Tuesday, August 26

You Have No Idea

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

1. Jose has finally answered one of the great imponderables of life.

Which one is it, you say?

What is the meaning of life? Nope.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Nah. Jose answered that back in 2006.

What Jose has answered is whether relief pitchers get really bored in the bullpen.

Last night, Jose attended his first Durham Bulls game, and had the good fortune in the late innings to sneak down one of the picnic areas where he got to chat with Evan Meek, who was at the time, the only member of the Indianapolis Indians (note: not affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, Cherokee Indians or sub continental Indians) bullpen who spoke English. Meek, a pudgy fireballer, who has been unimpressive in his 13 innings in The Show, turned out to be fairly desperate for someone to talk to. As Meek lofted a high arc and drained his third wad of gum into a trash barrel ten feet away, Jose asked the only question he had ever really wanted to ask to a reliever pitcher: “Do you guys get really bored out here?”

“You have no idea,” the mournful reply slipped through weary lips below glassy eyes.

What Jose regrets now is that he didn’t offer any suggestions for how Meek and his colleagues could liven up the bullpen experience. Relievers, of course, have spend a century developing ways to amuse themselves, from spitting seeds competitively, to the Red Sox bullpen drum corps to David Cone’s unfortunate experiment in bullpen self-gratification. But perhaps, these fellows are deep in the system, too stultified by dreary repetition to come up with anything inventive.

Thus, Jose offers a few ideas.
  • Memorize the Koran. When you memorize the Koran then you earn the title “Hafiz.” Jose would enjoy hearing the announcement, “Now pitching for the Red Sox… number 50… Hafiz Mike Timlin…Timlin.”
  • Pursue the X prize for the 100-mile per gallon car. At $10 million, that’s still enough to motivate a major leaguer. Just ask Manny.
  • Start a crystal meth lab. Not only is it profitable, the product will make the games go faster. Better still, amphetamines are part of baseball’s cultural heritage, so it’s kind of like a throw back thing.
  • Plot a revolution in your native country. (Note: Americans, do not do this. Jose in no way advocates the overthrow of the U.S. government, unless U.S. stands for Upper Silesia, the government of which is crap.)
  • If you plan on attacking employees with a machete in the future (note: see Urbina, Ugueth Urtain) prepare defense strategy.
  • And of course, finally, what every reliever coming up through the minors should focus on is what his entrance music will be.

Not paying attention?

2. A Red Sox fan in Jose’s program revealed to Jose yesterday that her English-American Catholic brother named his son Kapler, in honor of Gabe Kapler, “The World’s Most Perfectly Sculpted Jew.”

At first Jose was going to write about how this had to have been the first goyish child on earth named after Gabe Kapler. But then Jose thought about it and realized, that this is probably the first child anywhere named after Kapler. The only people who would likely want to name their kid after him would be Jews, but Jews famously, do not name their children after living people. To do so, is extremely bad luck for the person from whom the name is taken. Which raises an important question: Why does Jose’s classmate’s brother want Gabe Kapler to die?

3. The Red Sox begin their final trip to Yankee Stadium this week, and Jose is awash in memories. The Slap, clinching in 2004. There was probably some other stuff that happened before 2004, but Jose doesn’t really remember. Funny that.

But Jose wants to share one special memory with you, the story of his first and only trip to Yankee Stadium. The only time Jose made it there was in 1989 as the terrible Yankees played the slightly less terrible Red Sox, in a meaningless late season game. It was rainy that day in the Bronx or perhaps it was the odor hanging thick in the air. Jose’s predominant memory, as part of a group of 80 seventh graders there, was that there was a Yankee fan, perhaps 18 or 19 who wanted to fight us. What strength! What nobility! What courage a man must have to take on 80 children accompanied by several middle aged ladies!

And that, more than anything, is what Jose will miss about Yankee Stadium—
the passion. The passion that drives a man to threaten students. The passion that sends D cells flying into the field. The passion that encourages New Jersey brats to interfere with balls in play. The passion that demands that the police come on to the field to protect players following a correct call.

So long Yankee Stadium. Next year you may be gone, but Jose knows a lot of Bostonians who will keep you alive in little plastic bags, filled one October night in two thousand four, year of our lord.

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