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.

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, 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.