Friday, October 8

From SoSH: Re: 10/07/07 Game Three of the Real Season

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

1. Boston, 1999 -- Jose held two tickets each for game 3 and game 4 of the division series. The extra ticket in game 3 went to Jose’s then girlfriend and the extra ticket for game 4 was reserved for Jose’s brother Sam Melendez. After the Indians destroyed Bret Saberhagen in Game 2 and it was revealed that a certain shortstop who was the only bat on the 1999 squad would not play game 3, Jose’s father, who knows nothing about sports, turned to him and said “You’re a helluva guy, giving your brother a ticket for a game that will never happen.”

But it did happen, and a certain rotund pitcher with a tendency to cough up playoff games imploded as the Sox scored 24 runs and went on take the series in five.

Boston, 2004 – Jose holds no game three ticket, but thanks to a kind invitation from lushess255, one of JOSE’S PEOPLE, he does have a ticket for game 4. But there’s one problem. You know it, Jose knows it, lushess255 knows it, the scalpers on Brookline Ave. know it , the barkeeps at Copperfields know it, the Sausage Guy knows it, the rats by the muddy river know it, the Standells know it, the Red Sox know it, and yes, even the Anaheim Angles know it. There ain’t gonna be no game 4. And Jose smiles. His game 4 ticket will become as valuable as a ticket to the Goldwater inauguration, the Clash reunion tour or the Dwight Evans hall of fame induction. It will be only a reminder of what need not be and never was. Yes, for the first time in his life, Jose Melendez is looking forward to not going to a game.

2. Shortly after the season ends on October 31, Jose is planning on putting out a collection of the 2004 KEYS for folks who want to have, in one handsome volume, what they can get out the internet for free and sell it on Jose's Cafepress site.

Needless to say Jose is looking for titles, it will probably end up being Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME 2004, but this morning Jose had a really good idea. In keeping with the idiocy theme that Johnny Damon articulated so well, Jose thought that perhaps the best title would be “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Winning the World Series.” Jose knows there are some “intellectual property issues,” which is ironic given that we’re talking about a series of books with the word Idiot in the title, but you never know what will pass muster.

(Completely unrelated and irrelevant note: Jose has heard that Major League Baseball is leaning towards naming the new Washington team the Grays in tribute to the great Negro League team. Jose thinks this is a rare terrific idea from the League. However, he is a little disappointed that the Washington Senators who failed so miserably twice in the past will not be resurrected. Here is Jose’s compromise: Les Expos become the Washington Grays and the Seattle Mariners, without moving, are renamed the Washington Senators.)

3. The Boston Herald (Slogan: Boston’s fifth most credible newspaper!) (Note: Jose may be stealing the slogan bit from Dave Barry, he can't remember) ran the headline “GO YANKS!” this morning after pulling their initial banner headline “PORN STARS IN HUB BARS?” when it was determined that what sources claimed that was Jenna Jameson outside the Rack last night was actually a Haymarket fruit stand selling cantaloupes. Jose didn’t actually read the story by Gerry Callahan as it is not available for free on the Web and the only way Jose is ever going to pay for the Herald is if it comes with a complementary dollar bill inside. But still, Jose is appalled. If you would like to beat the Yankees on the way to the series, that is fine. Jose understands that, Jose feels that way too. But to actually root for the Yankees is unforgivable. If you must do something root for the Twins to lose, not for the Yankees to win. (Note: Yes they are the same thing, but semantics matter.) And to actually use this as the front page headline on a day when THE RED SOX ARE PLAYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????? Unforgivable. How about GO SOX for a headline? What about SOX BRING BROOMS? What about ANYHTING OTHER THAN GO YANKS!!!!!

Look, Herald headline writers. Clearly you are not great at this, so Jose will do you a favor and write tomorrow’s headline in advance. Here goes.


(Sidebar: “Dance of Joy” claims 40 lives.)

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

Wednesday, October 6

From SoSH: Re: 10/05/05 Game Two of the Real Season

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

1. Well this is quite a bit better than last year at this time. Actually, last year Jose was one of the lucky ones. While the rest of you were struggling through 12 or 13 (Note: See Jose doesn’t even remember) gut wrenching innings before a crushing end at 3 AM, Jose was wandering the streets of Antwerp blissfully unaware of the tragedy that had unfolded. While you cried and wailed and battled the horrors of sleep deprivation, Jose sipped café au lait and nibbled on hot Belgian waffles glistening with butter and dusted in confectioner’s sugar as white as Larry Bird in January and as pure as AC Green at the age of 43.

Of course, Jose would have given anything to be one of you, crying in his last beer of the night/ first beer of the morning, but Jose had cleverly scheduled a 16 day European Odyssey for a period that included most of the first round of the playoffs. There Jose was, by himself in one of Europe’s great historical cities, a center of art culture and the despicable world wide diamond trade, and all he could think of was the outcome of a baseball game 8,000 miles away. Each hour that passed gnawed at him. Jose would set up little milestones he needed to pass, lest his box score lust overwhelm the charms of the continent.

“Just one more guild hall and then Jose will find an Internet café,” he would promise himself. “Just one more Cathedral. Just one more museum.” But like his hunger for Belgian Mussels, Jose’s hunger for a score could not be sated by anything but the genuine article. Jose found an Internet Café on a side street and entered cautiously, knowing that what he was about to learn would shape his disposition for the rest of the day. He plunked down his two Euros (Note: which equaled about $35 at the time) and sat down at the terminal. Which site to enter? Yeeessssss. The score scrolled across the screen…it scrolled across Jose’s eyes, scrolled through his optical nerve into his brain and then scrolled down his spine and settled in his gut. And there it sat. Sat like a swallowed bowling ball, heavy, indigestible, an inexplicable, crushing weight at the center of Jose’s very being.

Did Jose read a description of the game? He imagines so, but does not remember. All he remembers is staggering through the once friendly streets of Antwerp, suddenly aware that everything looked gloomy and sad. Had it been raining all day? Jose saw the sights and walked the walks, but he was unable to escape the singular thought that was lodged in his brain, repeating over and over like George W. Bush at a debate and relentlessly on message, “F’n Red Sox. F’n Red Sox. F’n Red Sox. F’n Red Sox. F’n Red Sox.”

The next day saw Jose visited Aachen, Germany, the ancient capital of Charlemagne’s Frankish empire, a city that holds what it claims are segments of the true cross, alleged burrs from the crown of thorns and reliquaries containing what are almost certainly parts of Charlemagne’s corpse. But Jose will forever think of it as the place where he learned that the Red Sox had dropped game 2 to the Athletics. The story of this day is too similar for Jose to repeat it in great detail. Jose will only note that a very good doener kebab, does more than anything else to heal the agony of defeat.

But we all know that the story did not end there. This is not a story of joy, or at least pride before the fall. The Sox rallied from their disastrous start and took the series. Jose learned of the game 3 win at a hostel in Belgium with the slowest Internet connection on Earth. The day before Jose’s departure (Note: Or was it the day of?) Jose sat in front of that damned screen for 45 minutes trying every Web site he could imagine, hoping that the computer would connect to just one for long enough for Jose to learn the outcome of game 3, to learn if there was anything on this Earth left to look forward to (Note: Aside from family, friends the Melendezette, Spideman 2 and Wrestlemania). In the 44th minute, one lonely sentence emerged from “Nixon homer lifts Sox.” Victory. That was all Jose needed. The Red Sox lived.

But this presented Jose with a new challenge. His plane was scheduled to arrive in the middle of game 4. Provided the plane landed on time, a speedy navigation of customs would be essential to catching the final innings. The travel gods (Note: Many of whom are also weather gods)cooperated, and the flight arrived on schedule. As soon as the dreadful Air France crew allowed, Jose deplaned (Note: Deplaned is one of the funniest words. We really need a special word for this? Yet more evidence that the English Lexicon is too big and Newspeak was a great idea. Okay, not really.) and sprinted through the terminal like Johnny Damon smelling an infield hit or Derek Jeter smelling a chance to have his picture taken.

While Jose’s fellow tourists seemed taken aback by his aggressive running., the customs personal seemed to understand his mission. They knew there was a game on. Jose was spared the normal questions about whether he had done drugs abroad and was processed as quickly as possible. Even when Jose saw his psychotic former downstairs neighbor in the immigration line, he resisted the temptation to point out that she was a dangerous, crazy person who should probably be taken to Guantanamo Bay as a precaution. (Note: She used to throw pots around her apartment at all hours and would yell “Gigolo Ho!!!” as Jose came up the stairs. Jose always felt that the fact that women pay him for sexual favors is no reason to call him a gigolo. Actually, Jose strongly considered leaving the apartment for a week once and leaving his stereo blasting “Just a Gigolo.” That seemed a bit extreme though, so he just had her evicted.)

Jose’s father, who is not much of a sports fan, unexpectedly met Jose at the airport and whisked him to the Hilton where we watched the Sox come from behind and the Patriots defeat the Titans. Aside from the one Southern visitor who asked if the barkeep could change to the NASCAR race, it was perfect.

But what was the point of this Jose Melendez travelogue? Won’t you get all this in the KEYS TO BELGIUM? Well, yes, but the point is that this year we are all experiencing something sweeter than chocolate dipped waffles, more satisfying than mussels dipped in butter and more foreign than a Flemish speaking city – we are experiencing the Red Sox’s inevitable march towards history.

2. Jose’s favorite moment of Game 1 was, without a doubt, Doug Mientkiewiecz’s two out suicide squeeze to score an insurance run. Jose loved it because it was absolutely ruthless. In the world, as a general rule, Jose is opposed to ruthlessness. This is probably not a bold position, but Jose feels strongly that ruthlessness is bad in most areas of life. He does not respect it in politics, or business or social relationships. He regards it as mean and unnecessary and arrogant. He wouldn’t even see the Broadway show Ruthless, and he thought Ruthless People was a mediocre movie. However, in the context of playoff baseball, the equation is reversed and the offensive becomes the indispensable. You want Stalin running your baseball team, you want J. Edgar Hoover, hell you even want Dick Cheney. You want someone who does not care about propriety, who does not care about the rules of polite society and who is obsessed only with winning.
The funny thing is that the suicide squeeze suggested that Terry Eurona might just be a little ruthless. That’s right Timid Terry. If you had asked Jose yesterday morning to compare Terry to a President, Jose would have said Jimmy Carter, but now the answer is Richard Nixon. Jose half expects to hear that there was a third rate burglary of the Angles locker room this evening.

3. Jose has a major scoop. Did you know Curt Euro started today’s SoSH game thread? Yesterday’s too. That means that he is in a position to call Jose a liar and an idiot for what he is about to say. (Note: Though according to Johnny Damon, idiocy would make Jose fit right in with these Red Sox.) Jose thinks there was no ankle injury. Jose thinks that Curt knew his afternoon was near an end, so after a bad throw, he decided to pretend he had tweaked the ankle, not in order to get out of the game, but in order to get out of appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live. There, Jose said it. In Jose’s opinion, Curt is holding out for that precious guest shot on Nightline.

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

Tuesday, October 5

From SoSH: Re: 10/04/04 Game One of the Real Season

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

1. Jose has a confession to make, a shameful confession that he has held from you, his loyal readers throughout the regular season. But now on the eve of the postseason it is time to fess up. It is time for Jose to confess his sins and beg forgiveness, lest the new postseason begin with a foul stain from the old. Here goes…God, this is like passing a kidney stone...eerrrrr….. aaahhhhhhh…… yooooooowwwwwww… Jose may have had something to do with the Game 7 disaster last year. (Note: God that hurt.) Jose knows what you’re thinking.

“Oh Jose forgot too wear his lucky boxer shorts” or “Jose forgot to cross his fingers at a crucial juncture.” But no. This was worse, much worse. In the late innings of game 7, with the Sox up by three, the Melendezette left the apartment where we were watching the game with friends and walked the two blocks home to watch the conclusion as she prepared for an early morning meeting. And Jose let her. He let her go knowing that we had been winning with her on the couch beside him. He let her go knowing that without Jose’s counsel anything could happen. It would be easy for Jose to let the Melendezette take the fall for what happened next, but it would also be wrong, very, very wrong. (Note: And it could potentially result in him sleeping on the couch.)

The Melendezette is a fan, but she is not a fanatic. How was she to know that shaving her legs with a three run lead, could lead to disaster? Jose is not suggesting that this was mojo. Jose, as you well know, does not believe in mojo. Jose would never say something as foolish as “We were winning with hairy legs, we should have stuck with hairy legs.” (Note: Okay, Jose may have said that four or five thousand times in the days that followed.) No, Jose believes in science, in empiricism. Jose recalls reading in Jurassic Park, (Note: Michael Crichton went to medical school so the science has to be good, right?) that chaos theory suggests that a butterfly flapping its wings in Hong Kong can cause a hurricane in the Cayman Islands and wash all of the dirty, sheltered money into the sea. (Note: Okay, the last part may have been Jose’s anti tax cheat fantasy.) Thus, Jose maintains that a hair shorn form a leg in Boston and falling into a bathtub there resulted in a slight wind current in New York that pushed a Pedro fastball to Hideki Matsui slightly higher and changed the course of history. No, it is not the baseball Gods that are cruel, but the elements themselves. (Note: This is why so many Red Sox have long hair or unshaven. They know that atmospheric disturbances created by shearing hair could adversely affect games.)

But let it never be said that Jose Melendez does not learn from his mistakes. For instance, he learned that in the regular season ending KEYS he incorrectly stated that Kevin Paul Dupont had erred in saying that Theo Epstein took Keith Foulke to a Celtics game. From that, Jose learned to stop relying on actual news and simply make things up instead. (Note: The KEYS are “fiction” not journalism. Jose just watched the movie “Shattered Glass” about Stephen Glass’s fabrications at the New Republic, and Jose will be damned if anyone will ever question him about his sources. “Can you produce the source who told you Eric Kneel prefers Iran to America Mr. Melendez?” So consider yourselves warned. Much like the “Lighter Side” on, KEYS is not news, fact or even edjutainment. It is good old fashioned fiction, or possibly prose poetry.)

So Jose is learning from past mistakes as Terry Eurona will this post season as well. (Note: Terry, yank Pedro after 7, bring in Stapleton for Buckner, never, ever rely on Calvin Schiraldi and don’t start Pete Schourek in game 4, and you’ll be fine. Wait, starting Schourek in Game 4 was the right decision. Okay, go ahead and start Shourek in game 4 Terry.) Jose has spoken with the Melendezette and she has agreed not to shave her legs during the post season. While this may seem like a big sacrifice, especially for Jose, the Melendezette has naturally smooth legs, so it will be managable. Also, just as a precaution, Jose’s friend Audrey, with whom he watched game 7 last year has agreed not to shave her legs either. This year there will be no atmospheric disturbances, no battles against fractals and no horrifying conclusions. This year, by harnessing the awesome power of science (Note: And not in a Bonds/Giambi/Sheffield way), we will prevail.

2. With his typical excellent timing, Jose has taken ill just in time for the post season. Yes, Jose is struggling with flulike symptoms. The question is will he respond to the symptoms like Michael Jordan or like Roger Clemens. Only time will tell. But enough about Jose’s illness let’s talk about our opponent the Anaheim Angles (Note: Jose will persist in calling them the Angles after the famed Germanic tribe that inhabited the British Isles, until someone can prove that “Angels” is not a stupid name for a baseball team.) What do the Angles have going for them? Well, their game one pitcher Jared Washburn looks terrific after losing 400 pounds by eating nothing but Subway sandwiches. In fact, he may want to get game 2 starter Bartolo Colon on that diet as well. You remember Bartolo Colon don’t you? The last time we saw in a playoff matchup, we scored 24 runs.

What else? Sparky Plug is their leadoff hitter, which is terrific for them. It’s like having Jeff Frye, and we all remember how great that was. They do have some big bats in their rotation however, like Troy Glaus, who can occasionally extend his arms, Garrett Anderson (Note: They might as well be trotting out Mrs. Garrett) and Vladimir Guerrero who, umm…who…well, who scares the hell out of Jose. And their manager? Mike Scioscia, who appears to have recovered fully from the radiation sickness detailed on the Simpsons, which Jose can only assume is a documentary of some kind, is regarded as among the best in baseball. But we will conquer the Angles like so many angry Normans. Before this series is over Bill “Umlaut” Mueller will me known as “William the Conqueror.”

3. Jose just heard on WEEI that Scott Williamson will not be on the Division Series roster due to “an inability to carry a heavy workload. Remarkably, Jose expects to have the same problem for the duration of the playoffs. Regrettably, Jose does not expect to be left off of his employer’s playoff roster.

(Completely unrelated note inserted as a note only because a fourth KEY would be blasphemous: Last night Jose slept fitfully, tossing and turning as a vision emerged from his fever racked brain. Jose saw a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, he saw Sparky Plug hit a soft liner….just…just over the head of Euro Bellhorn to give the Angles a 1-0 game 1 win. Jose awoke in a cold sweat, shaking, fearful, and then he remembered. He remembered what he has told you all before. Jose’s dreams are an excellent predictor of what will not happen. Indeed, the opposite is bound to occur. Rejoice. Sox. Playoffs. It begins.)

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

Sunday, October 3

From SoSH: Re: 10/3 Baltimore vs. Boston - regular season finale

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

1. Today is the end of the regular season and thus the end of the regular season KEYS. Jose has learned a lot this year. For instance, Jose can now confirm that the old cliché that the regular season is a marathon and not a sprint is in fact accurate. Despite the fact that he missed the first six weeks of the season with, let’s say ankle tendonitis, (okay, technically Jose hadn’t come up with the idea of KEYS until early May) Jose still has all of the problems that come from the long-term grind of a marathon, cramps, fatigue, nipple chaffing, defrocked Irish priests attacking him…but Jose never stops, never yields, never surrenders.

Actually, Jose can argue that he’s had it harder than many of the players. Sure they have to "play the games" and "exert physical effort," but they do so with the help of trainers, coaches, traveling secretaries and post-game buffet spreads. Jose has no trainer to tape his swollen fingers, no typing coach to make sure he has the right mechanics for his right pinky finger, no writing coach to keep a watchful eye over his participles, no traveling secretary to book him a ticket on the bus to New Bedford or secure a Zipcar to Pittsfield, and the next complementary buffet he is offered after writing a KEYS will be the first. (Note: Though Jose does typically have a complementary cup of coffee at work after he posts weekday KEYS.)

No, all Jose has is the warm support of the Melendezette and the encouragement of the Melendez family, all of whom have provided extensive material for the KEYS. That and his tens of fans.

But as we move into the post season things will change. The KEYS will take on a greater sense of urgency as the marathon becomes a sprint becomes a three-legged race. Each KEY will be pregnant with importance. Readers will hold their breath waiting for the next word. Jose himself, will type with his fingers crossed. (Note: So look forward to lots of exciting playoff typos.) Jose will no longer offer meaningless rambles that tie his life to baseball in some odd way. Instead, he will offer meaningful, essential rambles that tie his life to baseball in some odd way. The references to obscure pro wrestlers or Spiderman villains that seemed stupid and pointless yesterday, will seem bold yet risky tomorrow. (Note: Look for big contributions from wrestler Norman the Lunatic and comic book villains Rocket Racer and The Gibbon.)

Yes, today the regular season ends and Tuesday the irregular season begins, and who better to address the irregular than your humble servant, Jose Melendez.

2. In today’s glowing Boston Globe profile of Sox general manager Theo Epstein, we learned that when he worked in the Padres organization, Theo would watch NFL games with his boss Kevin Towers while wearing an Adam Vinatieri Jersey. That’s right Theo wore a kicker’ jersey. Wuss. Before any one makes the argument that this is the kicker that won us two Super Bowls, remember that this was before all of that. Look, we all think Vinatieri is great, but going with the kicker’s jersey is just not macho. It’s like wearing a situational lefty’s jersey for baseball. So if any of you are trying to pick Theo out of a crowd, look for the guy wearing the Mike Myers jersey. (Note: Do you think that when he was a teenager Theo had a Tony Fossas jersey?) Jose, on the other hand will be wearing the exceedingly macho Tim Wakefield jersey.

3. The profile, which Jose thought was pretty good, was written by Globe hockey writer Kevin Paul Dupont. While Dupont seems to have done pretty well on the baseball end of it, he appears, remarkably to have screwed up the one hockey detail in the piece. He claims that in his courtship of Keith Foulke, Theo took the closer to a Celtics game. Jose is almost positive that he took Foulke, a huge hockey fan, to a Bruins game. Is it possible that Theo took him to a Celtics game as well? Jose supposes, but Jose sincerely doubts that proximity to the dreadful Celtics would be much of an inducement to anyone. (Note: Though in fairness, they are better than the Warriors, who were the nearest "NBA team" when Foulke pitched in Oakland.

Jose’s theory is that Dupont, knowing the sad state of hockey these days, simply could not believe that any non-Canadian was a big enough fan for hockey to influence his choice about where to live or work.

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