Wednesday, April 8

Being Drunk is the Optimal Explaination

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

1. As Jose rolled into the bar somewhere during the third inning and settled in for seven hours of Yuengling pitchers, bacon cheese fries and baseball, Jose made a starling, shameful and disturbing mistake.

He looked up and the screen noted that Jason Varitek was at bat, and immediately went into a tirade about the captain’s diminishing skills. He was quickly shut up, however, by stinging shot to the gap. Jose was stunned. It just didn’t add up.

And then it hit him.

That wasn’t Jason Varitek. It was Kevin Youkilis.

The fact that Jose, on a casual glance, mistook Youk for Tek, has several possible implications—all of them bad.

Jose sees the following possibilities:

• Jose has been away from Boston for way too long, and can now do a better job of telling white Duke basketball players apart than two goateed Red Sox.
• Youk’s swing has gotten long, looping and terrible.
• Jose was drunk at four in the afternoon.

Jose, to be frank, is hoping for the third. There is so much less stigma to public drunkenness than to confusing two Red Sox… unless of course it is Hideki Okajima and Dice K, who as David Ortiz pointed out, look exactly the same.

2. Today marks the first Red Sox start for former Ray’s outfielder Rocco Baldelli, also know as the “Woonsocket Rocket.” He is, of course, known as the Woonsocket Rocket because he hails from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and, much like the rocket recently launched by the North Koreans, has a tendency to fall apart before achieving his objective.

Still, as aeronautic nicknames go, it does appear to be an upgrade on Manny “Unmanned Drone” Ramirez, Curt “Goodyear Blimp” Euro and Kevin “Midgetman Missile” Millar. That’s right Millar, Jose knows your humiliating secret.

3. Like many native Bostonians Jose was touched by Senator Edward Kennedy’s trip to the park yesterday to throw out the first pitch. It was hard for him to watch though.

Just watching Senator Kennedy make that sad, weak little toss that fell to the ground so short of its target brought back too many memories, too many gossamer recollections of days gone by. Who could help but think of past days of youth and achievement? Who could resist dwelling on images of Camelot lost?

Yes, who among us, while watching that sad toss couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for Johnny Damon?

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

Tuesday, April 7

All This Has Happened Before

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

1. All this has happened before, all this will happen again.

That’s how it is on opening day.

The sweet smell of fertilizer, the piquant stench of watery beer, the first pitch thrown in anger, up high and tight on a hated rival.

All this has happened before, all this will happen again. In fact, it all happened before yesterday.

Then it rained.

Then Jose had to adapt this KEY that he had written furiously to today.

All this has happened before, all this will happen again.

It will happen, we know, because God decided that it will. Jose had never been terribly amenable to these creation science arguments. You know the ones.

“If it’s really complicated, God must have done it.”

Ben Stein (note: who, according to Jose’s sources, once gave a girl for whom he pined a bag of his toenails) couldn’t convince Jose, that creation museum in Kentucky that Jose didn’t visit couldn’t convince him, but Battlestar Galactica?


Have some fictional angels resembling a fictional person and a fictional robot tell Jose God did it all, and he will buy right in. (Note: The subhead for Ben Stein’s creationism movie Expelled was “No Intelligence Allowed.” Jose almost went to see it thinking it was about the Grady Little era.)

Which bring Jose to his thesis statement, let’s see, eleven dubious paragraphs in (note to Jose’s students: never do this, it’s only cool when Jose does it)—Thank God for Opening Day.

Of course, as long as Jose is purporting that all this has happened before, and all this will happen again, he should probably concede that there are a few things that don’t seem to have happened before, and a few things that he hopes won’t happen again.

For instance, Jose does not really remember Seal ever singing the national anthem (note: though has he ever sung crazy for Papelbon’s entrance?) He remembers a seal barking out the national album, but it is possible that it was the Cowsills. (Note: Would Buster Bluth from television’s Arrested Development freak out if he saw Seal, or is it just the mammals that scare him?) Oh, but now, Seal isn’t performing the national anthem. See? Things are falling into alignment.

Jose also doesn’t recall opening against the defending American League Champion Tampax Bay Rays. He recalls opening against the Rays before, just not with them as champions of anything. Jose is pretty sure they were not even the champions of Tampa the last time the Red Sox opened against them. Well, maybe Tampa, but not. St. Pete. As Jose recalls, the last time the Sox opened against the Rays, there was then, as now, a Kennedy involved. Whereas today Sen. Ted Kennedy will throw out the first pitch, in 2003, his nephew Rep. Joe Kennedy started for the Rays. (Note: God rest his soul.) This one doesn’t seem to have been fixed by the delay. The Rays are still the champions of the American League… technically, in the sense that they beat us in the ALCS.

Jose just thought of another difference. He vaguely remembers us having a lunatic in left field last year, but maybe that was just a dream, a long, strange, sure thing 30 HR 100 RBI dream.

Also, there is this weird thing where Jose is not in Boston for opening day for the first time ever, and Jose must concede it is very, very strange. Here in Durham, North Carolina, Jose looks around and he only sees three people wearing Red Sox caps. Pathetic! And only one of them is wearing a jersey. And it’s a freaking Mosey Nixon jersey. Seriously, it’s like Jose has gone to hell, a temperate, basketball-loving hell with good BBQ and inexpensive housing.

But these small details aside, it’s all terribly familiar. It’s April in Boston, and the chance of rain is 90% (note: 100%)... so is the chance of a Red Sox victory. (Note: Damn it the chance of precipitation today is 20%, however, Jose has identified several threats to the construct validity of likelihood of precipitation as a measure of the Red Sox’s chances of winning. First, Tampa may play sweet baseball, but they are not made of sugar. Second, Jose can’t remember what construct validity is. Still, writing KEYS while in the warm afterglow of a statistics class is the closest Jose will ever get to being a SABR guy.

Oh, and so say we all.

So say we all.

2. Among the elements missing from the Red Sox roster this year will be Curt Euro’s contract. Euro’s contract retired recently after a season where it put up an impressive 0.00 ERA with 0 home runs allowed, while collecting $8 million in what the CEO’s call “compensation.” The actual person to whom the contract used to be attached retired at the end of 2007.

3. In today’s opener, St. Josh Beckett takes on the man they call “Big Game” James Shields. Jose says “they” because it is not Jose who says it. Actually, Jose is not sure who says it, so let’s try the lead again in the passive voice.

In today’s opener, St. Josh Beckett takes on the man who is called “Big Game” James Shields.


Jose prefers to call him “Soul” James Shields. As you might imagine, there is a story behind this. Not a good story, but a story nevertheless. When Jose was a senior in high school, and a hot shot trombone player in the marching band, section leader in fact, there was this freshman clarinet player named James. James was a skinny, freckly red haired kid, who in addition to suffering from the handicap of playing the clarinet, also suffered from not having a soul. Check that, not having soul.

This proved to be a problem when the band was playing Stevie Wonder’s classic “I Wish.” On the breakdown, the band was supposed to go into a maneuver called the “spread, tilt and wail” which, even though it sounds like one of those made up sexual maneuvers like the Dirty Sanchez or the Fat Free Agent Bust, is an actual band move, wherein musicians put their legs shoulder length apart, tilt back and play to the gods.

Poor James just couldn’t swing it—both literally and figuratively. He was too square, too shy, too James. It was as if, to quote the band teacher referring to something completely different, you’d taken this hip, swinging mariachi band and dropped it in a box.

So the teacher did the only thing he could. He tried to pump James up by giving him a nickname. Sure, in the last eight years nicknames have proven to be a poor basis for a system of government, but this was 1994, and we didn’t know that yet.

And so Soul James was born.

And he played with soul. He had a soul. At least he thought he did. And people looking at him thought so too. But if you looked long enough, if you focused hard enough, he was still just a skinny, ginger freshman.

“Big Game” James Shields is not so different. You can give him the nickname, you can start him on opening day, you can have him spread, tilt and wail before the entire world. And he might get lucky. The bravado might fool some people, but not forever. He is still the same scared little rookie with an ERA approaching five on a terrible team, and on that third or fourth at bat, hitters age going to notice.

Maybe some day the man will match the name, but that day is not today. Today, he is just plain James.

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