Friday, June 29

Managing Lugo

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

1. Jose is pretty sure that he has figured out how the Red Sox can get out of the slumping Julio Lugo’s distressingly long four year contract—sexual harassment charges.

Lugo reportedly told Boston Globe reporter Amelie Benjamin that he is having trouble sleeping. While to many that might sound like a perfectly innocent comment that Lugo is distressed by his low batting average, to a trained litigator, it is clearly a come on, a suggestion that the young reporter should help him “do something” about his inability to sleep.

Come on bear with Jose, he’s trying to help the team out here. If you have a better idea, he is more than happy to hear it. Of course, the existing comment is not quite enough to bring a real complaint, so Jose calls upon Ms. Benjamin to do know what needs to be done and ask Lugo the questions that will lead to enough borderline suggestive comments to establish a pattern.

A few suggestions:

Amelie: Are you disappointed that you haven’t hit more homeruns this year?
Julio: I’m very upset that I’m not hitting home runs. I love to hit home runs.

Amelie: Do you think your size has contributed to your power outage? You’re not that big.
Julio: Hey, I’m plenty big.

Amelie: Sexualharassersayswhat?
Julio: What?

Amelie: Do you agree that Jose Melendez is a piggish *sshole, who has disrespected me and all female sports reporters by even suggesting a sexual tone to this perfectly innocent conversation?
Julio: Wanna f*ck?

Jose should say, in order to be respectful, that it doesn’t have to be Amelie Benjamin who asks the questions. If could be any female reporter, or even an androgynous male one. Jose is equal opportunity like that.

2. As the Sox prepare for this four game series, Jose hopes they are ready to deal with this right reliever Benoit. Jose’s heard he has killer stuff.

3. The Yankees caught a break last night, when umpires declined to call the game due to downpours when the Yankees were trailing 6-4 after 6. Instead, the umps allowed the seventh to begin and the Yankees scored four runs to take an 8-6 lead before the game was “suspended.”

Under major league rules, since the bottom of the inning was not completed after the visitors took the lead in the top of the inning, the game must be suspended and completed on a later date. This doesn’t make any sense to Jose.

Whenever Red Sox players get suspended they miss one day, five days, ten days, whatever, but yesterday the entire Yankee team, and the Oriole for that matter get suspended, and all they have to do is make up 2.5 innings later? That’s crazy. It’s like one of those in-school suspensions, where you still have to go to school and do all of your work, but they just write down on your transcript that you were suspended because they’re total d*cks.

Or wait, maybe there’s one other possibility. You know how British women, like on Are You Being Served? and what not call garter belts suspenders? Maybe it’s like that and they just halted the game because the Yankees were having trouble keeping their stockings up?

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

Wednesday, June 27

Who is Daisuke Matsuzaka?

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

Ages of Empire

Today’s volume: Daisuke Matsuzaka

After Jose joined Manny yesterday in taking a well-deserved day off, the series ends today with Jose’s imperial analysis of the Japanese phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka. Now at first, Jose was tempted to equate Mr. Matsu to the French Empire, because France is where the gyroscope was invented in 1817. But of course, Jose then remembered that the French Empire was gone by 1817 and it was just the kingdom of France, which doesn’t fit the bill. Maybe when Jose compares each member of the starting rotation to a kingdom, he will come back to this.

But what are we to do then with Mr. Matsu? The best Jose can come up with is to compare him to the Skrull Empire. The Skrulls, of course are a race of short, shape shifting aliens that possess a vast empire in the Andromeda galaxy and have been known to tangle with the Fantastic Four. Maybe some were hypnotized into thinking they were cows. Jose figures they are the best analogy for Matsuzaka because like him, they are green, and their shapeshifting abilities are evocative of Matsuzaka’s curious transformations from pitcher who only seldom walks anyone to pitcher who walks everyone and back.

The best Jose could come up with?

On the other hand, this is a total cop out. Jose has promised you imperial analogies for the Sox rotation and he has to resort to fictional empires for two of the five? Lame.

Okay, so Jose will start thinking through the various empires listed in Civilization, the best video game ever that hasn’t injured Joel Zumaya, and come up with something real.

Any ideas? Anyone?

All right, Jose’s got it. Mr. Matsu is like the Incas because he loves the mountains and can’t comprehend the wheel. No, wait. He’s more like the Aztecs because he enjoys ripping out the hearts of his enemies and is vulnerable to European disease. Or is he more like the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth because when people look back at him, they’ll be surprised to find out that he was once a really big deal?

Damn it.

That’s the problem with Mr. Matsu isn’t it? He’s still an enigma. Even almost half way through the season, Jose is not totally sure what we have in him. Will he be a Mongol horde dominating with sheer power? The Greeks dominating for long past their military prime through the subtlety of their thought and artistry? Or perhaps the British Empire combining a variety of tools, the ruthlessness of arms with the soft power of culture and intellect. Or perhaps he will not dominate at all. Perhaps rather than being an empire, he will be one of those many nations that does not dominate but simply persists, like the Kurds, the Jews or the Armenians, that battle adversity for generations to often thrive, sometimes struggle, but never dominate.

That, or maybe he’s the Vikings because they both enjoy eating fish.

2. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards delivered an absolutely cutting rebuke to professional b*tch Anne Coulter the other day. Edwards asked Coulter to end personal attacks, such as suggesting that it would be good if John Edwards were killed by terrorists and joking that he had a bumper sticker reading “ask me about by dead son” on his car.

The normally nimble, if evil, Coulter seemed uncharacteristically flustered, and while incapable of shame, at least appeared chastened at being called to task by the mother of the child whose death she had mocked.

This got Jose thinking. Who’s going to do this to Dan Shaughnessy? Shaughnessy is the Coulter, of the Boston sports scene. Thin and lanky? Check. Hate-filled and borderline racist? Check. Adopts a vicious persona in order to sell books? You betcha. Prominent Adam’s apple? Indeed.

So who is going to call out old Dan? Who will be the Elizabeth Edwards to his Coulter Bean… err… Anne Coulter?

Just attacking these sorts of folks has no affect. They love to be attacked, to be called names and to have their competence questioned. It raises their profile, it gets ink and it moves merch. No, the only way to deal with them is to go face to face with them, and rather than yelling and screaming, rather than fighting them in their medium, simply ask them to stop their disgraceful behavior. They won’t, of course, but when, on television, they are forced to look into their adversary’s eyes and defend the awful things they said, they are exposed for who they are, cruel, opportunistic bullies.

When Edwards confronted Coulter, she was left with nothing to say but ask if Edwards wanted her to just stop talking and writing. Implicit, is that if she could not be mean, if she could not be vile, she would have nothing to say, not word one. If she could not call 9-11 widows harpies and rejoice in mocking parents for their dead children, she would have nothing, she would be nothing.

If Manny Ramirez were to go up to Shaughnessy on camera and ask him to stop the stereotyping, if Pedro were to ask why Shaughnessy has nothing to say about Roger’s special treatment in New York, but was so quick to brand Pedro a diva, what would he say? “Do you just want me to stop writing?”

Dan, Anne, if that’s what it takes, you bet. One can criticize without being cruel, attack without seeking to destroy. Can you? Maybe not, but then leave the discourse to someone who can.

3. Seeing that his baseball career might be nearing an end, embattled Red Sox pitcher Mike Timlin (note: who else wants to contribute to the gold watch?) gave the Boston Globe some thoughts on his plans for future employment.

To the surprise of many, the statuesque Timlin suggested that he may take up exotic dancing, claiming that he planned to “Strip everything off.”

But, Timlin added, being a quality adult entertainer is not easy. From dealing with wardrobe to working on dance moves, Timlin expects the new career to be challenge.

"Obviously, completely redoing your whole get-up is not easy, because you have routines and you have things you do,” explained the righty. “But that's what we're trying to get done."
Timlin also expressed concerns about having his anatomy compared to other dancers saying “As time goes, if you look over anybody's ‘stats,’… they're swinging the ‘bat’ really well. So their confidence is really high.”

Sox skipper Tito Eurona thought Timlin’s girth would not be an issue, telling the Globe “Here's a guy that's handled a real heavy ‘role’”

(Note: All quotes are real and taken from an Amalie Benjamin piece in today’s Globe. Jose can not help it if she put them in the wrong context in the paper.)

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

Monday, June 25

You, Happy Wakefield, Knuckle

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

Ages of Empire

Today’s volume: Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield is the Habsburg Empire. He just is. Both of them, the Austrians and the Spaniards, and in every iteration. From the Holy Roman Empire, to the Austrian Empire to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, that’s what Wakefield is. Yes, sometimes, in 1995 for instance, he looks like the Mongols, absolutely ravaging opponents, and other times, say late 1999 when he was left off the ALCS roster, he looks less like an empire at all and far more like on of those peaceful little tribes that was conquered and lost to history. But when taken in his entirety, Wakefield is most definitely the Habsburgs.

You can go right back to the beginning with the comparison, in that both Wakefield and the Habsburgs rose not because of their competence, but because of their incompetence. Whereas Frederick III was elected the first Habsburg Holy Roman Empire, precisely because other monarchs viewed him as too incompetent to comprise their power, Wakefield was forced into the knuckleball by his failure as an infielder. Both the Habsburgs and Wakefield would fulfill their destinies almost by accident.

Let Jose describe the essence of Habsburg rule. The Habsburgs came to dominate much of Europe. Their empire, at times stretched as far East as what it now Ukraine and as far West as Spain and as far South as Sicily (Note: Though there was lots in the middle they did not rule, and the extents of their empire varied dramatically over the centuries.) Yet, they achieved this spectacular success, despite utter mediocrity and significant incompetence. How pathetic were they militarily? Perhaps their greatest hero is Prince Eugene of Savoy, who staved off the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683. That’s right; their greatest military hero was French!

No, the unofficial motto, of the Habsburgs was “Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube,” “Let others wage war, you - happy Austria - marry!" The Habsburgs could not win on the battlefield, so they won with the through the subtle trickery of matrimony.

So is any of this starting to sound like a pitcher you know? Tim Wakefield has somehow managed to gather 158 career wins and to creep into the top 100 on the all time strikeout list, despite not being particularly good. Just like the Habsburgs, he has had remarkable success despite lacking major league stuff. Just as the Habsburgs relied on matrimony, Wakefield has used the equally subtle knuckleball to escape his limitations. Moreover, just as the Habsburgs produced only two leaders of any distinction, Maria Theresa an Charles V of Spain, so too, had Tim Wakefield only two seasons of particular distinction, his debut year where he went 8-1 for the Pirates and his remarkable 1995 campaign. If one wishes, one can add Joseph II/Wakefield’s 2002 campaign to the list of competence.

But that’s where the analogy ends. The Habsburg’s Empire ended, with Gavrilo Princip’s bullet in Sarajevo. Yes, Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s death did not end the Empire on that day, but in set in motion the awful events of World War I that would eventually lead to the death of their empire. Wakefield has already met his Princip, in Aaron Boone, who like Princip was a small and insignificant man who fate tabbed for one brief moment of importance. That moment in 2003, when Boone’s home run ended the 2003 ALCS as surely and as quickly as an assassin’s bullet ended the life of the Habsburg heir, should have set in motion the torturous end of Tim Wakefield’s career if the analogy was to hold true.

And yet here we are, four years later. Wakefield pitched brilliantly in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS and won a championship that year, and today he continues to start. His starts remain enigmatic, inconsistent and his seasonal numbers without particular distinction. Is it what we as fans would want? Probably not, but perhaps we should be satisfied with it. After all, the Habsburgs, certainly would have given anything four years after Franz Ferdinand’s Assassination to be lumbering along in their stylized mediocrity, rather than accelerating towards disasterous defeat and dissolution.

2. With the Red Sox facing Seattle’s Jeff Weaver tonight, Jose thought it would be nice to pay tribute to one of the classic songs that Jeff and his brother Jared wrote along with Bob Seeger during their time with the folk group “The Weavers.” Jose has taken On Top of Old Smokey” and updated it for the contemporary Red Sox fan, just like Jeff would have wanted, as a commentary on the deliciously sorry state of his old team. (Note: Sing along, you know the music!)

On top of the majors
Way up in the east
The Sox were alive and
The Yanks were deceased

For winning’s a pleasure
But losing is grief
Dropping two to the Giants
Is beyond belief

They’re behind Toronto
Lost more than they’ve won
And this schadenfreude
Is barrels of fun

And Roger’s an old man
His fastball is flat
He’s getting the big bucks
But looks kind of fat
How True

And Jeter’s a statue
He ain’t got no range
And Steinbrenner’s fuming
“I’m getting shortchanged”

Old Damon is hurting
And cut off his hair
Just like mighty Sampson
Now he’s swinging at air

They look up the standings
Way up at the Sox
And Yanks fans are crying
And Jose just mocks.

3. Rumors began to trickle out over the weekend that the Red Sox are leading contenders to acquire lefty Mark Buehrle from the White Sox. Jose will be honest. He is not yet sure how he feels about this potential trade, and about how Buehrle would fit into the rotation. While Buehrle, who threw a no-hitter earlier this year, obviously has great stuff, Jose would like to know a little bit more about his makeup before he would pull the trigger.

Our rotation currently consists of: blogging egomaniac, cocky Texan, insane Dominican bowler, Japanese guy and guy who throws sixty five to Major League hitters. Does Buehrle really have what it takes to supplant a member of that group personality wise? If not Jose says back off. Remember we have Jon Lester waiting in the wings to play the role of heroic cancer survivor.

If the Red Sox are going to make this trade, Jose would like to hear that Buehrle writes romance novels on the side or spends the off season working on a cure for maple syrup urine disease, something interesting. Jose is just saying that everyone needs a clearly defined role.

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