Tuesday, October 29

10/30/2013 World Series Game 6--The Greatest Trick Jose Ever Pulled

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

1. Two years ago, Jose referred to our Game 6 starter, John Derran Lackey, as his second most hated Red Sox of all time after Wil Cordero.  This would have made him Jose’s most hated Red Sox that did not nearly murder his wife.  (Note: Roger Clemens is in a different category.  It’s hard to even think of him as a Red Sox any more.)  This was not an exaggeration.  Jose thought Lackey was a bad pitcher, a bad teammate and a bad guy.

Jose was wrong.

We now know for certain that Lackey is not a bad pitcher, that he was simply a victim of a bad injury.  Similarly, we now know he is not a bad teammate.  He had just fallen under the sway of Josh Beckett, who while a spectacular pitcher in his prime, is pretty clearly a jerk.  And having found that Lackey is a good pitcher and a good teammate, Jose will simply jump to the conclusion that Lackey must me a good person too, and that all of the nastiness surrounding his divorce was taken out of context.  Phew.

The Onion a few years ago, had a piece entitled “Superstitious John Lackey, has to build, destroy a luxury hotel before every start.”  It’s a joke, of course, but like the best jokes, it kind of reflects the truth.  Lackey may not destroy a hotel before his Game 6 start, but he destroyed, or at least appeared to destroy a team.  The kicker is that now he’s rebuilt it, or at least he’s been a cornerstone of reconstruction, and Game 6 is his chance to lay that last capstone on the beautiful, bearded edifice of the 2013 Red Sox

2.  Jose would like to publically thank wrestling legend The Iron Sheik for his offer to suplex tonight’s home plate umpire, Jim Joyce, and then to put Joyce in the camel clutch, break his back, and ultimately make Joyce the victim of crimes too graphic for discussion in a family blog.

That said, Jose would like to remind the Sheik that suplexing referees is a violation of Fenway’s strict code of conduct, and that the Sheik would be better served by express his displeasure with the umpire through well-established socially acceptable channels such as booing, hissing, or hitting him with a whiskey bottle.

3.  A few hours before Game 5, Jose recieved a message on his Facepage from a guy he’s known, though not terribly well, since middle school.  Here’s the note

“"Holy shit... You're Jose Melendez... That's awesome... Part of me wants to ask you for the 500+ hours back that I've spent reading your keys... But that's not right, since the keys are awesome... So... Thanks for the keys, Jose"”

There are a number of things that are interesting about this message.  First, if he spent 500+ hours reading KEYS, shouldn’t he know that it’s capitalized?  Second, as another friend asked, did this guy really take 500 hours to read KEYS and if so, was he a little… slow?

“This is a job for arithmetic!”  thought Jose.  So Jose did a little rough calculation (Note: Thanks to  SARR Society for American Reading Research) to figure this one out.  Jose once estimated that he wrote about 150,000 words per year.  Since he wrote KEYS actively for four years, that gives us 600,000 words.  To provide some context, that puts the whole of KEYS at slightly longer than War and Peace which checks in somewhere between 560K and 590K, but leaves it much shorter than Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, which is about 1.2 million.

If one assumes that the average American reads about 300 word per minute, that gives a result of 2,000 minutes, or thirty-three hours and 20 minutes to get through KEYS in its entirety.  So yes, Jose’s friend is a slow reader--like a Molina on the basepaths slow.

But none of that changes the fact that it was fundamentally cool to get a message from someone who was amazed by Jose’s secret identity.  It’s happened a few times before, and it never gets old.  A friend of a friend, who discovered Jose’s identity once described it as finding out that your friend Peter Parker is actually Spider-Man.  Another time, long after Jose had retired, he was doing his taxes online one evening, and a friend of his roommate’s saw the KEYS sticker on Jose’s computer.

“Do you read that blog?”  the fellow asked.

“Jose IS that blog,” Jose responded.

Jose imagines that being actually famous is better, but there’s something to be said for surprising people.  Sure being, David Ortiz has got to be amazing, but imagine for a moment that David Ortiz was only his baseball persona, that behind the home runs and heroics was some mere mortal.

Here’s the scene:  You’re at a dinner party with the humdrum acquaintances of some friend.  After your fourth cup of wine. (Note: maybe it’s Passover?) You casually mention your love of baseball.

“Do you know what I’m rather fond of?”  you say.  “The baseball matches.  I find them smashing!”  (Note: You are an English aristocrat for some reason)

Suddenly, the fellow to your right says, “Why you know, I play baseball!”

“Really?” you reply.  “Perhaps I’ve heard of you.” You say with a mixture of politesse and disdain.  You are sure you have not heard of him.  If this spectacled geek is a baseball player, it is probably in the Frontier League or something, but you are nothing if not polite (note: again, English and all).

“Perhaps, indeed!” responds your new chum.  “I play under the nom de guerre of “David Ortiz.”

Your jaw drops.  You feel faint.  He must be lying.  He has to be.  David Ortiz doesn’t wear glasses?  This guy wears glasses!

“Quite…” you respond, trying to keep your cool.

“Indeed,” responds Ortiz. “I am quite the bad motherfucker.”

See that would be cool right?  This is Jose’s life.

So on the occasion of this hopefully final game of the 2013 baseball season and end of Jose’s comeback.  Jose would like to take off the proverbial glasses for a moment and tell you who he truly is.


Jose is…

Cartman’s father.  No wait, wrong reveal.

Jose is David Ortiz.

It’s a Keyser Soze moment, right?  You see all of the pieces adding up now don’t you?.  The little fragments of 600,000 words of obfuscation and misdirection coming together like a jigsaw puzzle.

How do you think he got the inside scoop on the dugout huddle?  How come Jose only showed up in 2004?  (Note: Jose/David was shy his first year in town)  Why did Jose hate Dan Shaughnessy so much?  Why did Jose always taken it easy on Manny?

The greatest trick Jose Melendez ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

And like that, poof.

He's gone.

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

Monday, October 28

10/28/2013 World Series Game 5--Ortiz Explains It All

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

1. The turning point of last night’s game came when David Ortiz huddled together his teammates and gave them an inspirational speech.  Jose has the transcript.

Ortiz:  This is our f’ing city.

Pedroia:  No, this is St. Louis.  I think we might be in trouble if we can’t start hitting.

Ortiz: “My parents always told me to stay away from trouble. When I moved away from them at a young age, I was fine because they taught me how to do everything right.”

Saltalamacchia: I get that you can stay away from trouble, but what about me?  I just feel so useless.

Ortiz: Everybody has a responsibility in this game. Even the batboy.

Gomes:  I’m gonna get up soon Papi, what should I do?

Ortiz: Swing hard all the time. That’s what I’ve done my whole life—hit.”

Saltalamacchia: But following up,if  my responsibility is only as big as the bat boy’s,  I’m thinking about giving up.

Ortiz: What happened to me should teach everybody that you should never give up on anybody.

Berry: Papi, I’m still kind of new here and I find you intimidating.  Is it fair to say that you’re a little mean?

Ortiz: Some people think I'm mean, until they get to know me.

Nava:  Are you a robot?

Ortiz :I’m very mechanical, so if I have one thing that’s going in the wrong direction when I’m hitting, it’s hard for me to get a hit.

Nava: So that’s a yes?

Ortiz: I just try to put a good swing on the ball. That's about it.

Drew: Do you ever hear voices?  I might hear voices.

Ortiz: I can hear people screaming and wishing you the best.

Drew: Wishing ME the best?

Ortiz: Life is a challenge that you need. There's things in life that are going to throw you into the ground, but if you learn how to get up, that means you are not a quitter.”

Carp: So are you going to swing hard on this next at bat?

Ortiz: I just swing hard in case I hit it -- that's it

So you can see that it was more a Q&A than a pep talk but clearly it got the job done.  (Note: All David Ortiz lines taken (out of context) from actual David Ortiz quotes.  All comments by other members of the Red Sox are totally what they probably said.)

2.  Jonny Gomes heroism last night lead Jose to inquire into his background a little bit in hopes of learning more  about the man without an “h”  before he caught the nation’s eye as a Devil Ray.  Specifically, Jose was hoping to discover that Gomes was of hispanic heritage and that by pronouncing his name Gomes (note: rhymes with “gnomes”) instead of Gomes (note: rhymes with “no fez” --thank Ataturk!)  he had somehow pulled a heel turn on his hispanic heritage and that might be fun to joke about.  Ideally, Jose would have told a story about how when he was a kid, he and his friends had their own series of wrestling leagues (Middle East Wrestling, Ivory Coast Championship Wrestling, Southeast Asian World Class Wrestling, and so on) each of which had an elaborate cast of heroes, like the Fontaine Brothers, Tashu the Bloody Dragon and Cool Ultimatum and villains like Iran John, Soldier of Fortune and The Dean.  Among the most malevolent of the villains was a one time heroic American Indian wrestler named Chief Brave Arrow. But the Chief turned on his fans and his people, rebranding himself as “Chif Braveiro” an anti-Indian bigot, who would march to the ring with a (note: imaginary) sign reading “Indians Suck.”  

He was so evil.

So Jose was sort of imaging that maybe Gomes was that kind of villain turning on his heritage, not because Jose would approve of anyone turning his back on his heritage, but because, well, Jose isn’t stretched out and writing three KEYS for a third day in a row is kind of killing him.

Anyway, it turns out that Gomes is of Portuguese heritage, and Jose has no idea how the Portuguese pronounce Gomes.  To him  Portuguese sounds like Russians speaking Spanish.

But Jose does know a few things about the Portuguese, having visited Lisbon this summer and having spent a lot of time in and around New Bedford, a few of which might help explain Gomes heroic performance last night.   For instance, kale soup is very popular with Portuguese-Americans and it is regularly marketed as a “super vegetable.”  It seems like eating a super vegetable would help one  hit the ball a long way.  

Another useful fact is…

No, actually kale is all Jose’s got.

3.  Jose understands that Cardinals fans must be furious at Coltan Wong for getting picked off to end Game 4 with Carlos Beltran at the plate, but Jose thinks they are failing to see the big picture.

Don’t they know that little bits of coltan are in every cell phone and that long horrific wars have been fought in Congo over who gets to control this guy?

People in St. Louis need to read a newspaper every once in a while.

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

Sunday, October 27

10/27/04 World Series Game 5-- All This Has Happened Before

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

1.  Everyone needs to chill the f-- out.


You act like this has never happened before.  Have you really never seen the company screw the ugly, inelegant, blue collar upstarts to try to preserve the dominance of the clean cut pretty boys who “look the right way,” “play the right way,” and represent the business with “class?”

Dear God, it’s like you’ve never even watched pro wrestling before.  

Look, what we saw last night, an exciting game end in controversy is just what they do to amp up the tension and extend the story line. Jose has seen it a million times before.  Hell, the WWF is doing it right now.

Let Jose know if this sounds familiar.

There’s a wrestler named Daniel Bryan, he’s undersized and spend years toiling in the independent federations doing great work while only the most diehard of diehards noticed.  Now he’s on the big stage and he’s doing great.  He’s terrific at his sport and the fans love him.  But his adversaries?  They dismiss him and ridicule him.  They also zero in on his long scraggly beard and compare him to a goat.  Despite all of these obstacles, Bryan works himself into the championship picture and he keeps winning matches to get the title.

Now those of you who don’t follow the squared circle are probably wondering “What do you mean ‘keeps winning matches to get the title?’  Shouldn’t he win one match and then just defend the title?”  Well, sure, if league management wasn’t out to get him.  The WWF ownership, the sinister McMahon family  (Note: Stephanie McMahon--the most distinguished member of Jose’s 1998 graduating class at BU) keeps intervening to thwart Bryan.  They think he’s too small, too unkempt, too unsophisticated and too uncouth to be the face of the company, so they use all the tricks in the book to keep Bryan from carrying the strap, crooked referees, impromptu matches, etc.    And every time Bryan wins the title, they invalidate it on a technicality.  The champion that the McMahons would prefer to have is Randy Orton, a clean cut, utterly personalityless grappler from--ready for this --St. Louis.

And tonight October 27, 2013, the ninth anniversary of the Red Sox claiming the title for the first time in 86 years, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton will be fighting for the vacant WWF title in a cage (note: technically a cell, since it has a roof) with Jim Joyce… errr….. Shawn Michaels as the special guest (read: crooked) referee.  Jose imagines Orton will win the title on an obstruction call.

But here’s the thing-- though the odds are against him, though the game is literally rigged, in the sense that people write down what is going to happen, Bryan, through will, through skill, through sheer force of personality is going make them, sooner or later, script out an ending where he comes out on top.

And if Daniel Bryan can win a championship in a sport that’s literally rigged, don’t you think his bearded brothers in Boston can win a championship in a sport that’s only figuratively rigged?

Any Bryan fan knows the answer… YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

2.  Since umpire James Joyce, made the critical call in last night’s game, Jose thought that he would take a look at the umpire/author’s work and see if they could provide any insight into his decisions, and unbelievably, Jose found two quote that provide both insight into last night’s game and into Joyce’s famously dense writings.

The first is “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.”

Fair enough.  It’s really just common sense elegantly worded, but, in this series where all three games have been determined by sloppiness, Jose is hoping that it will ring in the minds of those makers of errors in tonight’s game.  Salty, one might hope, has learned not to throw the ball away in an ill advised effort to get a runner at third with the best reliever in baseball on the mound and two outs.   Farrell, has perhaps discovered, that the ninth inning of a World Series game is not the best time to give a pitcher his first career at bat.  And Joyce himself, wherever he stands tonight, would do well to make some portals of discovery of his own.

The second quote is downright eerie.  “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.  Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

Seriously. That’s a real James Joyce quote.

James Joyce wrote those words in Ulysses sometime between 1918 and 1922.  He literally declared that he was going to make that call 90+ years ago and then went ahead and made it.

This is why Jose hates literature.  Except for Goethe.  Because Goethe made Jose’s poem about Fausto Carmona possible.  So Jose turns to Goethe for solace and counsel on this dark day, and urges us to remember that “In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… in the real world all rests on perseverance.”

3.  Everyone from Massachusetts knows the old rhyme about the city of Lynn

Lynn, Lynn city of sin,
Never go out the way you came in.

So Jose has taken it upon himself to write a few couplets along these lines about St. Louis starter Lance Lynn.

Lance Lynn, where to begin?
You’re taking the mound to the Cardinals chagrin.

Lance Lynn, where have you been?
Glued to the bench, with a cup of sloe gin?

Lance Lynn, pick up the win?
Not in Game 4, cause your curveball won’t spin.

Lance Lynn, wipe off that grin!
When you’re on the mound, they are all Tony Gwynn.

Lance Lynn, you’re kind of a akin,
To Mitt Romney, in that you are not gonna win.

Lance Lynn,  pitch up and in?
Plunk Victorino, but not on the chin.

Lance Lynn, it’s really a sin
To see your career going straight in the bin.

Lance Lynn, you’re stuck in your skin,
You are who you are and it’s not Tom Glavine.

Lance Lynn, can you hear o’er the din,
It’s playing for you, it’s a sad violin.

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

Friday, October 25

10/26/2013 World Series Game 3--Lost and Found

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

1.  Jose Melendez’s long disappearance is in no way unprecedented.  He is just the latest of a long line of men, some great, some terrible, and most utterly without distinction, to disappear into the African continent.  

Yes, Jose returned to these pages from time to time after he first set foot south of the Sahara on the balmy Christmas Night of 2007.  He would go through the familiar rituals of pecking at the keys and typing out the KEYS when circumstance or his own commitment to the strange juju of the Red Sox fan demanded it.  To prime a playoff game or to halt a long losing streak, he would go through the charade of being the man he used to pretend to be.

But always there was Africa.

The delight, the passion Jose had once found not only for the game of baseball but for writing, in his own analytically invalid way, about the game of baseball, was gone.  And instead of dreams of heroes of the diamond, his nights were tortured and titillated with visions of vast savannahs, dry red earth, and so many of the other cliches to which would be Africanists inevitably succumb.

And then he was gone, lost, seemingly forever, to four long baseball seasons in a land without pitchers, without catchers, without the sweet rhythms of balls following strikes.

He was, a modern day Livingstone, gone into the interior, more a mission than a man.

It must seem haughty, Jose imagines, to see him compare himself to one of history’s great men, but the parallels between Jose and Dr. Livingstone are impossible to ignore.  Jose is his equal, if not his superior, in the sense that Jose has been vaccinated for typhoid.  

We have converted the same number of people to Christianity--zero. (Note: Technically, Livingstone converted one, but the African, a man named Sechele, converted back. So it doesn’t count.) We both abhor slavery.  And neither of us has ever been in Cliff Clavin’s kitchen.  We even share a belief system based on three Cs.  Christianity, Civilization and Commerce for Livingstone.  Catching, Clutch hitting and Cool Ranch Doritos for Jose.  

But most importantly we were both lost… and we were both found.

Livingstone, as is well known, was found by a man who went by the name of Henry Morton Stanley.  Jose says “went by” because it was not his real name.  (Note:  Hmmmm… Jose has something in common with Stanley too!)  Stanley, a Welshman, an American, a charlatan, a hat inventor, and a veteran of both sides in the U.S. Civil War, trudged a third of the way across a continent to find Livingstone, and bring him back to the Swahili Coast.  Jose, as modern Livingstone, was inevitably found by the modern Stanley--The Boston Red Sox.  Stanley and the Red Sox also share many commonalities right down to their questionable racial history  and interest in funny hats.  

But the Red Sox have succeeded--today--where Stanley failed. Stanley brought word of Livingstone back to the West, but left the man, stubborn and ill, in the jungles of what is now Tanzania.  

The Red Sox, on this third day of the World Series, have succeeded.  They have brought Jose back from Africa.  Back to the land of the ball and the strike.  Back to the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd.  Back to peanuts and cracker jack.  Back to the ballpark where he finds that while much has changed, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester, and Big Papi, Big Papi, BIG PAPI are right where he left them.  And Jose, the man who was lost but now is found, reverses Stanley famous salutation, and asks SoSH, asks Boston, asks the Red Sox themselves--RED SOX NATION,  JOSE PRESUMES?

2.  But Jose, has left some things in Africa.  Most notably his shiny new wife.  Fun story about her.  At Jose’s wedding, they decided to have a ceremonial first pitch instead of throwing a bouquet or garter or whatever, because  baseball is sexier, more romantic and more aesthetically pleasing than any of that stuff.  But there was an outstanding question of who would pitch and who would catch.  (Note:  Jose can see you making the wisecracks about transgressive gender roles right now, and he says stop it.  Baseball is a metaphor for life, politics, finance, international affairs, art, metaphysics, Newton’s first and third laws but not the second, breakfast, man’s eternal struggle against nature and the decline of the Roman Empire--but it is NOT a metaphor for sex.)  

We went with the bride as the pitcher because, quite frankly, Jose has the yips.  The yips, for those of you who are reading this despite not knowing anything about baseball, is the condition where a player becomes unable to make even routine throws for a psychological reason.  It is known to have a sudden, perhaps even inexplicable onset.  In Jose’s case it started mysteriously 37 years ago sometime between his birth and the cutting of his umbilical cord.  Anyway, if Jose had thrown out the first pitch, there is a very real chance that the first act of Jose’s marriage would have been to bean a guest.  On the other hand, Jose can only throw 50 mph (note: still the fastest in the Melendez family!), so it probably wouldn’t have done much damage.  Anyway the bride threw a strike, which makes her both a wonderful wife and a better pitcher than Franklin Morales.

But she’s still in Africa, Malawi to be specific, where there is no one to talk baseball with save this one Malawian guy who is, inexplicably, a hard core fan of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Also he speaks fluent Finnish.  So for the sake of Jose’s wife not having to listen to a Malawian guy trash talk her in Finnish for the next year, LET’S GO SOX.

3.  So with all of the African exploration and wedding reminiscence out of the way, let’s get down to the actual analysis of these two teams and this series which, as long time KEYS readers will know, is not really Jose’s strong suit.

Initially when Jose looked at this series, he had to reluctantly pick the Cardinals.

But then he found out that Trevor Rosenthal isn’t Jewish, so really it’s anyone’s game.  

Jose originally just assumed that Rosenthal was Jewish and that naturally it would give the Cards an edge over a painfully goyische Boston squad, but then Jose discovered that Rosenthal’s first name was Trevor, which naturally raised suspicions, what with even Christian being a more Jewish name than Trevor.

Upon doing some additional research, Jose discovered that Trevor once told ESPN “My dad is an attorney, and he gets invited to bar mitzvahs all the time."  Which frankly plays on a vicious stereotype and gets some things seriously wrong about jewish culture.  Yes, many Jews are attorneys (note: though many others are employed in non-stereotypically jewish professions such as construction worker and British person.  Seriously, Jose met this guy with a British accent and he was Jewish!  Crazy world!), but Jews also know better than to invite an attorney to a wedding, bar mitzvah or casual household gathering, unless it’s someone who must absolutely be invited like a family member.  The reason, of course, is that lawyers are notoriously litigious and may be tempted to sue you if they slip and fall or see their child grab an electric fence.

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