Friday, October 9

ALDS Game 2--Incompetence Rewarded

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

1. By the time Darren Oliver—freaking Darren Oliver—recorded the last out the bar had changed.

The night had begun as a gathering of grizzled Red Sox fans chugging Yuenglings and chomping on chicken wings cursing C.B. Bucknor, John Lackey and Torii Hunter all the while. But as the night wore on the undergrads flowed in. Young women dressed to the nines, despite being at a bar with sticky floors and sticky palmed frat boys stumbled in in packs like hyenas, cackling incomprehensible. The men in white caps, polo shirts and sweaters joined quickly enough, looking for all the world like everything wrong with America. Entitlement, arrogance, stupid looking caps.

It was, in a way, a metaphor for what had transpired in far away Anaheim that evening. A night had begun with one expectation had ended as something different, something sadder. Just as night with friends became a night surrounded by youth in the full flower of ignorance, a night to celebrate the glory of baseball and the Red Sox in particular had become a night to begrudge, to carp and to complain.

But thankfully, that is not where the metaphor ends. Come two in the morning, the undergrads are gone, and the bar has returned to its lonely natural state with naught but a urine filled trash can as a reminder of what came before. It is the same way with the ALDS. Today is not yesterday, the aggravations of Game 1 are gone, relics of history leaving behind nothing but the urine filled trashcan of a 1-0 deficit. Yesterday was bad; today will be better… It has to be.

2. Among the sub-dramas in last night’s game were the two blown calls by first base umpire C.B. Bucknor.

Bucknor is on the officiating crew for this series, despite being named in a 2006 Sports Illustrated players survey as the worst umpire in the majors, and possibly the universe. At first it might seem counterintuitive to reward massive incompetence with a prestigious job, but Jose would argue that not only is it not unprecedented, it is practically standard practice in this country. Consider the following examples:

• Robert McNamara and Paul Wolfowitz screw up wars royally and get to run the World Bank.
• Grady Little after making one of the dumbest moves in history gets a job managing the Los Angeles Dodgers.
• After staring in Joey, Matt LeBlanc gets a new sitcom.
• Fugitive Roman Polanski wins an Oscar and gets a standing ovation.
• Approximately 10 billion CEO’s who ran their companies into the ground get golden parachutes.
• George W. Bush is reelected in 2004 after screwing up the Iraq war and seeming generally clueless.

Still for every one of these injustices there is a reason that it happened. McNamara and Wolfowitz were being rewarded for loyalty. Little was being rewarded for Frank McCourt being very, very stupid, and basically the front man for his wife. LeBlanc was being rewarded for having once been on a successful show carried by other people. Polanski was being rewarded for Hollywood being full of degenerates. CEOs were being rewarded for being smart enough to rig the game. Bush, of course, was rewarded for hating gays or possibly terrorists.

So the lesson is that people are rewarded for incompetence happens all the time but that there is always a reason for it. The question is what is the reason in the case of one C.B. Bucknor? Jose wonders if his initials, which are not even explained on wikipedia might hold the clue. Jose has come up with a few theories:

1. Cuckolding Bud: For years, Bucknor has been sexually servicing commissioner Bud Selig’s wife, which, unsurprisingly, is the sort of thing Bud digs.

2. Cortland Brotherhood: Bucknor attend SUNY Cortland, and as we all know Cortland’s secret societies run the world.

3. Crack Baby: A crack baby made the decisions on who would umpire playoff games. Literally, an infant born addicted to crack chose Bucknor to be a playoff umpire. This seems like the most sensible option.

4. Coke Bottles: He’s a perfectly good umpire when wearing his Coke bottle glasses, but he doesn’t wear them because they make him look like a nerd. This doesn’t really make any sense, but Jose is a traditionalist and he doesn’t really see how you can mock an umpire without suggesting that he is blind.

5. Crazy Bitches: Man, the people who choose umpires are some crazy bitches.

6. Corns and Bunions: A better umpire was unavailable due to foot problems.

See, there are lots of perfectly reasonable explanations for why the worst umpire in baseball would be rewarded for his poor job performance by umpiring a playoff game. But Jose is going with cuckolding Bud. The only question is whether the commissioner also turns a blind eye to the use of performance enhancing drugs in the bedroom.

3. The big news this morning was that Victor Martinez will indeed catch St. Josh a Beckett in tonight’s critical second game of the ALDS. There had been speculation that Sox manager Tito Eurona might go with the corpse of Jason Vartiek in deference to Beckett’s preference for having base runners steal at every opportunity and having balls sneak by the catcher in critical situations.

The question of course, is whether Beckett will be comfortable with Martinez behind the plate. On the face of it, “Are you comfortable?” is an absurd question to ask in this situation. Maybe it’s appropriate to ask when you’ve invited a friend to take a seat or if you’re a doctor performing a colonoscopy, but to ask a pitcher? It’s kind of weird. Nevertheless, the issue seems to be there, so Jose wants to offer a few things for Beckett to remember if he starts feeling uncomfortable.

• Victor means “one who wins.” Jason means guy who ran all of Greece looking for wool made out of gold—not that bright.
• Heidi Whatney ditched Tek, who left his wife for her, to be with Nick Green. You’ll never see Chris Woodward taking Victor Martinez’ girl.
• The C on Varitek’s jersey does not stand for comfortable. Try to remember that.
• Victor Martinez isn’t great at blocking balls or throwing people out, but he can hit. Jason Vartiek… well, he punched A-Rod in the face once. We all enjoyed that.

So relax Josh. Get comfortable, and remember, it’s not like you’ve never thrown to another catcher in the post season. You threw to Ivan Rodriguez in 2003, and as Jose recalls, that worked out pretty well.

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

Thursday, October 8

ALDS GAME 1--No More Playing the Angles

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS to the ALDS.

1. Well, this feels kind of familiar doesn’t it?

Jose, who let’s be honest, is aging worse than the bastard child of Curt Euro and Jim Rice, doesn’t have the fastball anymore, so he figured he could rely on trickery to fight his way through the playoffs this year.

The trickery he had in mind was going back to the ALDS KEYS from 2004, 2007 and 2008 to see if there was anything he could just recycle from past ALDS KEYS about the Angels.

No, is the answer. No there is not.

Jose has nothing that he hasn’t regurgitated at least once already. Basically, it’s all about Angles and Normans, Harold and William the Conqueror, and frankly its tired, somnolent even. One can only reference wrestling legend Norman the Lunatic in the context of the Norman invasion of the British Isles so many times (note: once) before it stops being funny or even mildly ironic.

So that’s it. No more. Jose will no longer pretend that the name of the team that our beloved Red Sox are playing this week is the Angles rather than the Angels. Nor will he claim that we are playing the Gleans, the Slag En or any other anagram you can come up with.

No, Jose will actually accept that we are playing a team of creatures that are small enough to dance on the head of a pin and look remarkably like John Travolta circa 1996 or so.

This does raise some serious questions for the series, however. For instance, if a whole bunch of angels can dance on the head of a pin, doesn’t this mean that they will have very small strike zones? How will this affect Dice-K’s ability to throw strikes? Is Michael Napoli the archangel Michael? You know, the warrior guy? Jose is just saying that he doesn’t look so tough.

The challenges run deeper than that though. When Jose thought they were Angles, the key to victory was simple, conquer their island and intermarry with them. But now? Angels don’t live on an island, and as best Jose knows, they don’t marry, so what do we do?

The best Jose can come up with is… bear with Jose… driving a stake through their hearts. Jose is pretty sure he saw a TV show once, Buffy something, where there was a guy named Angel, who Jose figures must be an angel, you know because of his name, who got killed when a blonde chick shoved a stake through his heart.

Jose knows it doesn’t sound quite right, more vampire than angel, but even when this guy Angel got killed or vanquished, which seemed like it happened about a million times, he always seemed to come back a year or so later, just like the Los Anaheim Angels, so Jose thinks he’s on to something.

So Jose says we should go with the stakes, either that or pitching, timely hitting and not playing Tek.

2. In Siren of the Titans Kurt Vonnegut wrote of Angels

There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.

It is a fair point. As Jose contemplates the Los Anaheim Angels’ legacy of postseason defeat at the hands of the Red Sox, a string of futility that has seen them win only one of their last 12 postseason meetings, he begins to wonder if Vonnegut isn’t right. Perhaps the Angels’ struggles are a function of organization as much as anything else. Certainly this was the case with the Red Sox in the era that ended in 2004. No matter how gifted the team was it was never well organized. The owner, the rock upon which an organization rests, was always either a drunk, or a racist, or the widow of a drunk or a racist, or the accountant of the widow of a drunk or a racist. And this disorganization flowed downward into managers who were drunks or racists, or who managed like the widow of a drunk or a racist or occasionally were neither drunks nor racists, but did enjoy the burning high of the coca leaf milled powder fine. (Note: Sorry Butch.) The base coaches were probably mostly assholes too, but who can remember?

The results of the disorganization were predictable—failure after failure, loss after loss, heartbreak after heartbreak. But when ownership changed, then management changed (note: after 2003) and then outcomes changed. The Red Sox became the sorts of cold blooded assassins who could let an aging Pedro Martinez walk away or cast DLowe the Paranoid Android into the icy void. And three years later, they won it all again.

But the Angles? The Angles do not appear to be organized like the mafia. For instance, imagine the classic opening scene from The Godfather if Mike Scioscia replaced Vito Corelone.

BONASERA: I -- I went to the police, like a good American... And those two bastards
they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, "for justice, we must go to Don Scioscia."

MIKE SCIOSCIA (sitting behind his desk, petting a cat): Why did you go to the police? I wouldn’t have gone to the police. What you should have done was first gone to the pawnshop and gotten a pair of brass knuckles for your left hand. Then you should have traded them in for a pair of brass knuckles for your right hand. Then you should have traded those back for a different left-handed pair. Why didn't you come to me first, I could have told you how to do things much better than you did them.

BONASERA: What do you want of me? Tell me anything. But do what I beg you to do.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: What is that?

[Bonasera gets up to whisper his request into Don Scioscia’s ear]

That I cannot do. But I have a better way to do it. It doesn’t involve so much… force… but it involves a lot of running. Running this way, then the other way. Maybe some hit and running even.

BONASERA: I'll give you anything you ask.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We've known each other many years, but this is the first time you came to me for counsel, for help, for assistance, for advice, for ideas…But let's be frank here: you never wanted my friendship. And uh, you were afraid to be in my debt. And that’s really too bad because I have a lot of really good ideas. I’m incredibly smart. Smarter than you. So smart that I won the 2002 World Series.

BONASERA: I didn't want to get into trouble.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I understand. That’s why I like the hit and run. Keeps you out of double plays… or sometimes it gets you into double plays, which I like to call double trouble. But uh, now you come to me and you say -- "Don Scioscia give me justice." -- But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me Manager. Instead, you come into my house on the day of ALDS game 1, and you uh ask me to do murder, for money.

BONASERA: I ask you for justice.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Technically, that is not justice; your daughter is still alive. Also do you really want David Justice, he only stole 53 bases in his entire career? That’s pathetic, stolen bases are so important.

BONASERA: Then they can suffer then, as she suffers. How much shall I pay you?

MIKE SCIOSCIA (stands, turning his back toward Bonasera): Bonasera... Bonasera... What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?

BONASERA: Be my friend -- (then, after bowing and the Don shrugs) -- Manager?

MIKE SCIOSCIA (after Bonasera kisses his hand): Good. Some day, and that day may never come, but it probably will. I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But uh,
until that day -- accept this justice as a gift on the day of the ALDS Game 1.

BONASERA (as he leaves the room): Grazie, Manager.

(then, to Tom Hagen, after Bonasera leaves the room)

Ah, give this to ah, Clemenza. I want reliable people. But then if he doesn’t get it done give it to Tessio, but if Tessio doesn’t look so good, go out and visit him, and then if he still doesn’t look so good visit him again and then take him off the and give it to Luca Brasi. And make sure they bring a baseball bat, but I don’t want them to swing the bat… too risky. Instead have them play it safe and just sort of tap these guys with bat, softly. Maybe our guy will get arrested, but it will be a productive arrest. I just want to make sure that we run a mafia the right way. Like the old time mafia. You know, maybe I’ll go and supervise, offer some pointers. Could David Eckstein do the job?

You can begin to see the contours of the problem now can’t you? This sort of organizational structure is too top down and too micromanaged to successfully rough up anybody, much less run rackets.

The flip side, of course, is that if Don Corleone or any other really top flight Mafiosi had been managing the angels for the last five years, the Angels would have absolutely beaten the Red Sox after Manny Ramirez freaked out when he found the carburetor from his prized Cadillac in his bed.

3. In his column yesterday in the Orange County Register, Bill Plunkett asked a provocative question: “Are the Red Sox inside the Angels’ heads?” At first it seems stupid, idiotic really. How could an entire baseball team fit inside a man’s head? But then you realize that it’s a metaphor and you always take things way too literally after 12 beers.

Which leaves the question, well it leaves the question the next morning anyway: Are the Red Sox figuratively inside the Angels heads?

And the answer is yes. Yes they are. After perusing the DSM-IV, Jose has concluded that the Angels collectively are suffering from hydrophobia. Wait, never mind, that’s rabies. The Angels don’t have rabies, that’s the Yankees, well Joba anyway, drooling idiot.

What the Angels have is aquaphobia, a fear of water—dirty water in particular.

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