Tuesday, April 14

Statement of Interest

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

1. Jose spent a good chunk of a recent afternoon writing a proposal to go to Japan under a program that identifies promising, young U.S. leaders. As part of the application process, Jose had to write a 500-word essay explaining his interest and what he would like to learn in Japan.

It was hard enough for Jose to stick to a miserly 500 words, it was harder still for him to use the dreaded first person singular, but the hardest thing of all was to hide what he really wanted to write. Jose wrote a more or less (note: less) competent essay about his interest in learning the underpinnings of the Japanese economic miracle and seeing Japan take a leading role in international economic development, but that’s not what was in his heart. What he really wanted to write was

Japan is a most extraordinary nation. From its stunning transformation from a feudal backwater at the mercy of Perry’ s black ships to conqueror of the Tsars in just 50 years, from being conquered by Tom Cruise to convincing American children that Pokemon makes sense, Japan has been a nation capable of constant innovation and reinvention, without losing the ancient and serene traditions that underlie its civilization. But despite its brilliance, despite its marvels of technology, lies a dark and disturbing truth—Japan cannot produce a “national treasure” pitcher who can throw strikes.

How can the nation that invented the Walkman also produce… the Walk Man. How is it possible that Daisuke Matsuzaka can be so good, yet so infuriating? And before we push Japan to take a lead in international development, shouldn’t we consider this problem? Would we really want Japan to advise and assist the Dominican Republic on economic development if it turned walk rate of some budding Pedro Martinez into that of Dice K?

2. Okay, so this season is staring to turn into sort of a downer. There are a lot of things about the slow start that concern Jose, but none more so than the risk of 2009 turning into another 1996. As you may recall, in 1996, the Kevin Kennedy led Red Sox came into the season completely unprepared and started the season with Roger Clemens bowing to Texas’ Lynn’s own Ken Hill (note: never take Clemens over Ken Hill in a big game) before getting off to a 2-75 start.

But there are graver issues at play here. As you recall, the 1996 season turned around when the Red Sox traded Jamie Moyer to Seattle for Darren Bragg and Jeff Frye. Moyer, of course, went on to pitch effectively for another 90 years, whereas Darren Bragg emerged as a gritty white guy and perhaps the greatest man to ever come out of Waterbury, Connecticut save for noted war hero, Hogan from Hogan’s Heroes. Jeff Frye was nicknamed for a corn chip.

Jose has no interest in seeing Jon Lester traded for a midget and a gritty player, so Jose would really like to see the Red Sox turn it around, say, now.

3. A sideshow of this week’s trip to Oakland is that it represents the first time in his career that former Red Sox legend-to-be Nomar Garciaparra has played against the Red Sox. The natural temptation at a time like this would be to look at what has become of Nomar’s career, shake one’s head sadly, and wonder what might have been. Since Garciaparra left, the Red Sox have used five different regular starting shortstops, most of whom have performed poorly, and none of whom have managed to stick.

On the upside, the Red Sox did win two world championships and avoided paying big money to a player who declined rapidly. On the other hand, Nomar famously kept a red line around his locker that reporters could not cross, and given the cost of getting on the red line these days, the Red Sox really could have benefit from that revenue stream.

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