Monday, October 20

Summer's Gone

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

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.