Monday, May 3

Whatever Happens They Have Got.

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

Jose is a little bored.

He’s done with school, hasn’t started with work and his car has a problem stopping which makes going on a long pointless drive to some place like Metropolis, Kentucky a less than great idea. He raised the issue of his ennui with Granny Melendez the other day, and she suggested that he take up a hobby. Jose wanted to respond that baseball is his hobby, but a hobby is supposed to bring some level of enjoyment and make the time pass more quickly, so baseball isn’t much of a hobby these days—it’s more of a burden really. So she suggested, that Jose go to Michael’s and take up some sort of crafts hobby.

This doesn’t seem terribly likely. First, Jose is not that crafty. He’s not Jamie Moyer. Second what exactly would Jose do? Could he make images of DJ Dru out of macaroni? Perhaps he could needlepoint inspirational messages like “Catch the bleeping ball.” Maybe he could make a scrapbook commemorating Adrian Beltre’s walks? Of course, that one isn’t going to kill much time.

Ultimately, it just doesn’t feel like the right kind of hobby for Jose. Still, Jose needed some kind of distraction, so he thought he’d return to the sort of thing he enjoyed back before his days as a scholar. Jose picked up some history books and began scanning them for historical events that he could compare inappropriately to the Red Sox. Given the current state of the club, he went directly to the tragic, and lo and behold, he found it, and fast.

Trust Jose, there is no better place to find analogies to the current state of the Red Sox than in the colonial history of Tanganyika. Immediately, the similarities were clear. Pre-colonial Tanganyika lacked broad central organization, so do the Red Sox. Colonial Tanganyikans had no idea how to play baseball, neither do the Red Sox. But the specific analogy Jose would like to draw is between the Maji Maji Rebellion and the 2010 Red Sox.

For those of you who are victims of our public schools’ tragic under-emphasis of early 20th Century East African history, the Maji Maji Rebellion was a revolt of various Tanganyikan tribes against German rule that lasted from 1905 to 1907. The maji, for which the rebellion is named, was a tribal medicine that, many believed, would turn German bullets to water. Armed with the confidence that they were impervious to the Germans’ terrifying machine guns, warriors treated with maji put up the last great resistance of the German colonial era. The problem, of course, was that the maji didn’t work. By one estimate, the final tally was 250,000-300,000 rebels dead compared with 15 Europeans, 73 askari (locals fighting for the Germans) and 316 auxiliaries (note: from John Illife’s excellent, if dense, A History of Modern Tanganyika p.200).

As miserably inappropriate as it is to compare slaughter on this scale to something as trivial as baseball, (note: not trivial), there is an analogy to be drawn.

The leaders of the Maji Maji Rebellion repeated often and loudly that the maji would work. The repeated it so often that many people, though far from all, began to believe it, despite all evidence. The Red Sox did the same thing. All summer, they told us about a charm called run prevention and how it would neutralize the maxim guns running up and down the Yankees and Rays lineups. And armed with this confidence in the magic, we the soldiers of Red Sox nation charged into the breech, and guess what? Yeah. Our stats look only marginally better than the Maji Maji.

Hillaire Beloc once wrote in his poem The Modern Traveler.

Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not

Jose would suggest that when the line and verse is written for this season the most memorable line will be:

Whatever happens, they have got
Offensive teams, and we have not.

Perhaps, we don’t really need an offensive team. Perhaps if the pitchers had thrown as advertised and the fielders had picked the horsehide clean and crisp, the offensive struggles would not have been a problem. Of course, if the maji had worked, the rebels’ lack of machine guns wouldn’t have been a problem either. And so we are stuck outgunned relying on magicks both ancient and really ineffective.

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