It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.
1. There’s an old joke about a fellow who plans to share a soda with his friend, half and half. When the friend goes to take his share, he finds the can is empty.
“Hey, I thought you were only going to drink half,” says the parched and befuddled pal.
“Absolutely,” replies the fellow. “But mine was the bottom half.”
And so too it is as we come to the second half of the baseball season. The second half, the sticky summer months and crisp of autumn that follows the All-Star break, must be the Red Sox’s half. The Red Sox must not be the considerate gent who takes the top half of the soda, and then waits for the Yankees to guzzle the second, as they are prone to do. No, the Red Sox must be the team that gulps down the first half, only in order to consume the second half with even greater voracity. Having liberated the can’s top half of its calories they must now deprive the second half of its sparkly sweetness, lest anyone else dare to crave so much as a sip.
The Germans have a verb for this—saufen. It means to drink, but not like a man, not like a creature of sentience walking on two firm feet. Rather, it is to drink like an animal, lustily, sloppily, without any consideration for how one’s indulgence might appear. It is a verb meant for swine, and drunks, and, with any luck, our 2007 Boston Red Sox as they go for that bottom half of the can.
2. Sure the All-Star game was fun this year. It was fun to watch Ichiro scramble round the bases, it was a kick to watch A-Rod get nailed at home without even a courtesy slide and it was a blast to watch St. Josh a Beckett pick up a win against the NL’s best. But the All-Star game could use some changes. It is hard for anything to continue for 70 some odd years without getting a little bit stale (note: see the Soviet Union), and the mid-summer classic is no different. While others spent their All-Star breaks frolicking in the Dominican or caring for ailing mothers, Jose spent his plotting how to save the All-Star game.
- You know how the NHL does North America versus the World for its All-Star game? One of Jose’s highly paid consultants suggested that baseball should go with steroid users vs. non-steroid users. This would settle the argument once and for all about whether steroids actually help one to hit a baseball.
- Change the voting system to the electoral college. Have fans in each state vote not for actual All-Stars, but for slates of electors who will vote for All-Stars.
- Losers fed to volcano god
- Replace home run derby with a bunt derby.
- McCovey’s Cove reporter Eric Byrnes eaten by sharks.
- In addition to awarding the All-Star Game MVP, provide the Scott Cooper award to the second time All-Star least likely to make a third appearance.
- Set up “Tim McCarver Guesses Your Weight” booth outside of stadium. (Note: McCarver kept insisting that Alfonso Soriano was 160 lbs.)
3. Tony Castrati kicks off the second half of the season today with a history of the Red Sox shortstop woes, a story nearly as long as Barbara Tuchman’s epic history of World War I, The Guns of August and nearly as tragic.
The reason Jose brings up The Guns of August is that it describes World War I as a war that no one saw coming, that no one wanted, and that happened anyway. Once the machinery of war began to move, it was simply impossible to stop it. That, it seems, is where we are with the shortstop situation today. No one wanted the revolving door at shortstop that began with Nomar’s trade to the Cubs, no one saw it coming, and yet it has proceeded apace with countless millions of dollars and baseball lives squandered.
As surely as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, led to the inexorable march of boots, the trade of Nomar led to the inexorable march of short stops. Orlando Cabrera came, followed by the great and confusing shortstop rotation among Boston, Anaheim and St. Louis, followed by trade of Edgar Renteria and the rise of Alex Gonzales and, ultimately, the signing of Julio Lugo—the worst hitter in baseball.
Did the Red Sox plan to swap down to a shortstop, who, as Tony Castrati points out, ranks dead last in batting average among major leaguers with enough at bats to count for the batting title? No more so than Franz Josef planned for his empire and his dynasty to be disintegrated when he issued his ultimatum to Serbia. And yet it happened.
But when will it all end? The bloodbath in Europe concluded in 1918 when the Central Powers, simply lost the will to go any further, to absorb any more losses, and decided that an odious settlement was preferable to another year of trenches, gas and death. Will the Red Sox reach that point as well? Will they decide that the awful cost of the shortstop position being semi-permanently reduced to the walking rump state that is Julio Lugo is a fair price to pay for halting the endless rotation of good man after good man in and out of position number six?
Jose doubts it, and perhaps it is for the best, as George Steinbrenner is no more likely to be merciful than Georges Clemenceau.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.