Thursday, September 15

9/15/05 -- Jose Goes for 13-1

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

Jose used to love rain delays. For the six years Jose lived in Kenmore Square a lengthy rain delay was his entrĂ©e to a cheap and enjoyable night at the ballpark. Jose would sit in his apartment drinking beers with friends or watching television, all the while keeping a close eye on the status of the delay. If the delay exceeded two hours, Jose would walk down to Fenway as soon as the game restarted. He’d pay his $12 for a bleacher ticket and then sit anywhere he pleased. Back in those days, the bleachers were cut off from the rest of the park, but as the crowd dwindled from 30,000 to 15,000 to 5,000 no one much cared where Jose sat.

Sitting in premium seats on the first baseline or behind home plate, Jose did what any bleacher bum would do in that situation, he made an ass of himself. One night he and friends taunted strip club loving Angles first baseman Mo Vaughn with a rendition of Foxy Lady every time he came into the field. When Vaughn reached on a single, Jose yelled, “Mo, if you steal second Jose will buy you a lap dance.” The slugger, one of Jose’s all time favorite Red Sox, looked over at Jose as if considering the offer, and then turned away. He did not attempt to steal second.

It’s too bad, really. The one time Jose went to The Foxy Lady, Mo Vaughn was there. Jose really would have bought him that lap dance if he had swiped the bag. But this rain delay was not all fun. No, sir. The copy of Flaubert’s Sentimental Education that Jose had brought with him in case the rain began again took a soaking, making a dense novel even more dense.

Another time, Jose went out for a game against the Blue Jays that had two rain delays consuming three and one-half hours. By the end of the second delay, there were fewer than 1,000 fans in the park and Jose sat behind home plate blowing into some sort of a brass horn that another fan had smuggled in. Otis Nixon could hear everyone asking about his cocaine habit. The game was actually called at 1 AM on account of the heretofore unknown American League curfew, to be completed the next day.

Bu today, on this dreary wet day, Jose already has tickets for the game. Rain delays are no longer his friends. Jose has had to learn to stay out of the park until after the delay. God forbid he should get stuck drinking watery six dollar beers for two hours. Jose loves the North End; he loves living in a real neighborhood and away from the throngs of students. But on days like this, days when the rains wash away the throngs of fans and leave only the die hard and deranged, Jose misses his life in Kenmore Square.

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Wednesday, September 14

9/14/05 — Wells vs. Half the Man Wells Is

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

Baseball has emerged as the predominant metaphor in the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts.

Roberts began the analogies by comparing judges to umpires who call balls and strikes rather than pitching and hitting. Jose is not sure whether this is a commentary on his judicial philosophy or the woeful state of the Supreme Court softball team.

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware then continued the metaphor by pointing out that the strike zone is defined as from the elbows to the knees by Rule Two of the baseball rulebook and that umpires may not change it, and can only judge whether the ball is in or out of it. Apparently, Biden doesn’t watch much baseball these days or he would know that much like the Constitution, the strike zone is a living thing constantly changing from era to era, umpire to umpire and, in some cases, from inning to inning.

Biden went on to compare questioning Roberts to pitching to Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. To be honest, Jose has no idea what this analogy means, but he assumes that it means that Roberts will get off to a brilliant start as Chief Justice, be compared regularly to John Marshall, and then, after signing a deal to become Chief Justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court, will miss the better part of most sessions with injuries while still occasionally showing his old brilliance.

Since it doesn’t appear that the evasive nominee will be answering any non-baseball questions, perhaps Senators should take Biden’s lead and ask questions only in baseball terms. (Note: Though this isn’t really that bad. Jose went to a State House hearing yesterday that involved lengthy discussion of where to get the best hot dogs and fried clams in Massachusetts. Really. Even worse, Jose may try a few of these places out this weekend.)

Jose has transcribed this portion of today’s hearing.

Q: Judge Roberts, in the 1999 American League Championship Series umpired Tim Tschida ruled Jose Offerman out even though Chuck Knoblauch clearly failed to tag him. If you had been the chief of that umpiring crew, would you have overturned that call?

Roberts: Senator, on the one hand, I think that decision was a misinterpretation of the facts of the case. On the other hand, I have enormous respect for precedent.

Q: And what precedent would that be?

Roberts: The precedent of the Yankees getting all the calls in big series. If would refer you to the case of Baltimore v. Jeffrey Maier.

Q: So then when two calls, a home run call, and the infamous “slap” call were reversed during the 2004 American League Championship Series to harm the Yankees, you would say that the umpires ignored precedent in reversing those calls and were therefore mistaken?

Roberts: Not necessarily. On the one hand, this call did depart from past rulings. On the other hand, as the top umpiring crew in baseball they have the authority to reinterpret precedent.

Q: So, in your opinion, did the umpiring crew rule correctly in the 2004 case.

Roberts: As it is quite possible that the Red Sox and Yankees may meet in post season play again during my tenure, and in that event it is highly likely that Alex Rodriguez will slap some one again, it would be prejudicial for me to answer this question.

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Tuesday, September 13

9/13/05 -- Antipope Clement XV vs. Downs

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

Randy Johnson awoke one morning to find himself transformed into an enormous bug. Overnight, he had become a great gangly creature with cruel crooked limbs and angry snapping mandibles framed by wiry hairs.

Even in the cool September air, the blanket on his bed seemed suffocating. He struggled to be free of it driven by a lust for the crisp air, but by another desire as well, the desire to feed on the scraps of human existence. He could smell the kitchen garbage a floor away, and it called to him. Was it always so strong?

The blanket grasped him like a net ensnaring his the spiky structures on his six legs. Five of them he freed, but one could simply not escape. He pulled and pulled against the blanket until suddenly his leg tore right through it sending him sprawling on to the floor.

“Free,” he tried to say, but the English phonics would not come. Perhaps because he no longer had a tongue, the word sounded far different than it should have. It sounded like “Get that god damn camera out of my face.” But in a guttural rumble.

What was worse, he was not free. A completely different and totally unanticipated problem had presented itself. In his haste to liberate himself from the blanket, he had thrown himself clean off of the bed and on to his back. For a proper man, recovering from this supine position would be of little difficulty, but Randy Johnson was not a proper man. He lay there with his six legs in the air wiggling helplessly as he rocked on his hard exoskeletal shell.

For the longest time he continued to wiggle his legs, imagining that if only he wiggled them enough, he would eventually right himself. This would not happen, of course, but Randy Johnson, even before becoming a bug, was none too bright, and certainly not the sort of chap who would be dissuaded from doing something for the hundredth time just because it hadn't worked the first 99. But eventually even he tired of his futility.

Trying a different approach, he began to sway his legs from side to side, creating a constant rocking of his shell. When the shell swung to its furthest extreme in one direction he would shift the weight of his legs in the other direction. Over and over he repeated the motion, the arcs of movement growing larger and larger until-a snap-he had torn his rotator cuff, of perhaps three of his rotator cuffs, or whatever the insect equivalent is, but with the last effort as the tissues frayed, he swung his legs with such violence that he righted himself with a thud.

“Are you up Randy?” his wife yelled up in response to the thud.

“No, no,” yelled Randy Johnson, afraid of what she would think. But in his guttural bug voice it ended up sounding like. “My God I hate Alex Rodriguez. He's such a prick.”

“I know Alex is an SOB,” replied his wife. “But do we have to talk about him first thing in the morning?”

Suddenly, he heard the soft clomp of slippers on stairs. His wife was coming up to the room. Up to his room. Invading his cold and his dark. Her arrival was inevitable.

The doorknob turned with a gentle squeak. As her slender finger flipped the light switch, Randy scrambled under the bed, away from the horrible burning light. A thin trail of green ooze marked his path.

“Randy,” his wife complained. “Why do you always flee when the lights come on? Come out from under there this instant.”

Randy pondered his options. They were few. Either she could see him now, or she could see him a few minutes from now. There would be no escape.

“I can't come out,” he moaned.

“Why not?” she answered. How odd that she could understand him.

“I've been transformed into a giant bug.”

“Randy that's ridiculous. Come out now. I insist.”

“Yes… okay,” he yielded.

He slunk out from under the bed, each step sending fire up his damaged joints.

“See I'm a bug,” he cried.

“I'm not really seeing it,” she answered nonplussed.

“I'm hideous vermin.”

“Well yes, but you look kind of the same to me.”

“But can't you see that I have six legs?”

“Oh yes, now that you mention it. But otherwise. I fail to see the difference.”

“I've become a hideous giant insect. I'm ugly and disgusting,” he wailed.

“If anything, I'd say you look a little bit better she responded.”

And so began the metamorphosis of Randy Johnson.

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