It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.
1. By the time we got the rolls the game was over.
The game was not literally over by the time we got our rolls, but the tone had been set and a tone, once set, is nearly impossible to alter.
Game 2 of the ALCS was indeed lost, but it was not lost on the blustery field in the Fenway. It was not lost by Curt Euro, Manny Delcarmen, Javy Lopez or even Eric Gagne. No, it was lost in the far plusher confines of Burton’s Grill on Boylston Street. There, a quorum of Sons of Sam Horn members who were elite enough to secure coveted Game 2 tickets had convened to ingest and imbibe, to add layers of buttery insulation for the long, cold night ahead.
Our waitress, a congenial 20-something, with short black hair a button nose and a voice that was somewhere between a marshmallow dipped in honey and cotton candy laced with sweet but deadly lead acetate, came promptly and took our drink orders. So far so good. But much as Curt Euro’s first snappy curveball marked the high point of his evening, this would mark the high point of ours.
The drinks came out slowly, unevenly, like Doug Mirabelli going down the first base line, but without the groin injuries, but the rolls? Dear God, they took forever. 15 minutes no rolls, 30 minutes, no rolls, 40 minutes… rolls.
When they came they were good, warm and dripping with garlic butter, but it took so, so long for them to get there. And that established the zeitgeist of the evening, things would plod at a painfully slow pace, clearly going poorly. Then there would be a moment of competence, perhaps even excellence, followed, in the end, by bitter disappointment and copious complaint.
The dinner quickly became a metaphor for the game itself. If the slow rolls were Curt’s shaky start, the fact that five meals came out and five others did not would be analogous to his disasterous pitch to Jhonny Peralta. That would make Jose’s smooth buttery rib eye, Manny and Mikey’s back to back homers. (Note: Yes, Jose is trying to mention butter as many times as possible in a single KEY.)
Of course, that was followed by the waitress and manager telling us the other dishes would be out in a few minutes, which was a total lie, and was a lot like Manny D giving the lead away as soon as it was taken. Manny D’s double play ball to end the fifth was his solemn vow of competence, and his walk to start the sixth was his cruel reneging.
Then as it crept painfully close to game time and the remaining dishes still hadn’t come, the manager assured us there was “plenty of time left.” And there was, in the sense that the Red Sox still had plenty of arms in the bullpen after Papelbon completed two innings.
So the dinner and the game were analogous, but they were decidedly not the same. Which was worse? A comparison.
Ballgame: Maybe everything that Tito tried didn’t work out, but every decision was defensible.
Burton’s: The Burton’s manager (note: Jose will call her Gidget, to protect her anonymity) lied to us about the problem, then lied some more. Then when she was done with that she lied just a little more. It was like watching a Rick Pitino press conference, but without the snappy suit. Jose would have been happier if she’d just explained the five missing entrees away by stating that not serving them was a “Manager’s Decision.”
Seriously, she was the worst manager in the Fenway not named Grady since Butch Hobson.
Burton's: Comped us (note: after Jose was a jerk about it) for all the booze and the five missing entrees. Ergo, Jose got a rib eye for $15. He tried to pay more since his food game sort of on time, but the other SoSHers wouldn’t let him.
Ballgame: The Red Sox got none of Eric Gagne’s salary back
Ballgame: Manny and Mikey crush balls in losing effort.
Burton’s: Actual Sam Horn visits table and says “Kapow.”
So there you have it, despite not getting any discount for the hideous 11th, the ball game was analogous to the dinner yet slightly better. On the other hand, no one got sick from the food, which is more than Jose can say about the top of the 11th.
2. This would be the part of the KEYS where Jose would typically write a 200 plus line epic poem about the opposing team’s starting pitcher. Unfortunately, Jose has found very few epics with characters named Jake in them. Achilles, Agamemnon, Gilgamesh, Faust, Aeneas, these are the sorts of names that show up in epics. There are precious few Jakes.
No, for Jake we are left with no choices beyond quipping about him carting a python to the mound named Damien and throwing it on Julio Lugo after knocking the shortstop unconscious with a fastball high and tight, or getting all biblical and talking about Jacob’s Ladder.
Since Jake Westbrook is known for being more deceptive than powerful on the mound (note: Jose is pretty sure he has heard about him wearing goatskins on his hands to trick hitters into thinking they are facing his much more formidable Esau Westbrook) the ladder seems like the way to go.
Jacob’s ladder is, of course, the ladder described in the Book of Genesis (28:11-19), which Jacob envisioned in a dream and purportedly led to heaven.
While this ladder is said to be in Bethel, named for the former Patriot’s receiver and now in the area of the Palestinian town of Beitin, modern archeologists have failed to locate the ladder.
Jose’s been thinking about it, and he thinks it’s one of those “hidden in plain sight” deals. So he is pretty sure that Jacob’s ladder is the ladder on the Green Monster at Fenway. It makes perfect sense. The ladder used to serve a clear purpose, getting atop the Monster to collect balls hit into the screen, but now that there are seats there, what purpose does it serve? None. None, except climbing to heaven, that is.
You just watch, when Jake is getting shelled tonight he is going to flee and climb up that ladder away from menacing sluggers and into heaven’s warm embrace. Then we will be sorry.
Wait, the game’s in Cleveland? Never mind, he’s screwed.
3. In today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer, still the coolest newspaper name in America, the big story seem to be not what the Indians will do this evening, but what the midges will do.
In addition to an article interviewing scientists at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (note: apparently they have museums now in Cleveland) about the prospect of a return of the insects, the Plain Dealer also offers a cutout midge mask that fans can wear to the stadium. While the prospect of 40,000 people wearing midge masks is certainly more appealing that the prospect of having to gaze on the visages of 40,000 actual Clevelanders, Jose wonders if Cleveland isn’t relying a little too heavily on insect infestation? Sure, a swarm of tiny winged insects is more effective at closing games than Joe Borowski, but is that really where a fan wants to place his confidence?
The case for renewed DDT use?
For starters, Mr. Matsu is unlikely to be bothered by midges. Jose has been in Japan when they have cicadas and based on that knowledge, he suspects that any insect shorter than two inches long and quieter than 120 decibels is unlikely to disturb the Japanese righty. Similarly, Jonathon Papelbon is from the freaking bayou, he can handle his insects, and if not, the beer case over his head will protect him. Second, Julian Tavarez seems like the sort of guy who would eat a whole plate of the things if you dared him to (note: please someone dare him to). Third, when Tim Wakefield pitches tomorrow night, his knuckleball will be completely camouflaged by the slow moving, fluttering insects. How will they know if their swinging at a ball or a midge? They can’t it’s impossible.
So please good people of Cleveland, rely on your insects, but remember relying on insects to win ballgames is like relying on Ant-Man to foil a crime. It’s better than nothing, but just as Batman is better than Ant-man, bats are far better guarantees of victory than bugs.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.