Tuesday, March 25

Same (Expletive), Different Year

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

1. There is a tendency on these days of pomp and pageantry for self-important scribes to exaggerate the significance of human events. It is this inclination that leads inevitably to the endless march of picayune prose that marks any occasion of note. Even worse, it can lead to alliteration. From inaugurations, to opening days, to graduations, the spirit of the story is the same year after year and too often the words are as well.

Jose began to write this KEY last night with the declaration, thrice repeated “Thank God for baseball.” After getting stuck in a clumsy metaphor of desert and oasis, Jose turned to the opening day KEYS from last year in search of inspiration and there he found it.

“Thank God for Opening Day. "

It was a striking rebuke to his sense of himself as an original, as a one of a kind. Simply replacing a comparison between himself and a heroin addict with a vague reference to Battlestar Galactica (note: so say we all), was not enough to sooth his soul. The introduction would have to go and with it Jose’s smug certainty of his own cleverness. This has all happened before, it will all happen again. (Note: There’s the Battlestar reference. See what Jose is reduced to when there is no baseball on—James Edward Olmos. Not good.)

Now into his fifth year of writing, Jose is as much a hack as any beat writer or world-weary columnist. He is just as prone to tired gimmicks and weary metaphors.

And does the Red Sox historic trek to Japan provide relief? Only in the sense that Ken Ryan provided relief in 1995. Rather, the significance of the occasion simultaneously raises the stakes and opens new, trap doors of cliché and ponderousness.

The Red Sox are in Japan? Why not write about sushi? Or sumo? Or bowing? Or karaoke? Or sex with space octopi?

Why wouldn’t Jose suggest that it is curious that 156 years after Commodore Matthew Perry opened Japan, Japan is opening the American League. (Note: With the obligatory quip that opening Japan and staring in Friends makes the Commodore versatile indeed.)

Why wouldn’t Jose imply that the Oakland A’s may already be operating under Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which expressly bans going on offense?

Why wouldn’t Jose quip that the reason Bartolo Colon didn’t go on the trip is that he heard the country is run by The Diet?

Why indeed?

This is opening day of the baseball season. Today, the records are all 0-0. Today Kevin Cash is batting the same as David Ortiz. (Note: Check that, Kevin Cash actually starts the season batting -.162) Today, everyone is in first place. Today, everyone gets a fresh start. And that includes Jose. Maybe he’ll run out old stories and reuse obsolete nicknames because this is spring training and everything old is new again… except for Curt Euro… and Tim Wakefield…and Mike Lowell… and… well, Ellsbury’s new.

2. In the absence of baseball for the last few months, Jose has been paying attention to politics. On the one hand, this is a bad thing, because it turns out, Jose hates you. Your beliefs are wrong, your candidate’s tactics are vile and if your champion is elected (s)he will most likely destroy America, except for Florida, which even in the absence of 49 other states would still somehow get a massive federal bailout.

On the other hand, it is a good thing, because it has convinced Jose that there is a baseball related excuse for pretty much every gaff made on the campaign trail with the exception of Gerald Ford’s 1976 claim that Poland was not under Soviet domination. The only baseball-related explanation for that would be if he took a fastball in the ear sometime during the campaign.

Consider one recent example. When Dr. Samantha Power, an Obama foreign policy advisor got in hot water for calling Hilary Rodham Clinton “a monster,” she could have wriggled out of it if only she had invoked her Red Sox fandom. (Note: Jose is a big fan of Dr. Power’s work. However, her decision to call her book about genocide “A Problem From Hell” made it impossible, even callous for Jose to use the title for his book about managing the 1997 Red Sox bullpen. It would have been called “A Problem From Hell: The Red Sox in the Age of Slocumb and Trlicek”.)

If Jose had been doing crisis communications for the Obama campaign, he would have urged Dr. Power to recontextualize the statement rather than disavow it. Her statement should have been

When I called Senator Clinton a “monster” I did not mean that she is a terrible person who would stoop to any level to get elected, and I regret that she viewed it that way. As you know, I am a Red Sox fan, and thus view the term “monster” as a reference to Fenway Park’s famous left field wall. What I meant to communicate when I called Senator Clinton a “monster” is that she is far too green, looks more imposing than she actually is, is gradually being sold to corporate interests and is confusing to the Japanese.

Similarly, Jose is certain that former Congresswoman and Clinton advisor Geraldine Ferraro could have explained away her comment that Senator Obama is “lucky” to be black. All she needed to do was to clarify that Obama was “lucky” in the same sense that Jackie Robinson was “lucky” because his skin color won him the first baseman’s job on the 1947 Dodgers vastly more experienced Ed Stevens.

Of course, the analogy is not perfect, as Ed Stevens never claimed marriage to long time Dodgers first baseman Dolph Camili as his primary experience.

3. Kudos to the Boston Globe for rightly calling Terry Eurona the best manager in Red Sox history. After all of the garbage he taken from fans and press alike en route to two titles in four years, the commendation is well-deserved. As long as we’re heaping praise on the bald and the beautiful, Jose would also like to congratulate Tito on being a reincarnation of the Buddha.

Even putting the baldness, aside, it makes sense. When asked about how he was dealing with jet lag, Tito told the Boston Globe “I feel like [expletive] today, but I feel like [expletive] every day, so I'm fine. We're fine.”

Have you ever heard a more elegant explanation of noble truths one, three, four and possibly two?

One: Tito acknowledges that existence is suffering. “I feel like [expletive] today”

Two: Okay, this one is only implicit. Tito does not specifically state that his desire—his desire to not have been on a plane for 18 hours—is the cause of his suffering, but it is totally in the subtext.

Three: Tito extinguishes his suffering by no longer desiring not to suffer. “But I feel like [expletive] every day, so I'm fine.”

Four: Tito walks the middle path, desiring only to do his duty. “We're fine.”

This is heavy stuff. Now if only Jose could determine the religious significance of "I've seen [Youkilis] in the shower and, let me tell you, he's not the Greek God of anything." It probably has something to with Chinese rule in Tibet.

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


Orlando Rays said...

I have come to the realization that you are a key reason for the recent success of the Red Sox.

You started in 2004, the Red Sox have since won two World Championships.

And as a Buddhist, I'm touched by your third key. :) Here's to a good season.

toekneearmass said...

Happy happy joy joy! Baseball's back, and so are regular Keys!

Looking forward to a great season, Jose. Bring the heat.


Caroline said...

Ooh, is it flipped on? It looks like Jose has flipped it on!

Welcome back, Jose. And welcome back, baseball.

(And Welcome back, Kotter, but that's another thing altogether).

Anonymous said...

Now that baseball and you are back I have something fun to look forward to ! G.L.