if Zimbabweans are looking for someone who performs erratically when things are their worst, why wouldn’t they stick with their current President Robert Mugabe?

But seriously, the Mugabe regime is as though Zim were run by, well, Zim. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is run a lot like Zimmer’s Red Sox. Arbitrary use of power? Check. Senseless commitment to an old way of doing things? Mmm hmm. Ability to turn something fantastic into a humiliating disaster? Yup.

So what Zimbabwe really needs is not Manny Delcarmen but for someone to sent Pedro Martinez there and toss old Mugabe to the ground. Or South Africa could just stop coddling him. Either is good.

Friday, December 5

End of an Age

NOTE: In the coming weeks, Jose is going to experiment with a change in format, here at the KEYS. Rather than writing long tripartite diatribes every six weeks, he is going to toy with a more traditional blog style of writing short, one-partite diatribes more regularly. We will see how it goes.

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

1. The second great age of rococo is over.

The playfulness and lightheartedness evident in centerfield for the last three years has ended with the trade of Rococo Crisp to the Kansas City Royals for Ramon Ramirez.

Some critics appear thrilled by the end of the era. Noted baseball enthusiast and architect Jacques-François Blonde, for instance, heralded the trade as an escape from a "ridiculous jumble of shells, dragons, reeds, palm-trees and plants."

Of course, they are not thinking about what comes next. If history is any guide, the end of a rococo period is followed by the “empire” or neoclassical period. And you know what neoclassical means, right? Greeks and Italians. Of course, Empire means Sith. So expect either Rocco (note: not rococo) Baldelli to be roaming centerfield for the Sox at some point next year or possibly someone named Darth.

2. Back in college, Jose had a few guys he hung out with pretty regularly. A few of them he saw almost every day. They’d shoot the shit, drink some beers and watch some sports. Then graduation came, they moved away and Jose never saw them again, except on facebook, which doesn’t count.

For many of them, once they were gone, as soon as they were gone, Jose realized that he barely knew them at all. That’s how Jose feels about Rococo Crisp. Jose watched the guy most days for three years, and now that he’s gone, Jose feels like he knows almost nothing about him as a player. Is he the guy you can’t sneak a fastball by, or is he the king of groundouts to second? Is he the best centerfielder Jose has ever seen at Fenway or the guy who seemed to be in defensive decline?

Some players, even mediocre ones spend three years here and Jose knows a lot about them--Jose Melendez, for instance. But a serious example would be Bill Mueller. Bill Mueller was here for the exact same amount of time, won the exact same number of World Series and lost the exact same number of ALCSs as Rococo yet Jose feels like he knows him so much better. He knows exactly what kind of a baseball player Bill Mueller was, and he even thinks he has a pretty good grasp on what kind of person he is—a religious fanatic.

Years from now, someone will mention Bill Mueller and Jose will think about his clutch hits, and that he was a “professional hitter.” Yet when someone mentions Rococo Crisp, Jose will, think “Yeah he seemed like a good guy and a decent player, wonder what happened to him?”

And maybe this is a function of the post 2004 ethos. Even the most useless guy on the 2004 team, say Doug Mirabelli gets to be “one of the 25.” On the 2007 team, another dramatic comeback, another World Series, contributing players will be, if not forgotten, at least not cherished. But that’s not how Jose wants it to be. He wants to remember the Rococo era. In fact, he’s going to go buy a painting with shells, dragons, reeds, palm-trees and plants right now.

3. Wow. Dustin Pedroia won the MVP. Really?

Little Dustin Pedroia? Trusty Dusty? This must now move him into the all time elite Dustys along with American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Dusty Springfield. Dusty Baker need not apply. But MVP? We’re talking about the most valuable player MVP? Dusty had a great season and all, but Jose never really saw it coming from the little guy. The last Red Sox MVP outweighed him by approximately 300 lbs.

Maybe this is a different MVP. Could he have been awarded the Midget Veracity Prize for being the most honest little person in baseball? What about the Most Verbal Player, because he can’t shut the hell up? Most Venal Player maybe? No, that’s got to be A.J. Pierzynski. Everyone hates that guy.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that the little second baseman with the”big ol’ swing” was actually the best, the most valuable, the most outstanding player in the American League in 2008. Or maybe it was Albert Belle, he should have won the MVP in 1995 over Mo. He was definitely the league’s most venal player that year.

I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

Monday, October 20

Summer's Gone

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO 2008.

1.
And I couldn't get away from you
Even if I wanted to
So I hang around
'Till the leaves are brown
And the summer's gone
--Aberfeldy, Summer’s Gone



Summer's Gone--Aberfeldy

That’s the story isn’t it? This year? Every year?

We couldn’t get away even if we wanted to. Jose went to Africa and he couldn’t get away, so he went to someplace even more remote, Durham, and he still couldn’t get away.

So he hangs around, ‘til the leaves are brown, and the summer’s gone.

And that’s where we are today. Summer’s gone. Bye. (Note: Waves.)

We could have gotten another week of summer. That’s what a World Series birth buys you. Jose thought we’d get that extra week. He was sure of it. But he was wrong. We didn’t. The leaves are brown and the summer’s gone.

The funny thing is that this is okay. It’s not ideal, to be sure. Jose likes summer. Jose likes baseball. But it is genuinely okay. Fall is inevitable. Winter is inevitable. All we can do, all our Red Sox can do is postpone them, fight them off for a few weeks, and they did that. They kept us hanging around, ‘til the leaves are brown and the summer’s gone.

But if fall and winter are inevitable, so too is spring. And the wonderful thing about baseball is that spring starts in February, when an old truck drives out of the Fens, stuffed full with hope, memory and the promise of summer.

Oh, and there are more lyrics to the song, one’s that we would do well to remember.
But I won't give up
And I won't give in
And I know it's tough
But I need to win
The Red Sox may have lost, but they did not give up. They did not give in. It is tough, but we need to win. We will just have to do it next year.

2. So it is fall now, yet something unexpected has transpired. The sun is still shining in Boston.

This is a change. Five years ago, in 2003, the sun did not shine. The sun did not shine for a long time, weeks, months. For day after day, the skies offered nothing but the impenetrable grey of unrelenting melancholy. And it was not the good artist’s melancholy either, not the kind that breeds creativity, the kind that breeds depression and madness.

After 2003, Jose thought about that game every day for months, every day until Johnny Damon ended the grief with one grand swing.

But today the sun is shining. Jose will think about this game today. He will think about this series next week.

And then he will not.

He will move on with his life. He will focus on the year ahead, and he will bask in the warm sun of winter.

3. It is not just the championships in 2004 and 2007 that have kept Jose out of the fetal position. It’s that we lost to a better team.

Jose can accept that. He does not like it. In fact, he hates it. But he can accept it. They won it; we did not loose it. They took it from us; we did not give it to them. We may have given them Game 2, but they gave us Game 5 right back.

We lost because they pitched better than us, and hit better than us. We lost because, we had a void in the bottom third of our order and they had something, rather than nothing.

We lost because they are young and hungry, and we are a mixture of young and not that hungry and old and fuller than Curt Euro at an all you can eat buffet.

But there is no Zimmer. There is no Grady. There is not even a Buckner or a Graffanino, though Alex Cora really wanted to be one.

There is only a very good baseball team that was beaten by an even better baseball team. Jose does not like it, but he does not like the cold or the rain either, yet he accepts them as the inevitable and natural order of the universe.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO 2008.

Sunday, October 19

ALCS Game 7--Don't Bury Me... I'm Not Dead

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

1. Don’t bury me… I’m not dead.

That was the tag line for the 1988 Wes Craven film The Serpent and the Rainbow, based painfully loosely on a book by ethnobotanist Wade Davis describing search for a scientific explanation for Haitian zombie myths. It might as well be the tagline for the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox are not dead; they are never dead, and yet year after year, teams come to throw piles of moist black earth upon them.

In 2004, the Yankees buried them pretty deep. They dug a hole, threw the Sox in and dropped six feet of loam on top of them. They should have patted it down though. They should have compressed the dirt with a bulldozer. They left too much wiggle room, and the Sox were able to kick loose the cover of the coffin, and reach gasping for the surface. (Note: By the way, is there any chance the cadaver used to practice the Curt Euro surgery was stolen? Because there was definitely some grave robbing in The Serpent and the Rainbow. You could make a cool movie about a zombie with a bionic ankle bent on revenge.)

In 2007, Cleveland was much sloppier. They tossed the Red Sox in a shallow grave and just hoped we would never be discovered. It was not a great plan.

This year the Rays did a far better job. They locked the coffin, they piled on six feet of dirt, they patted it down and they grew an oak tree on top of it. And you know what? It still didn’t matter. Like The Bride in Kill Bill 2, like Spiderman when he was drugged by Kraven the Hunter, the Red Sox punched their way out, making the impossible possible, and with two out in the seventh on Thursday night, we saw that angry hand stretching out from the dirt of the grave.

Now that the Red Sox are out of the grave, they are feeling exactly how one would expect someone who has been buried alive to feel—incredibly pissed off and bent on revenge. This is why the Sox have gone on seven or eight game rampages after being left for dead the previous two occasions. When you fight your way out from the eternal dirt nap, you want to do some damage on the people who put you there.

And now Tampax Bay has to suffer the consequences and the Phillies after them. Don’t ever bury the Red Sox, unless you are absolutely sure they’re dead.

2. Dear Jon,

By the time you read these lines, we’ll be gone. Life goes on, right or wrong. Now it’s all been said and done.

It is hard for us to write this letter, harder than you can imagine. This is not how we wanted things to be when we started this crazy adventure, and it’s certainly not how we imagined it would go even recently. We used to feel really good about this thing we have, but then something went wrong.

You know what it was, so we probably don’t have to explain, but coming clean is good for the soul. Last week, we did something we never thought we’d do, that we never imagined we’d do—we hit you. We hit you hard. It was awful for you, we know. Also, we buried you when you weren’t dead. That was a real dick move by us.


It’s a dark part of us, a bit of nastiness in the recesses of our souls. We hit other pitchers too. We hit Beckett before we hit you. We hit Wakefield and Matsuzaka after.

But somehow, you are different.

When we saw you again on Sunday night, we just couldn’t hit you again. We wanted to. The frightening hunger was there. But we just couldn’t do it.

Maybe we’ve shown just a touch of humanity. But that seems unlikely. More likely is that we’ve shown fear. We’ve realized that if we hit you, there’s a very good chance that you and your friends are going to hit back, and hard.

So we’re leaving.

We’re the bad guys here, so you stay, we’ll go. You keep on playing, and we are going to take some time off. We are going to do some soul searching, play some golf.

Maybe we’ll see you next year.

Yours truly,

The Tampax Bay Rays

(Note: Jose does not mean to diminish the serious problem of domestic violence. He just felt like he needed to do something on the subject in order to get ready to face Brett Myers in the World Series.)


3. Game 7 or not, Jose could not let the occasion pass without devoting at least one KEY to TBS’s stunning broadcasting failure last night. At the beginning of Game 6, millions of Red Sox fans and dozens of Rays fans were infuriated to find that TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes and the Steve Harvey Show were on instead of the Sox-Rays contest. While it would have been incredibly funny if this were in fact a TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes bit, it sadly, was not. By the time TBS had repaired at least one of the two blown transformers responsible for the disaster, the Rays were up 1-0 in the bottom of the first. (Note: Jose sort of thinks that the run shouldn’t have counted. Couldn’t they have followed the old professional wrestling rule that if it’s not on TV it didn’t happen?)

Jose can believe that this happened, after all TBS is the Grady Little of television networks. What Jose can’t understand is why it happened now. They had no problem broadcasting each of 10,000 Braves games Jose didn’t care about.


What it reminded Jose of was KEC, the Kosovo Electric Company. In Kosovo, the power goes out pretty close to daily. As a result, when anything fails to function, a colloquialism is to shake one’s head and lament “No KEC.” Jose happily adopted this expression as his own, and has used the expression “No KEC” regularly to comment on things ranging from broken flashlights to Jason Varitek’s bat. (Note: Plenty of KEC last night for Tek.)

But now the expression “No KEC” seems quaint and outdated. When Jose thinks of something that is broken from now on, he is more likely to say “No TBS.”

What was responsible for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina? No TBS. The Vietnam War? No TBS. The Assassination of Lincoln? No TBS.

Fortunately for the Sox, tonight, in Game 7, the Rays will have no TBS… and the Sox will have plenty of TNT.

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

Saturday, October 18

ALCS Game 6--Don't Call It a Comeback

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

1. Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years.
--Ladies Love Cool James

Jose did not expect to be typing these words—ever—but LL Cool J is talking sense.

In the day and a half since the Red Sox recovered from a 7-0 seventh inning deficit to defeat the Tampax Bay Rays 8-7, the commentatiat has been abuzz with discussion of the “comeback.”

They are wrong. There was no comeback.

For something to be a comeback, it is a prerequisite that there was a point when defeat was the most likely outcome. While it may seem to those who have not been paying attention that defeat was the most likely outcome in Game 5 and in the series, to those of us who have been watching this team for the past five years, it is evident that victory was the most likely outcome.
Rockin my peers and puttin suckas in fear Makin the tears rain down like a MON-soon Listen to the bass go BOOM
BOOM. Ortiz homers.
BOOM. Dru homers.
Making runs Rain down like a MON-soon.

The thing about monsoons is that they don’t come out of nowhere. You see them coming. They happen every year like clockwork. What the Red Sox did last night was like a monsoon, terrifying but predictable.

Ever since Pokey Reese picked a little grounder on a cold October night in the Bronx, victory has been like a monsoon. Predictable, powerful. Victory has been the new normal. Before 2004, it was different. Defeat was the monsoon then. If now, being down 3-1 almost ensures victory, then being up 3-1 nearly guaranteed defeat. It’s not a choke if everyone expects you to lose; it’s just normal.
Explosion, overpowerin Over the competition, I'm towerin Wreckin shop, when I drop these lyrics that'll make you call the cops Don't you dare stare, you betta move Don't ever compare Me to the rest that'll all get sliced and diced Competition's payin the price
Don’t ever compare this to the great comebacks of the past. This is different. When the Bills came back from 35-3 at halftime to beat the Oilers, that was a comeback. When the Celtics reduced a 20-point deficit to zero in six minutes against the Lakers that was a comeback.

This was not a comeback, this is just how it’s gonna be. The Red Sox explode, they overpower, they competition pays the price.
I'm gonna knock you out (HUUUH!!!)
Mama said knock you out (HUUUH!!!)


Don't Call it a comeback.
2. You are Josh Beckett, and tonight you are pitching for your life.

It is game six. Your team is down three games to two and you literally have no purpose on this Earth other than to win tonight’s game. This is not a misuse of “literally” a la Joe Biden. Jose is not saying “literally” when he means figuratively. If you do not win this game, you will in the most meaningful sense, cease to exist.

You are not like other people. Other people, even when the stakes are high, have things to fall back on. When Dice K pitched poorly in Game 5 he got to fall back on an adoring nation. When Wakefield pitched poorly in Game 4, he got to fall back on his reputation as a humanitarian. When Lester pitched poorly in Game 3, he got to fall back on a loving family. (Note: Lot of poor pitching on that list isn’t there?) They get to do this because they are people, complex and multi-faceted, three-dimensional entities in a three dimensional world. You cannot fall back on something else because you are not a person. You, Josh Beckett, are a pitcher.

People do not like you. And by all reports, this is with good reason. You are, they say, not a pleasant fellow. You lack social graces. You do not tell amusing anecdotes. In fact, you are kind of a dick. You do not bring comfort to the afflicted, or joy to the sad. You do not nurture, and you do not nourish. All you can do, all you are good for is throwing a horsehide on the corners at frightening velocity.

So do it already. Hit the corners. Snap off the curve.

Pitch, you bastard. Pitch.

If you cannot pitch, then you are not. That is not a typo, there is not a noun missing from the end. A drill that cannot drill is not, and a pitcher who cannot pitch is not. Absent the ability to thrown strikes, to make hitters swing and miss, you are the null set, a void, utter nothing.

So when you take the mound tonight, do not do.

Be.

You are a pitcher.

And all a pitcher does it pitch.


3. Jose has muttonchops now.

They’re quite stylish in an 1860s kind of way. He got them in the way that everyone from New England got whatever odd deformity, affect or odor they have right now. He acquired them after the fifth inning. Now he has to keep them.

After the Sox bowed in the fifth, Jose did what all right thinking people did; he changed his facial hair and went to a bar. The playoff beard wasn’t working so he reduced it to Yaz style mutton chops and a goatee. His house wasn’t working so he left and went to a bar. Not singing Cab Calloway classics wasn’t working so he sang Minnie the Moocher at karaoke. And presto change-o by the time he had finished belting out “Poor Min, poor Min, poor Min” The Sox had one in, two on and Big Papi at the plate.

Jose is well aware that none of this works and none of this matters, but it can’t possibly hurt, right? Well, except for Jose’s possibility of getting a job. Muttonchops tend not to impress employers unless one is seeking work in the Grand Army of the Republic.

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

Thursday, October 16

ALCS Game 5-God Does Not Play Dice

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

1. “God does not play dice.”

That’s what Einstein said when faced with the problems of quantum mechanics. He was wrong, of course. God does play dice. And he makes some stupid bets too. Horn high yo? Please.

What Einstein did not discuss, however, was the inverse. While God may or may not play dice, we know for certain that tonight, Dice plays God.

To play God, or at least a god, is to have the power over life and death. And that is the awful power that the man from Japan has on this fall evening. If he pitches well, the Red Sox live, if he pitches poorly, the Red Sox die. Heads or tails, on or off. It is really that simple, and that difficult.

So what do the Red Sox want tonight? What all those on the verge of death crave—to remain alive. We would like to remain alive for another month, but we would take another week, another day, even another hour. The Red Sox know this craving; we have felt it before. We felt it in 2004, when we remained on life support for days and in 2007. We know what it is like to fear that each breath is your last. But we also know how divine it is to taunt death, to escape his icy grip and flip him the bird.

Justin Masterson knows. The pious pitcher informed his Facebook friends that he is “happy to be alive. He gets it. Masterson has taken to heart the simple message of a preacher from Pittsburgh “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.”

And on Friday morning, when the series is 3-2 Jose, and Justin Masterson and Dice K will make a snappy new day. Jose will be back, when they day is new, and he will have more KEYS for you. You’ll have things you want to talk about. Jose… will… too.


2. According to Wikipedia, Tampa is a Calusa Indian word that means “sticks of fire.”

Having watched the Rays brutalize Red Sox pitching, for three straight games, it seems that the first settlers of what is now Hillsborough County saw something coming. The Tampa sticks have been alight.


But Jose knows a thing or two about fire (note: he got his fireman ‘chit as a Scout), and it gives him reason to be hopeful. Let’s put it this way, there is a reason that eternal flames are not fueled by wood. Wood burns bright and beautiful crackling and colorful, but all of sudden, a funny thing happens—it goes out. There is no doubt that the Rays’ sticks have been burning bright for three nights now, but they cannot burn forever. They are not the Maccabees, we are not the Syrians and this is not Chanukah.

3. Jose spent much of Monday and Tuesday hanging around with a dog named Kazmir. It might have been Cashmere on Kashmir, but those are all really just regional variations on spelling. Little did he know at the time, that his aunt and uncle’s dog would get the call to start for Tampax Bay in the crucial fifth game of the ALCS.

Joe Maddon has managed brilliantly this series, but you’ve got to wonder what he’s thinking right now. Given the opportunity to choose between pitching Jamie Shields, who has been brilliant in the post season and a dog, he went with the dog.
What’s that, tonight’s starting pitcher is a man named Kazmir and not a canine? Are you sure? Well, what’s the difference? Neither of them is going to pick up the win tonight and either of them would have been a good acquisition in return for Victor Zambrano.

Actually, check that, there is one difference. The dog, when he barks enough can actually convince people that he’s dangerous. There’s nothing the lefty can do these days to scare anyone.

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

Tuesday, October 14

ALCS Game 4--My Name is Wakefield

It's time for Jose Melendez's KEYS TO THE ALCS.

1. Jose though a lot about not writing for today’s game.

Why should he? If the Red Sox aren’t going to bother to show up for a critical ALCS game, then why should Jose? The Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit in 2004 and a 3-1 deficit in 2007, so why should Jose even worry until the season is on the line?

In fact, it made sense for Jose to skip out on writing. He had a long day of touring Montgomery (note: move along, nothing to see here) and traveling to Atlanta and he was tired. After sucking down half a burger for dinner with his cousin Chris, Chris’s girlfriend Jen and his fellow travelers, catching a little bit of blues at the Northside and then going to sleep seemed like a perfectly reasonable alternative to writing a baseball blog about a team that was humiliated and didn’t even seem to care.

But something happened at the Northside, a dank Atlanta bar where upon entering one seems about as likely to be murdered as to see some good blues. The band showed up late. They showed up late, but they showed up. On a Monday night they showed up. In front of ten people they showed up. For almost certainly no money, they showed up. And they wailed. In front of ten patrons, half shooting pool or playing Donkey Kong, the other half quietly pulling on Pabst tall boys, they wailed. Johnny Triggers and his accomplices played as thought it were Friday night at CBGB, as if they were Robert Johnson on the Mississippi Delta. They played with all the fire and fury of a Baptist revival.

The patrons showed up too. Not many, but the folks who were there, well three of them anyway, roared into action as the band struck up Folsom Prison Blues. A graying lump of a man, a San Antonio native turned Atlanta long timer, sucked from a pitcher gripped tightly in each fist as a tromped around the dance floor, hopping up on to chairs, making sweet love to a supporting column for the roof and writhing on the floor like a fish on the door of sweet death. He was joined by two other men, younger fellows, but at least as drunk, swinging each other around, gesticulating like an epileptic on crack… convulsing.

“I have seen some crazy things in this bar,” said Jen. “I have seen a couple go at it on the bar. I have seen men who did not know it dance with prostitutes but I have never seen this.”

It was a Monday night.

It was a Monday night and fueled by nothing more potent than beer and Jack with a chaser of self-loathing, these men had shown up and given it their all.

So why couldn’t Jose?

Why couldn’t Jose show up on the proverbial Monday night of the ALCS? Why couldn’t the Red Sox?

What the Red Sox need, what Jose needs, is to go mad. We need to writhe on the floor; we need to convulse; we need to double fist pitchers of watery suds. It’s what Kevin Millar would do. It’s what the Red Sox must do. It’s what Jose will do.

2. You know what? Maybe we don’t understand the Rays? Maybe we have to get inside of their skulls to have a chance at beating them. Jose has done some research and he has turned up some insights from one of the most celebrated Rays of all, Ray Kroc the founder of McDonald’s, which Jose assumes is some kind of Scottish restaurant.

Kroc said, and this is important, that “We take the hamburger business more seriously than anyone else.”

Think about that. Consider the fact that the Rays have had access to that kind of wisdom for the entire year and we just got it now. Wait, that doesn’t seem right. The difference of hamburgers in yesterdays game was at most two runs and we lost by like eight.

“Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.” There we go, that makes some sense. The Rays know what they have to do between now and Tuesday (note: today). Do the Sox?

We need to hit. That’s creativity. We need to pitch. That’s creativity. We need to catch—creativity. We need to throw—curiously, not creativity. If watching soccer has taught Jose anything, it’s that Kroc is right. Matches are won by creativity, specifically creativity in the midfield, and if the Sox have it Jose has not seen it. It’s Tuesday men, let’s create.

3. It’s up to Wakefield. That’s fine Weezer is down with it.

My name is Timmy
I'm hurling for my team
Haven’t pitched in weeks
But this is now a theme

Come and pitch Game Four
Don’t let Tampa Score
I don’t need the dome
I’ll pitch fine at home
In the LCS
I have pitched my best
On two weeks of rest.
Let me tell you 'bout it

The knuckler can travel through time
A break that makes you lose your mind
The batter said, "Hey man, how’s it move that way"
They couldn’t get the ball into play.

My name is Wakefield
I keep my nails filed real fine
Ain’t got much of a fastball
But this game is still mine
It’s still mine...

“Tell me what to do.
We can’t hit this guy.
Never pitches flat”
And you know what else?
Guess what I received in the mail today
Words of deep concern from my manager

The series goes not as he planned
Big Papi has injured his hand
Beckett can’t throw for a strike
So he grooves them right down the pike.

The Red Sox are playin’ at home
The Red Sox are playin’ at home
The Red Sox are playin’ at home

Yeah

The Red Sox are playin’ at home
The Red Sox are playin’ at home
The Red Sox are playin’ at home
Yeah yeah yeah

My name is Wakefield.

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

Monday, October 13

ALCS Game 3--We Need to Be More Desperate

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

1. On Saturday, for the first time since 2003, Jose missed parts of a Red Sox playoff game. There were innings that he did not see on television, that he did not hear on the radio, that he did not even follow on Gamecast.

Jose was in Chattanooga, Tennessee on vacation and was doing what one does in Chattanooga, namely, going out to eat ribs. Jose had made the perfectly reasonable assumption that at any rib joint, the ALCS would be on at the bar. He was wrong. Apparently, in Chattanooga people would rather watch a college football game between two non-local games that will probably give everyone watching it eye cancer than a critical contest in the national pastime.

Jose wasn’t sure what to think. At first he was angry. How dare these people claim to be the real Americans, when they won’t even watch the national pastime? Any yokel can wear a flag pin, but sitting through a 5 and a half hour game? That takes some real patriotism and commitment to country.

Next he felt pity. How sad that these people don’t know the joy, the salvation that comes from Red Sox baseball.

Then he felt angry again. Finally he felt hungry, so he relied on the four different varieties of pork ribs to sooth his agitated soul.

The point is that when Jose left his hotel room, the Red Sox were up 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the first, and when he returned, seven home runs later, they were down 8-6. Perhaps, the Tennesseans were on to something. Yes Jose missed five innings, but what had he really missed? Heartbreak? Anger? Despair? A $500 tab for smashing a hotel television?

By almost every normal standard, it would appear that Jose had made the right choice. He avoided pain (the blown lead) and received pleasure (ribs). He should have been a happy man. And yet he wasn’t.

Jose looks forward to this; we look forward to this. We crave the opportunity to feel. We are addicts. And like any addict we have built up tolerance. It is no longer enough to enjoy the elation of victory. We need it to hurt, to drag us through excruciating pain to create an ever-sharper contrast with the pleasure. We came back from 3-0 against the Yankees. We came back from 3-1 against the Indians. We will not feel truly alive in this series until we have to come back from down four games to the Rays. And that is where the danger lies. You can’t go down by four games. It is against the rules. It is up to the Red Sox to remember that in the relentless pursuit of thrills, of greater and greater highs, getting down four games is the overdose of playoff baseball—exciting but fatal.


2. Following St. Josh a Beckett’s second straight horrendous post-season outing, it is probably safe for us to assume that his oblique is not fine and that he is seriously injured. This is a problem, a big problem, but it is not unsolvable. There is precedent for remedying this. It’s just a few simple steps:
1. The team physician invents a procedure that temporarily fixes a strained oblique.
2. The physician practices the technique on dead people.
3. Beckett receives the procedure before each remaining start.
4. Beckett bleeds out of his wound and on to his jersey.
5. People talk about how heroic Beckett is.
6. Red Sox win the World Series
7. Beckett puts on 40 pounds.
8. People who don’t like Beckett start suggesting that the blood was fake and he just spilled marinara sauce on his shirt because look at him, he’s a fat slob.
If the Red Sox pursue these simple steps, Jose is pretty sure the old Josh Beckett will be ready for Game 6.


3. Sons of Sam Horn Stalwart Tudor Fever raised a great question the other day. “What is ‘Kotsay’ Pig Latin for? Jose is not a Latin Scholar, his second tongue is Gibberish, but he still knows enough—he thinks—to give it a try.

So we decline it right? And then decline it again? And we remove the “ay,” move the “s” to the front. And we get “Skot.” Suddenly, the reason for Kotsay’s inability to hit becomes clear—he’s a Scott. Think of the Scott’s in Red Sox history, Scoot, Williamson, Scott Sauerbeck, Scott Cassidy, Scott Bankhead and Scott Taylor were all pitchers. Scott Fletcher wasn’t a pitcher, but he hit like one. That leaves us with Scott Cooper, the worst two-time All-Star in MLB history as the upside for Scotts.

Of course, there is some evidence that while our translation is correct, our interpretation is lacking. Skot, is the translation of Kotsay’s last name, so perhaps the better historical analogy is George Scott. If Kotsay can hit like Boomer, that would help.

On a related note, since Jason Bay’s name ends in “ay” it is presumably Pig Latin as well, but what can it possibly be Pig Latin for? It would have to just be “B” right? In which case it’s good he’s playing in Boston, because if his name is “B” and he had a “”P on his head, like in his Pirate days, it might really confuse people.

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

Saturday, October 11

ALCS Game 2--Jose Sees the Future

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

1. Jose is taking a terrible risk here and breaking a cardinal rule. He is writing this KEYS before Game 1 even happened. It’s not that Jose wanted to do this, it’s just that this seemed like the only way to guarantee that there would be an actual KEYS for Game 2. You see, as you are reading this, Jose is somewhere on the road between Asheville and Chattanooga, which are, as best Jose understands, cities in the United States. Jose just somehow got it in his head that since he had a few days off, it would be okay to hit the road, even with the ALCS on. It works out pretty well. Jose gets to travel, and probably to still watch the games. The only loser is you. Instead of getting to read a 264 line epic retelling of the Bhagavad Gita via the story of Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir, you get this meta KEYS written on Friday 1AM. Suckers. Err… Patrons.

What Jose was trying to figure out was whether he should write this as if the Sox won Game 1 or as if they lost it. After careful consideration, Jose decided to assume the Sox lost Game 1, so then if the win everyone will be happy and not notice that he is kind of a jackass. Also, Jose was concerned that if he wrote that the Sox won game one and they lost, players might get confused and think that they only needed three more wins to get to the World Series. But then Jose remembered that Manny is no longer on the team, so he stopped worrying about that.

Here we go.

This was not how Jose imagined this series starting. In retrospect he should have known it was a bad sign when Gerald Williams threw out the first pitch. Still, he couldn’t have imagined that after hitting Jacoby Ellsbury to start the game, Jamie Shields would set down the next 25 batters in a row.

What he could have seen, what he should have seen, was that DiceK was going to struggle. Yes, Jose was an advocate of starting DiceK in Game 1 to eliminate the awful risk that he might have to start an eventual Game 7, but he couldn’t have foreseen that Dice would throw 240 pitches over five innings, walking 15 and scattering three runs. Wait, actually he could have foreseen it. It’s like pretty much every other DiceK playoff start.

On the upside, since, Dice did what he always does in the ALCS, when Jose writes his KEYS for Game 3 before Game 2 is over, he can write that St. Josh a Beckett won, because Beckett always pitches great in the ALCS. As anyone who plays the stock market can tell you, past performance is always a guarantee of future results. Right?

2. While Jose is not going to right a poem about Scott “Disputed Territoty” of Kazmir, Jose does feel like he is obliged to give you some background information on Tampa’s starter for tonight’s critical second game. So, let’s open it up. Any questions?

Yes, you. Why is Scott Kazmir disputed?

Well, no messing around from you is there? Does anyone have any questions about his childhood? Maybe his prom? Jose can tell you how Kazmir lost his virginity. It’s a funny story actually. No?

Well, on to the meat of the subject then.

As best Jose can tell, Kazmir, going back centuries, has been sacred to both Mets fans and Rays fans. Not so long after Tampa was given independence from the Yankee Empire, which had claimed it is a minor league fiefdom, it set up a major league team called the Devil Rays. Whereas the Yankees once had control over all the talent flowing into and out of baseball in Tampa, the new Devil Rays team was independent, and, however, clumsily, feeling its oats.

Freed from interference, the Devil Rays got any number of independent players to agree to side with them, such as Wade Boggs, who defected from the Yankees and Fred McGriff. Under the terms of the partition, Tampa could even deal with the New York Mets, the Yankees hated cross-town rival.

Under attack from a Yankees team that made the playoffs every year in recent memory, New York Mets acting GM Jim Duquette made a desperate agreement to cede Kazmir to Tampa under the condition that he would receive Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato to help him fend off Yankee aggression within the New York baseball market. When the deal was made, Mets fans, an overwhelming majority of whom wanted to keep Kazmir, were incensed and demanded Duquette’s firing. Ever since, Rays fans have insisted that the deal was legal and valid, while Mets fans have claimed that it cannot be valid as the man who signed it must have been brain dead.

As the Mets have suffered through intense turmoil over the past several years, the cause of Kazmir remains a focal point in public dissatisfaction. Major League Baseball has attempted to manage the hostility, but it turns out that they have even less power than the UN and only slightly less corrupt management.



3. It is really too bad for the Rays that they are not a hockey team. It just kind of seems like a waste to have, in Grant Balfour, the child of two of the greatest goalies of all time, Ed Belfour and Grant Fuhr, and no net to put him in. (Note: Why they changed his name from Belfour to Balfour Jose doesn’t know. Maybe they Americanized it when he immigrated from Canada.)

Do you think if they started to call the innings periods they could get him to pitch three instead of just one? Jose bets they’ve tried that, because Joe Maddon is awfully clever. Do you think Balfour spends his seven to eight innings in the bullpen wondering what infraction got him put in the penalty box for two hours and 45 minutes? When the Rays are at bat with the bases loaded does he get confused and thing that the Red Sox have a five-man advantage on the power play?

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

Friday, October 10

ALDS Game 1 Good vs. Neutral

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

1. In years past, this would be where Jose wrote about an epic struggle between good and evil, of the forces of light and darkness twirling in their endless tango, or dancing the forbidden dance--lambada. Jose was not exaggerating. The Red Sox are good and the Yankees are evil. (Note: Well, now the Red Sox are good and the Yankees are bad.) The Cleveland Indians, if not outright evil, are at least racist and insensitive. While good vs. insensitive isn’t quite as potent as good vs. evil, it at least has a little bit of kick. But Tampa? This year’s ALCS is more of a story of good vs. neutral.

The story of good vs. neutral has already been told in comic form in the cartoon Futurama. In the relevant episode 25 Star General Zapp Brannigan takes the Democratic Order of Planets to war with “the neutral planet.” It reminds Jose quite a bit of the Red Sox current crusade against neutrality, though Tito does not, blessedly, wear Brannigan’s crushed red velour uniform. (Note: He can’t; MLB discipline chief Bob Watson has ruled that velour violates the MLB uniform policy.)

This is a problem. We are in a battle of good vs. neutral, and neutral is simply hard to get excited about. If one were to put together one of those head-to-head charts that reporters without ideas so love, it would be a one sided affair.

Food
Boston: Clam Chowder
Tampa: Meh
Edge: Boston

Historic Sights
Boston: Old North Church
Tampa: Meh
Edge Boston

Favorite Sons
Boston: JFK
Tampa: MEH
Edge: Boston

Local TV Show
Boston: Cheers
Tampa: Meh
Edge: Boston

Local Movie
Boston: Celtic Pride
Tampa: Meh
Edge: Tampa

What? Staring at a grey screen for three hours would be dramatically better than Celtic Pride. Damon Wayans as an NBA star? The Jazz winning a championship? Please.

So it is hard for Jose to get too fired up about a series that can only be described as meh. Still, it is Jose’s job to get fired up and get fired up he will. Bring on the kiln!

Since we have established Tampa as neutral, think of it as Switzerland. Switzerland is neutral, and everyone loves them, what with their excellent chocolate, versatile knives and $35 bagels.

Not Jose.

Jose is pissed off at the Swiss.

Some of you may remember a Kids in the Hall bit years ago about a guy named Ed who hated the Swiss. Jose is not imitating that. That was a joke. Jose is not joking. He really hates the Swiss. He is probably a little racist towards them. (Note: Okay, maybe he is joking a little bit. Please don’t sick the Anti-Swiss Defamation League on Jose, he can’t bear to issue apologies in their unintelligible German, French, Italian and Romansh.) \

His hate, like most hate, is simple. The entire Swiss economy for nearly 80 years has been built on money laundering. The Swiss launder money for anyone: terrorists, tax evaders, drug dealers, the CIA, the KGB, Nazis, everyone. They are the Zoots of money laundering. Now, normally if a country did this, like say Vanuatu, we would shun them. Maybe we wouldn’t shut them off from the world, but we would point out that they were a bunch of jerks profiting on the misery of others. But not the Swiss. No, no, they get to have UN institutions, even though they weren’t even a UN member until recently, and the International Committee of the Red Cross and to guard the Pope. Everyone loves the Swiss.

But at root, neutrality veers awfully close to amorality. There are individual people who are neutral like the Swiss. There are people who, like the Swiss, look only to their own interests, steering clear of committing to any position save their own personal good. We call these people sociopaths. We do not give them UN offices (note: Kurt Waldheim excepted). We do not let them guard the Pope.

So as we head into this series with Tampa, remember that there is nothing quite so insidious as creeping neutrality. Demand that the Tampa Rays give up their stolen Nazi gold.

2. Over the years, Jose has had a lot of fun with the Rays, calling them Tampax Bay and comparing the to tuberculosis. Back when they were the Devil Rays or D Rays, Jose may even have suggested that they should change their name to the Tampa Bay Dres and have a picture of the Yo! MTV Raps star Dr. Dre on their caps. Dr. Dre could also be team physician. (Note: He would probably not be noticeably worse than former Red Sox physician Dr. Arthur Pappas. As best Jose knows, Marty Barrett has never sued Dr. Dre for malpractice.)

Now that the Tampa Rays are good, people have asked Jose if he needs to change the way he talks about them. Are feminine hygiene jokes really appropriate when one is talking about the reigning A.L. East champions? It’s a fair question.

After a lot of thought, Jose has concluded, reluctantly that it is no longer fair to call them the Tampax Bay Rays.

It just isn’t fair… to Tampax.

Tampax is the number one selling brand of tampon, and Jose doesn’t think it’s right to connect them to a baseball team that will finish only second in the American League. Also, it didn’t take Tampax ten years in existence for their product to be successful. If Tampax had waited 10 years to perform adequately, then… well, let’s just sat it would have been sloppier than the Rays’ pre-2008 defense. So not only is Jose renouncing the use of the term “Tampax Bay” (note: at least until tomorrow) Jose is demanding that the Rays remove the libelous TB from their caps. Jose suggests that they replace it with a nice OB, which Jose understands, is a less successful brand of tampon.

3. How weird is it that the Rays have decided to start Jamie Shields in Game 1? Have the Red Sox ever beat two pitchers named Shields in consecutive games before? (Note: The Sox defeated Scott Shields to win Game 4 of the ALDS.)

Also, what is David Price, who is Jose’s Congressman here in Durham doing pitching for the Rays? Can he stay in Congress, or did he just get elected from here when he was playing for Tampa’s AAA affiliate the Durham Bulls?

This just makes Jose really mad. There’s a financial crisis, a war and some sort of emergency involving commemorative coins going on, and this guy Price is going to be sitting in the Tampa bullpen? Some congressman. Jose knows, Price will probably claim that there’s a phone in the bullpen, so he can do work from there, but Jose does not believe that for a second. Price needs to get out of the Tampa bullpen and back to Washington so he can work hard on getting Durham the bioweapons lab we need to defend ourselves against Raleigh.

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

Monday, October 6

ALDS Game 4--Must Win Game

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

1. The Sox may be up 2 games to 1, but let’s not kid ourselves, tonight is a must win game.

There are plenty of reasons it’s a must win. Jose doesn’t want to go back to Anaheim, and he sure as hell doesn’t want to see Dice pitch another winner take all game. Dice in a decisive game is like having ulcer surgery. It will probably work out but there will be a lot of nausea and discomfort. But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that if there is a game on Wednesday night, Jose is almost definitely going to fail his microeconomics exam at 8:30 Thursday morning.

Think of Jose as the Mark Kotsay of microeconomics. You look at Jose’s resume, his background and his skills and you think, “Hey, Jose should be a pretty nice fit here. He’s the sort of guy I might like to have doing microeconomics for me. I wouldn’t want him to be the first guy I go to when I need to do a utility maximization problem, but having him as a second or third option might be pretty good.”

So you trade some junk to another team to acquire Jose as a backup economics student, and you have him do a problem when one of your economists goes down with, social anxiety disorder probably. So far so good. But then you see him work. Awful. Abysmal. Just flailing at the problems really.

Jose’s approach to economics is a lot like Kotsay’s approach to a critical at bat. He gets in there, guesses a few times and then ends up looking foolish.

On the other hand, no one has ever asked why Sean Casey isn’t doing Jose’s microeconomics problem sets.

2. One of the headlines in an Orange County Register blog this morning was “Hunter Escapes Ridicule.” The entry points out how unspeakably awful the Angles centerfielder was last night; he allowed a ball to drop for a three run single and was thrown out trying to stretch a single by what the Register calls the “length of a bowling ally” and Jose calls the length of a candlepin bowling alley. They are right, he was awful, but they go on to suggest that because the Angles won he will escape ridicule.

Wrong. Maybe he’s escaped ridicule so far but that ends now.

Torii, sure Jose could pick on you for the things that happened last night, or for hurting your knee jumping up and down in protest of a call. Jose could do that… and he will. You suck. Your judgment is poor at best! Snap.

But that’s not really what Jose wants to talk about. What he wants to talk about is your parentage. Torii Hunter? That’s really your name? You sound like singer/songwriter Torii Amos and Spider Man villain Kraven the Hunter had a baby.

Wait... did Jose hurt your feelings? Does the ridicule sting?

Jose is just saying he could see you sitting there at the piano singing weepy songs and breathing audibly, all while wearing a vest made from the head of a lion. And you know what? That would still be less humiliating than your performance in last night’s game.

These are your parents Torii Hunter. Feel the shame.

3. As Jose did his research for tonight’s game, he discovered that there was once a dot com called mylackey.com, which Jose can only assume, is affiliated with tonight’s Angels starter John Lackey. The idea behind mylackey was that busy professionals could use it to schedule services like dry cleaning and dog grooming. True to its namesake, mylackey guaranteed excellent service in non-essential situations. If you needed your dry cleaning done in two days but four days would be fine, no problem. However, in a really important situation, say if you needed a suit cleaned for a big meeting, mylackey would almost definitely come up short. Not only would it not get you your suit on time, it might set it on fire.

For example, let’s say you needed some flowers for your girlfriend’s birthday. With mylackey you could order them sent to her no problem, but there was a good chance that she would end up getting a bouquet of poison ivy with a wasps nest in it.

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

Sunday, October 5

ALDS Game 3--Jose Ain't Got His Taco

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

1. Jose was hungry.

Not hungry like the Yankees after an impossibly long eight years without a championship, but still pretty hungry. He wanted something salty, something savory.

“Tacos!” he thought to himself. “Tacos would be fantastic.” To his great good fortune he no longer lived in the Mexican food wasteland known as Boston, so there was an actual chance of getting some decent Mexican food.

An authentic dive taqueria emerged from the glare of the noontime sun to his left, and Jose lopped a lazy left into the parking lot. Excited, obsessed even, he scampered out of the car and stomped towards the impending deliciousness.

Something wasn’t right. Jose felt too light, empty almost. At first he thought it was only his ravenous hunger but then he realized that he was literally too light. His keys were missing.

Now at first this might not sound too bad. So what if Jose didn’t have his KEYS. Why would he need KEYS for a taco stand? That was not the problem. Even if Jose doesn’t have KEYS, he always has KEYS. Right up here. (Note: Jose is pointing at his head.) Jose had his KEYS, what he didn’t have was his keys. Those were dangling from the ignition of his still running car.

Realizing his mistake, Jose yanked at the door of his Carolina blue Corolla. No luck. The door was locked tighter than an Angels team down two games.

Desperate, Jose turned to the middle aged Latino fellow one spot over.

“Hi, sorry to bother you, but you don’t know how to pop a car door do you?”

The man flashed a sheepish, embarrassed grin. “ No, I don’t know how to. Sorry.”

What he meant, Jose is pretty sure, is “You think that because I’m Latino I know how to pop open a locked car door? That’s racist.”

This would be a reasonable assumption, but Jose isn’t racist, he just really needed to get into his car, and this guy was the closest possible person. Also, how could this guy have though Jose was racist against Latinos? He must somehow not have known that Jose pretends to be a Latino on the Internet.

As panic gave way to calm, Jose noticed that across the street there was a garage. He walked over and approached the two mechanics as they took a break from working on an elevated automobile.

They were two black guys. “Great,” thought Jose to himself. “They will think Jose is racist too. And maybe they will be right. It’s not like Jose pretends to be a black guy on the Internet.”

“Sorry to bother you guys,” Jose began. “But do either of you know how to pop a locked car door?”

“Sure,” chirped the taller one, his short dreadlocks framing a gleaming grin. “He used to steal cars!” He pointed at his colleague, a round-faced fellow with cherub cheeks.

“He’s joking,” the cherub cheeked mechanic added, after allowing enough to for it to be awkward.

These two fellows, Kenyans it turned out, were decidedly not car thieves. They spent ten minutes reading an instruction booklet on how to break into a car, and shoving wooden wedges into Jose’ door before finally managing to wriggle a tool in and depress the window switch. It was not quick work with a slim Jim, but it did the job.

Jose thanked them profusely, gave them $10, all the cash he had on him, and they returned to work, and Jose returned to…. Shit. Jose had given all of his cash to the friendly Kenyans who had earned it. This left him unable to purchase even a single taco.

This brings us to the point, which as you recall, is that this is a Red Sox blog. As Royce Clayton might put it, “Jose ain’t got his taco.” Therefore, the Red Sox absolutely must make the World Series. As Jose recalls, when you get to the World Series, if someone steal a base, you get a free taco, and Jose still really wants a taco.

2. St. Josh a Beckett will pitch tonight despite a strained oblique, which is pretty amazing given that we were all concerned that his season might be over a week ago. What Jose wonders is whether the Catholic Church has started the process of certifying that this is indeed a miracle. Obviously, St. Beckett doesn’t need it to be a miracle. He’s already got the two required for sainthood, the 2003 and 2007 postseasons, still, it seems important that these things be properly documented.

As Jose understands it, the first step of the process takes place within the diocese, so presumably Cardinal O’Malley has sent a team to Fenway tonight to interview the witnesses to this miracle.

Jose feels pretty good about the chances that this will be certified. It’s probably not a first-degree miracle such as resurrection from the dead, we haven’t seen that here since October 2004, but it seems like it could absolutely be a third degree miracle, recovery from an illness in a remarkably short period of time.

Either way, it puts Josh Beckett way above that other St. Beckett, who couldn’t even keep England Catholic four hundred years after his death.

3. In tonight’s do or die game, the Angels throw Joe Saunders against St. Josh a Beckett. Jose is not worried. He has seen the show French and Saunders a few times on Comedy Central, so he knows that Saunders is a slightly overweight British woman. Jose has seen weirder things in the playoffs (note: see Eric “I don’t need to touch home plate, home plate needs to touch me” Byrnes.) but he just doesn’t see the Red Sox being shut down by an aging comedienne.

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

Friday, October 3

ALDS Game 2--SNAP!

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

1. George Elliott, the famous transsexual author, once wrote “The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”

Jose is not sure exactly when (s)he wrote that, but he suspects it was after one of the ten consecutive post season games the Red Sox have taken from the Los Calanaheim Angles.

Unlike many moments in the history of the Boston Red Sox, these games against the Angels have been golden moments, all of them. From Hendu’s homer, to Roger Clemens inexplicably winning a Game 7 (note: thank God, Jeff Suppan wasn’t starting for the Angles that night), to Papi’s walk off, to Manny’s fly into the night last fall, the good moments against the Angels are wound together in such a smooth and subtle continuum that it is easy to miss exactly how special, how golden each of these shimmering singularities is.

This series will fade. We will not remember most of its splendid moments. The 2004 ALDS is absent from the World Series DVD collection. The same holds for 2007. These series are forgotten, picayune overtures that hint at Act I and Act II before being retired to hazy memory. Despite the dramatic walk off homers in 2004 and 2007, do we remember those moments the way we remember ALDS moments against other opponents? Will anything from this series remind us of O’Leary seven RBI’s in the 1999 ALDS finale or Pedro’s six no hit innings? Will any pitch seem as extraordinary as Derek Lowe’s back door breaking ball to strike out Terence Long in 2003?

These series against the Angels begin with haste and end as quickly and unceremoniously as a series in May. We cannot see them and savor them. We know them only as something has passed and is then forgotten.

Jose never thought he would say this after reading Silas Marner, George Elliott is making sense.

Still, the story in incomplete. There is more going on here then the abrupt evaporation of golden moments. There is something more sinister, violent even.

There is another quote about the Angels that is a partner in describing the long streak, and the short series. Jack Handy of Saturday Night Live once said over soothing music and calming images “It’s true that every time you hear a bell, an angel gets its wings. But what they don’t tell you is that every time you hear a mouse trap snap, an angel gets set on fire.”

SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!

Huh, that was 11. Funny.

2. In 1867, Japan began the period of transition from feudalism to industrial society and colonial power called the Meiji Restoration. The Restoration came in direct response to Commodore Matthew Perry’s success at forcing Japan to open in 1853. The superior firepower of Perry’s black ships convinced elements in Japan that the country needed to modernize rapidly or else it would succumb to Western power. In other words, the Japanese needed to learn from their enemies and make fundamental adjustments in how they organized themselves in order to compete.

Over the past year, the Angels have undergone a similar process. After being humiliated by Commodore Tito, and his black, err black, white and Dominican, fleet in 2007, the Angels realized that they needed to learn from the Red Sox if they were to compete with them. As a result, they shifted from being a team that relied entirely on speed and acquired Mark Teixera to give them the best possible (note: though still inadequate) facsimile of Boston’s 3-4 slugger combination.
It worked. Just like Japan in the Meiji period, the Angels went through a rapid and spectacular transformation.

The crowning validation of the Meiji Restoration was Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Japan won despite the fact that Jose’s great-grandfather had gotten the hell out of the country one-year prior, so they were at a huge disadvantage.

So the validation of the Angels Restoration should be a victory over the Boston Red Sox. But where is it? It is as though a strong and modernized Japan laid siege to Port Arthur and then gave up after three days because it was hard and kind of boring. If the Angles don’t show some spine, the Red Sox won’t even need to Teddy Roosevelt to cut us a sweetheart deal in Portsmouth, we will just dictate terms.

When all was said and done, the British presented the Japanese with a lock of admiral Nelson’s hair, to commemorate their victory in the battle of Tsushima. If the Angels keep playing like they have been, they won’t even get a lock of Jeff Nelson’s hair.

3. Orange County Register columnist Randy Youngman, which Jose assumes is his porn name, joined in the Greek chorus of columnists muttering in monotone that the Angles postseason losing streak against the Sox goes back to 1986. But Youngman breaks free from the crowd and distinguishes himself as the choragus by invoking the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in his recollection.

While he does not explicitly compare the losing streak to Chernobyl, the comparison is implicit and it is devastating.

People died as the result of both events (note: Donnie Moore and Chernobyl victims rest in piece) and the impacts of both disasters continue to this day.

But the analogy is profoundly imperfect. Whereas Chernobyl destroyed an entire city, the Angels losing streak has only destroyed Orange County. Also, the Chernobyl reactor was enclosed in a massive concrete sarcophagus in order to contain the radiation. As best Jose knows, no one has considered building a massive sarcophagus to contain the Angels, even though teammates of 1986 team member Reggie Jackson regard him as radioactive.

If one insists on comparing the Angels losing streak to a Soviet disaster in 1986, Jose would suggest that the obvious analogy is the sinking of the SS Admiral Nakhimov, a passenger boat that collided with the bulk carrier Pyotr Vasyov in the Tsemes Bay, killing 423. The Pyotr Vasayov, was Japanese built, lending credence to the notion that the Angels will, this evening, be sunk by something built in Japan.

In addition, much like Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, the Admiral Nakhimov’s captain Vadim Markov seemed utterly unconcerned about the impending disaster, saying, “Don't worry. We will pass clear of each other. We will take care of everything."

There is one major difference, however, that may prove decisive. The Admiral Nakhimov did not have monkey.

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

Wednesday, October 1

ALDS GAME 1—Why We Are Different

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

1. The setting is new, but the scene is the same.

It is North Carolina here, yet it is still Boston within these walls. A semi circle of cardboard is lashed to the top of the closet, a flimsy backboard to a flimsier hoop. On it is an image, frozen, eternal, perfect. Orlando Cabrera dives into a jubilant crowd, Dave Roberts edges Kevin Youkilis for position in the scrum and even Johnny Damon, the good Johnny Damon, the bearded Johnny Damon embraces a still ambulatory Mosey Nixon.

As Jose’s eyes drift to the left a poster hangs, long since denuded of the glass that once gave it sheen. Ramirez, Damon, Martinez, Foulke. They are all there, jolly specters of the best of days.

Still further to the left, the other closet flaps open. There amidst the striped shirts and khaki slacks Jose can see the crisp white of his number 19 jersey, MELENDEZ stitched across the back, a necessary error if he is to distinguish his jersey from Josh Beckett’s. It is a good jersey, a prized possession and a generous gift, but it is not Jose’s playoff jersey. That honor goes to a grey road uni with 49 and WAKEFIELD framed neatly across the back. Jose got the jersey in 1995 when he was slinging fries at Fenway. It still has streaks of red face paint on it from the 1999 ALCS, when joy turned to grief and from Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS when grief descended like night, only to be broken the next day by four years of shimmering dawn. The shirt bears the stains of history. It bears the stench of history. It has not been washed in nine years.

To the closet’s left side a license plate/clock declares Jose to be the Red Sox “#1 FAN.” The clock does not work. Its white hands stretch across a compass rose of a clock and freeze at 10:40, the exact time the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. It is eerie. Sure, Jose set the hands there about two minutes ago so he could write this sentence, but still it is strange and wonderful.

Just below the clock hangs a final poster.

BATTLE FOR THE AGES
FENWAY PARK OCT. 16
PEDRO MARTINEZ vs. ROGER CLEMENS

Pedro’s smiling face perched a cross a slim cartoon body face stares across at Rahjh’s impudent mug. Game 3, 1999. Until 2004, it was the happiest day of Jose’s life. Not only did the Red Sox crush the Yankees, but Jose also saw Jimy Williams at a bar sucking down scotch after scotch.

And that is all. Except for the Red Sox coffee cup on the table to Jose’s right.. and the four KEYS books atop the bureau to his right… and a Wakefield t-shirt… and a Red Sox Hideo Nomo t-shirt… and the sleepy dork, happily typing away in the voice of a long forgotten relief pitcher while the world passes him by.

This is who Jose is. This is who the Red Sox are. It is who you are too. It is why we will win. While Jose feverishly types his youth away, the Orange Country Register lists yesterday’s top five most read stories as:
  • For Kobe, 30 is the new 20
  • New O.C. football Top 10 released
  • Lakers keep an eye on the beasts in the East
  • Mr. October: Angels need to improve post-season approach
  • 5 things to watch for in Lakers training camp
These are the guys who will defeat us? The guys who play in this town? 100 wins, guaranteed home field throughout, good pitching and a monster lineup, and on the eve of the playoffs they rank below two off-season Laker stories and high school football in their own hometown? Thank God that last night there was no high school field hockey or they might have dropped out of the top ten.

The people of Anaheim are not us, nor are they we. They just aren’t. We let jerseys putrefy for nine years. We get memorabilia for players who were terrible. We brood and rejoice and brood a little more. They are fans, barely, but we are more. We are a religion, we are a movement, we are a people.

Yes we can? Certainly, but that is unremarkable. Yes we will.

Yes. We will.

2. On his blog yesterday, Tony Castrati suggested that the suddenly muscular Angles (note: not a typo, see KEY 3, or any think Jose has ever written about that team) have switched places with a Red Sox squad that had the league leader in stolen bases for the first time since Nixon was riding high. Specifically, he compared them to the plots of three movies: “Freaky Friday,” “Trading Places” and ""Like Father, Like Son.” While Jose admires any effort to work Kirk Cameron, the star of Like Father, Like Son into a baseball column, Jose categorically rejects Castrati’s analogy. Also, why not work in Malcom-Jamal Warner instead? This season has resembled the plot of at least three episodes of Malcom and Eddie. Also, unlike Warner, Cameron does not have a surprisingly good jazz combo, though Jose regrets that Warner’s group is not named “Theo and the Trio.”

But back to Castrati’s poor analogy. First, let’s start with the fact that these three movies have almost nothing in common. One is about two white guys trading bodies, one is about two white girls trading bodies and one is about high finance. And ff one wants to compare “Like Father, Like Son” to something, how can one ignore the Judge Reinhold vehicle “Vice Versa?” The only difference between the two films is that Reinhold changes bodies with Fred Savage thanks to a mysterious skull while Cameron trades bodies with Dudley Moore due to mysterious potion. They were made within a year of each other and can be purchased together as a two DVD set. Doesn’t Castrati do any research?

Now, let’s examine why each of the three films Castrati cites is a bad analogy.

In “Freaky Friday” a coke addled teenager trades bodies with her technically a man mother. Or, if your prefer the 1976 version, an FBI agent/Astronomer trades places with a voiceover woman from the underappreciated 1977 Doonesbury special, and inspires John Hinckley to shoot Ronald Reagan. Jose thinks it’s pretty clear where this analogy goes off the tracks. While Red Sox-Angles playoff series have inspired players to shoot their wives and themselves, they have never once inspired anyone to shoot an elderly actor/president. Also, Jamie Lee Curtis is twice the man John Lackey is.

What about Trading Places? In this one, two rich white investors destroy lives before eventually destroying themselves. Actually, this one sounds like it might be just about right. Wait, that’s the banking crisis Jose’s thinking of not the playoffs. Never mind.

And actually, the plot is less centered on the rich brothers than on the subject of their manipulation of a black hustler and a white commodities trader. Jamie Lee Curtis plays prominently in this one too as a hooker who is three times the man Chone Figgins is. To Jose’s mind, the only way this analogy holds up is if current Angle and former Red Sox Darren Oliver teams up with Jon Garland to bankrupt the Red Sox commodity trading owner, John W. Henry, by cornering the market on concentrated frozen orange juice. If Oliver and Garland do corner the market on concentrated frozen orange juice in the next few days, Jose will concede that the Red Sox could be in trouble.

This leaves us with “Like Father, Like Son”/“Vice Versa.” Here’s why this one doesn’t work. For this analogy to hold, you’d have to assume that the Red Sox were Dudley Moore /Judge Reinhold to begin with and were magically transformed into Kirk Cameron/Fred Savage. Castrati argues that would be a bad thing, but he is wrong. Does he know that Dudley Moore is dead while Kirk Cameron prominent evangelical Christian actor? Also Dudley Moore was the star of a film called “Arthur,” and playing a carton aardvark is not exactly a great career move. So if this transformation did transpire, it would be to Boston’s benefit, which destroys Castrati’s model.

Still, Jose will give Castrati some credit. He had the right instinct in going for a Kirk Cameron analogy, he just picked the wrong film. Given the troubles the Angles will have driving in runners in this series, the correct Kirk Cameron film analogy is “Left Behind.”


3. There have not been a lot of Normans on the Red Sox throughout their storied history. There was Norman Zauchin, who played a few years in the 50s and Norman Siebern, who played on the Impossible Dream team before wrapping up his career a year later. Nelson Norman coached for the Sox in 2001. But that’s pretty much it. At least it was until today.

Today that changes. Today we are all Normans. As we head into Battle against the Angles, 25 Normans will don helms of blue and Terry Eurona will prepare to be crowned Tito the Conqueror.

Norman Schwarzkopf will be watching. He’ll be in camouflage, so you can’t see him, but he’ll be there.

Norm and Norma Nathan will be watching from the great gossip column in the sky.

Norman the Lunatic, back to his asylum , his wrestling days long gone, will beg to watch the game just like Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Even Greg Norman will take a break from winemaking to see what a champion looks like.

Today, the Battle of Hastings will be replayed just a few days shy of its 942nd anniversary and, then as now, the Angles will be defeated and subjected to 1,056 years of subjugation minimum

Watch out Angles, the Normans are coming and it's Hastings all over again.

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

Thursday, September 25

Announcement

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

Jose has suspended KEYS TO THE GAME in order to focus on fixing the U.S. financial crisis. Now, more than ever, we need to come together and hit the economy with a chair, perhaps several times.

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

For more of the same visit http://keystothegame.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 23

Our Competitive Advantage

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

This seems like as good a time as any for Jose to point out the one small concern he has about this team: They may not be very good.

It’s an odd thing to say right now as the Sox stand with 91 wins, just one victory or Yankee loss away from clinching a playoff birth, but Jose really wonders. What exactly is this team’s competitive advantage? It’s certainly not the offense. Sure, the Sox have some guys at the middle of the lineup who can mash, but we also have a bottom of the lineup that includes a too old Varitek, a suddenly too young Lowrie and a too never very good Mark Kotsay-Hey Kid. (Note: Sarcasm.)

The relief pitching? It’s fine Jose supposes. Papelbon is still picking up saves for the most part, but somehow he seems a little unsteady. Like a drunk working the high iron, he never looks good but he always hangs on. Of course, when a guy on the high iron doesn’t hang on it’s messy. The same holds true for Paps. Oki’s been back on track and Masterson’s been good, but can they compare to the young guns in Tampa or the man from Anaheim who rendered Jose’s Bobby Thigpen card even more worthless? (Note: Jose traded a Lou Whitaker card for that Thigpen card the year Thigpen set the save record. In related news, did you know that Jose was once president of Lehman Brothers?) That leaves us with the starting pitching. This should be the strong point. Beckett, Lester and Dice. That’s a pretty good threesome. It’s like Garnett, Pierce and Allen, but without the foul stench of Connecticut. (Note: Just kidding, Jose is indifferent to Connecticut. By the way is Connect Four the official state game of Connecticut? It should be. And why is the second “C” in Connecticut silent? Jose bets it is for insurance reasons.) But how confident are you about Dice’s ability to not throw 150 pitches in the first three innings of a big game? And Beckett hasn’t looked like himself. And Lester? Jose is good with Lester. Lester is easily the best ventriloquist dummy of all time, well, after Franklin and Gabbo.

So maybe our competitive advantage is at manager. Tito is probably the best in the game right now. Jose thinks we should consider putting him in charge of the $700 billion bailout, since he’s already managed Manny Ramirez a.k.a. the $160 million bailout. The only problem is that his competition will be pretty good too. Scioscia has recovered nicely from his radiation poisoning in Springfield to emerge as a first rate skipper, Joe Maddon is a genius with his Tina Fey glasses and Ozzie Guillen… okay Ozzie’s sort of nuts.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us relying on Wally the Green Monster. Can you name the Tampa mascot or Chicago’s? The Angels have that monkey, but Jose has seen a bunch of monkeys up close in the last year, and they don’t seem so tough. As long as Korean tourists don’t give them any cookies, they’re generally not a problem. If Jose was going to take a bush animal for his mascot he would have gotten a hippo. Those things are scary. If the Angels had a hippo for a mascot, Jose would worry.

Anyway, Jose at least hopes that the mascot is our advantage or else he is going to be spending the next few weeks comparing and contrasting park organists and ushers in search of that one little advantage that will make the 2008 Sox special.

2. Jose has a new friend. He thinks we might be BFFs. His name is Justin… Justin Masterson. He will probably be the best man at Jose’s wedding. Okay Jose’s not engaged or anything, but at the very least, Justin will probably come over to watch WrestleMania.

It’s funny that Jose and Justin became friends so quickly. Jose usually takes time to build up friendships. Half of his friends are people he’s known since kindergarten. The other half are folks he’s known since college. The third half are people who are not great at math. Jose becomes friendly with people fast but he takes his time becoming friends. (Note: No he doesn’t.) But with Justin it was somehow different. The friendship was almost instantaneous. Jose invited Justin to become his friend, and Justin agreed.

It’s probably that they have so much in common. Justin’s favorite book is The Bible and Jose owns a Bible. It’s somewhere. Justin loves Jesus and Jose really likes Jesus. Justin likes to quote Virgil and Jose once saw Virgil with Ted DiBiase at the old Boston Garden. Justin is a right-handed pitcher and Jose often uses his right hand to pour from a pitcher. Justin loves Adam Sandler movies and Jose… well, there’s no link on that one.

The point is that we’re now excellent good friends, like Hamlet and Rosencrantz except without the Justin having Jose killed.

And now that we’re friends on Facebook, we will probably hang out a lot and get beers and jalapeño poppers. Unless, of course, Justin decides, based on this piece, that Jose is stalker… which he’s not. Seriously. Stalking seems like a lot of work and Jose just doesn’t have that kind of stick-to-itiveness.

If you’re worried, just ask Jose’s old BFF Curt Euro. He’ll tell you that Jose had almost nothing to do with his season and perhaps career ending injury. It was completely Euro’s fault for not tapping out of that hammerlock.

3. Jose is glad that DJ Dru got an epidural; Jose is not a big believer in this natural childbirth crap. But now that he’s done giving birth, can Dru please get back into the line up? Jose knows that maternity leave is normally three months and all, but that’s not really going to work this time. And the Kotsay-Hey kid will probably make an excellent wet nurse. (Note: Actually, he probably won’t, not if his mammary glands are anywhere near as dry as his bat.)

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

Monday, September 22

Celebrate Good times? Come on.

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

1. Lost amid the hubbub of the Yankee Stadium closing is the news that the Red Sox will clinch their fifth playoff birth in six years tonight. Jose is excited about this because it means an insane celebration that will make Jose love this team.

But what if that doesn’t happen?

What if this group is so much more professional and serious than teams past that they refuse to cut loose? Millar is gone, Manny is gone, Pedro is gone, Damon is gone. Hell, we’re down to one Jew, so seeing anyone dance the Hora is unlikely. (Note: Who would lift the chairs?) All that we have no is Papelbon who, in fairness, may be crazy enough to compensate for all of them. But one lunatic does not an asylum make. Jose’s fear is that Papelbon will, like last year, celebrate by stripping down to his jockstrap, but that Sean Casey will quickly hand him a towel and tell him “Put on some God damn pants and quick making an ass of yourself.”

Will DJ Dru just celebrate with an understated fist pump? Will Mike Lowell party with a glass of chilled Chablis? Perhaps Dice and Oki will do nothing more than offer a simple bow. Maybe Mark Kotsay will do…well, whatever it is that Mark Kotsay does.

Frankly, Jose is worried. This is not the gang of idiots, so perhaps they need a more structured way to celebrate. So Jose will step in and offer a suggestion for a fun yet responsible way to celebrate.

Here’s what Jose has come up with: An arcade party at the Dream Machine in the Watertown Mall followed by pizza at Papa Gino’s. Jose knows this may sound like it lacks in drama, but trust him, it’s super fun. Jose did this for his birthday like five years. For an hour you can play all the video games you want for free. Like Curt Euro isn’t going to be in to that? Also, as a plus, there’s an Old Country Buffet there, so Mike Timlin will be good. On the down side, it seems absolutely possible that DJ Dru could injure himself playing skee ball.

2. Yankee Stadium is not the only New York institution to fold this week. The musical Rent also left Broadway after a 12-year run. Despite the fact that the 5,124 performances of Rent, greatly exceeds the number of games played since this Yankee Stadium finished construction in 1976, the close of Rent has not gotten nearly the same press attention. Thus, Jose presents a list of reasons why the closing of Rent is more important than the closing of Yankee Stadium.
  • Rent is not being replaced with a new, $1.3 billion publicly funded musical.
  • Rent only made Jose want to slit his wrists on one occasion in 1999. Events in Yankee Stadium made Jose want to slit his wrists annually from 1995-2003.
  • While Rent includes many long annoying songs, it has never featured a 45-minute rendition of God Bless America.
  • Amazingly, far less slapping in Rent.
  • If a 12-year-old kid, had interrupted a performance of Rent, he would not have been put on television and given really great seats to the next performance.
  • In Rent, the rich guys are the villains.
  • If the star of Rent’s vocal repertoire can barely reach one octave, he is not praised for his amazing range.
  • Even though Rent is a remake of an old opera called La Boheme, people don’t count performances of La Boheme in Rent’s run. Yet, people do count games at the old Yankee Stadium in the new Yankee Stadium’s run.
  • Rent addresses many adult and disturbing issues, but nothing as disturbing or perverse as Wade Boggs on horseback.
3. They called it the House the Ruth Built, even though George Hermann Ruth never played in the iteration of Yankee Stadium that closed last night.

Still, there is a certain appropriateness to the appellation. The big, ugly concrete bowl does look like something that a fat alcoholic might have built. (Note: Actually, given that it was built by contractors in New York, it probably was built by a fat alcoholic.)

No, the architecture, the aesthetics were never what made Yankee Stadium great. What made it great, what allowed it to transcend its structural mediocrity, were the events that transpired there: A-Rod’s slap, Beckett’s gem, D battery night. There are probably some good things that happened to the Yankees there too, but they were so long ago that Jose can’t really remember them.

By contrast, Fenway Park, despite its innumerable flaws, is remarkable for what it is, an uncomfortable yet quirky gem. If Fenway is the Eiffel Tower, an elegant proof of its own importance, Yankee Stadium is Tokyo Tower, a gaudy affront to elegance made important only by its own self-importance. If Fenway is a Pollock painting, discordant yet somehow lovely, Yankee Stadium is a work by Thomas Kinkade “Painter of Light,” widely liked while completely lacking in merit.

It will be easy for critics to say that Jose is just bashing New York, and that is certainly the case. But, Jose would say the same thing about the Boston Garden. It was a dump that was important for what happened there, not for what it was. In that regard, perhaps Yankee Stadium is more like the 99 Restaurant in Charlestown. It’s not famous because it’s beautiful or interesting but because some bad, bad stuff went down there.

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

Tuesday, September 16

Rays Disappear Over Horizon

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

1. Jose will be the first to admit that his lists of good and evil Rays were not his best effort. He somehow left Ray Borque off of the good list and James Earl and Rachel Ray off of the evil list. No, it was not a Tour de Force or even a Tour de France. It was more of a Tour de Farce. On the other hand, they were substantially better than his lists of the top ten good and evil Jays, which he meant to write for the Blue Jays series. (Note: Ray Jay Johnson would have been on both lists). Still, a correction is in order, and Jose has made it. Corrections of this correction will come tomorrow or possibly never

Now that the self-flagellation is over, Jose can get on to the business of flagellating others. Let’s try putting a cap on the Rays amazing season. Now that the Rays are tied with the Sox and are ready to fall into second, Jose feels like he needs a good headline to eulogize (note: euthanize?) their run. The leaders were:

Like Namesake, Rays think of Stay Puft, Have Problems
Like Ray Charles, Tampa Rays Arrested by Boston
You can call them Ray, and you can call them Jay, but you can’t call them champs.


But eventually Rays Disappear Over Horizon won for its sheer simplicity.

Still, we shouldn’t dismiss what the Rays have accomplished. Even if they ultimately finish in second place, they laid a stage for others to follow.

Before this season who would have believed that a loser from a small city, with no real history of accomplishment, stupid looking glasses and an association with people with absurd names like Aubrey, Midre and Delmon could ever hope to achieve success? And now those qualifications can make one a candidate for Vice President of these United States.

Truly, the Rays were the Mouse that Roared. You know, The Mouse that Roared don’t you? It’s a play and Peter Sellars movie about a tiny country, Grand Fenwick, which invades the U.S. in response to a trademark infringement in hopes of getting massive reparations. During the invasion of New York by chain mail clad long bowman, which is presumed to be a joke, Grand Fenwick captures the dreaded Q-Bomb making it a global super power. This is basically what Tampax Bay did. All they wanted was revenue sharing, but wholly by mistake, they ended up a feared and powerful team. Of course the Mouse that Roared was fiction and ended with the U.S. paying tribute to the medieval duchy. In reality, Grand Fenwick would have been nuked and overall destroyed. Since the Tampax Bay Rays are a true story and not fiction, that is pretty much where we are headed.

Nevertheless, kudos to the Rays on an extraordinary season, just next time, try not to think of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.


2. According to the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, following a curiously short start yesterday Scott “Disputed Province of” Kazmir was “extolling the virtues of finishing first.”

Is anyone surprised in the least that a man who couldn’t last for as long as was necessary last night was extolling the virtues of finishing first? Mrs. Disputed Province of Kazmir must be so sad.


3.The Globe reported today that Mike Lowell is suffering from a partially torn hip labrum that may well require surgery after the season.

Some readers might be surprised to hear this, given Lowell’s home run yesterday, but Jose is not shocked in the least. Of course, Lowell is swinging hard, of course he is playing nearly every day because… get ready for this… the hip labrum does not exist.

Saying that Lowell has a torn hip labrum is like saying that Lowell has a broken funny bone and will need surgery on it in the off-season. (Note: Theo Epstein may actually have a broken funny bone.) It’s a joke, a clever way of distracting attention from the real problem, that he’s just not hitting that well.

This is all a very baseball thing to do, inventing a body part to injure. Take the rotator cuff. Had anyone ever heard of the rotator cuff before pitchers started throwing in the high 90s? Of course not. But suddenly there are all of these should be stud pitchers who throw 98 and still can’t get anyone out. How can that be? It must be an injury, but the MRI doesn’t show anything? Ah, it must be the rotator cuff.

Besides, just as there is no bone that makes you funny, there is no labrum that makes you hip. Hip, as everyone knows, resided in the fingers.

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