Friday, July 6

Custerer's Last Stand

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

1. According to the Boston Metro, a well-know ticker custerer was stabbed and robbed at Kenmore Square station by two men just before yesterday’s game. The custer was counting his piles of filthy gangster money outside the turnstiles when he was attacked.

While the ticket reseller’s white T-shirt was torn by the knife’s blade and stained with blood, his track pants are reported to have escaped harm.

The victim was taken to Boston Medical Center with non-life Lugothreatening injuries, where he shares a room in the trauma ward with Tampax Bay pitcher J.P. Howell.

2. Damn it.

Jose could have sworn that he saw a headline this morning in The Boston Metro, (slogan: now Boston’s #2 free subway paper) that read “Man sues bar over missed question.” Jose, or course, thought that this was a story about a fellow who had lost a pub trivia contest on a controversial question and had sued the haughty quizmaster for what was rightfully his. But it turned out that Jose just wasn’t paying attention and that the headline actually read “man sues bar association over missed question” which does not allow one to jump to the same funny conclusion. Rather, it was about a man who sued the Massachusetts Bar Association after he failed the bar by one question when he refused to answer a question that would have, in his opinion, affirmed support for gay marriage. Bo-ring.

Had they written the same story without using “association” in the headline, Jose was going to write about how this was the second most misleading headline of the year, right after the Globe’s “Exciting signs: Red Sox sign Drew and Lugo” on December 6.

Damn it.

3. It was nice of Hideki Okajima to pretend to be surprised about winning the All-Star election last night. Okajima, who was voted in by the fans as the 30th man on the A.L. squad, graciously bowed to all corners of the field to show his happiness at and thanks for the honor. Skilled Japanologists, however, reported that he was not actually surprised. Why would he be? He comes from one of the world’s only truly democratic countries where elections are basically a foregone conclusion.

The way elections work in Japan since 1955 is fairly simple. Everyone casts a ballot and then the Liberal Democratic Party (note: famously called neither liberal, nor democratic nor a party), in one form or another, wins. With the exception of the years between 1993 and 1996, this is basically how it has worked for sixty years. Pretty much for the LDP to lose power they had to be involved in major scandals and fail to adopt political reform legislation. Ergo, with Okajima quite certain that he had had little in terms of dirty dealing with Lockheed, why wouldn’t he expect to win the election?

Nevertheless, congratulations to Hideki Okajima, the best Hideki in Major League Baseball.

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

Thursday, July 5

The Goddess of Divine Retribution

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

1. Nemesis.

In Greek mythology she was the goddess of divine retribution, the avenger of hubris, or, more abstractly, the notion that people will get what they deserve. In the Marvel Super Heroes role playing game, it was the power to counter any opponent's power (note to nerds: think of the sentinel Nimrod). And in Star Trek, it was a really lame movie, though maybe not quite as lame as the one with F. Murray Abraham,

And today, Nemesis is Joey Chestnut, and she is a civil engineering student from San Jose California.

Until yesterday, the legendary Takeru Kobayashi, the Japanese Eating Machine, had been unrivaled, undefeated by man, having lost only to a Kodiak bear on Fox’s Man vs. Beast. But no more. Kobayashi went down to ignominious defeat at the hand of Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, in the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Championship at Coney Island before a live crowd of 30,000 and millions more on television, including your Boston Red Sox, who were poised to take the field mere minutes after a “Reversal of Fortune” ended Kobayashi’s day.

But is Kobayashi less for having met his nemesis, for finally having succumbed?

In a way, of course he is. He is no longer undefeated and unrivaled. But in another way, a real way, the defeat has made him all the greater, because it enhances his narrative. Every Holmes needs his Moriarty; every Maggie Simpson needs the baby with the one eyebrow. The Red Sox have the Yankees. Roger Clemens had Dave Stewart. Mariano Rivera had Bill Mueller. Mickey Mantle had the bottle. Ali had Frazier. Thurman Munson had gravity. Chamberlain had Russell. Bird had Magic. Billy Martin had a bridge abutment.

And were any of them lesser for having the rival, for having met their match? Well, Clemens, who never got by Dave Stewart (note: or Jeff Suppan) but not the others. Nemesis is part of the heroic narrative (note: okay, technically it’s part of the tragic archetype, but give Jose a break, his nemesis is factual accuracy), and it is this very struggle of hero vs. nemesis, thesis vs. antithesis, that transforms the merely great into synthesis of legend. (Note: Yes, Jose is using the hot dog eating contest as dialectic.)

Rocky Marciano never met his match, but was he truly the greater for it? Who knows what heights he could have reached had he been pushed? This is America. And on this day after the celebration of our independence, we do well to recall that competition is at the core of our national identity. It is the competition of ideas, of men, of teams, of businesses that drives excellence, that creates brilliance.

So, congratulations to Joey Chestnut, and congratulations to Takeru Kobayashi. You need each other, you deserve each other, and you will transform each other from men into myth.

2. Halfway through the season, the Red Sox hold an 11.5 game lead over the second place Blue Jays and a 12 game lead over the third place Yankees, and they have 16 games remaining against the lowly Tampax Bay DRays. That means that for better or for worse (note: for better), the Red Sox’s ability to take the division will be determined largely by their ability to beat up on one of the worst teams in baseball.

While this is good news for the Sox’s chances to take the division, it is bad news for fans of drama and excitement. It is more anticlimactic than a night with A-Rod.

It does not follow an appropriate dramatic arc for the heroes to vanquish the lowest of the low in the last act. Did Return of the Jedi end with Luke Skywalker having a light saber duel with a Jawa? Nope. (Note: Though having the Empire go down to Ewoks isn’t that far off.) Having the Red Sox beat up on the DRays to secure an AL East title is like having a Goomba as the big boss at the end of Super Mario Brothers. It is like having the Hulk Hogan vs. Barry Horowitz as the WrestleMania main event. It is like having Spiderman 4 feature Rocket Racer or the Gibbon as the villain.

Anticlimax fever—catch it!

Tampa Manager Joe Maddon

prepares for 16 with the Sox

3. With fewer than eight hours to go, Hideki Okajima retains his lead in the election to be added on to the A.L. All-Star team, over Roy Halliday, Jeremy Bonderman, Kelvim Escobar and Pat Neshik.

Reports out of Detroit confirm that Jeremy Bonderman, in an effort to overtake Okajima, has contracted former Florida Secretary of State and Congresswoman Katherine Harris to work on the vote. Harris’ duties will reportedly include, disenfranchising Japanese voters, on the ground that they’re “furners” and hiring Diebold to ensure that any vote cast for Okajima is registered as a vote for Pat Buchanan .

In a related story, by participating in the election process, Harris replaces Julian Tavarez as the most batsh*t insane person associated with Major League Baseball.
Battle of the Titans: Who's Crazier?
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Monday, July 2

On the Auction Block

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

1. During yesterday’s telecast, Meg Vaillancourt, the former Globe reporter who converted her aggressive coverage of the plan to build a new stadium and the sale of the Red Sox into a cushy job as head of the Red Sox foundation (note: Hooray journalistic integrity!), revealed that as part of the “picnic in the park” auction, fans will be able to bid on “one of a kind” Red Sox items such as a game of Scrabble with Jonathan Papelbon or a quail hunting trip with Mike Timlin and Tim Wakefield.

While playing Scrabble with Papelbon might be fun, Jose is not convinced that hunting with Timlin and Wakefield is the best idea. Jose sort of imagines Wakefield out there hunting, just pumping bird shot into quail after quail, nice and easy. Then all of a sudden, not only is he unable to hit any quail he’s inadvertently shooting other hunters, airplanes, that sort of thing. Timlin, Jose would be less worried about, because if his shot is anything like his fastball, it’s arrow straight.

While the other items have not yet been made public, Jose’s crack reporting team has uncovered a number of items that will be available for bid
  • Chance to strike out Julio Lugo.
  • Bowling with Julian Tavarez.
  • Work on proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, with noted genius Alex Cora.
  • Karaoke with Matsuzaka and Okajima
  • Opportunity to kick Doug Mirabelli in the nuts.
  • Have Kevin Youkilis sing Kiddush at your Shabbat dinner.
  • Pap smear by Papelbon
  • Tour of Hyde Park with Manny Delcarmen
  • Buy Manny’s grill or car or whatever he’s got this month.

There are a lot of great items to bid on, way better than the Yankee auction. The best thing there is a pool party with Mariano Rivera. (Note: Wow, that is maybe the worst thing Jose has ever written. Should he have gone with marriage counseling from A-Rod instead?)

2. Recently Jose learned that he has gotten a link on the Web page of Tim Wendel, author of Castro’s Curveball, a book that Jose assumes must be about San Francisco’s famed gay baseball league.

But seriously, the book, is a fictionalized account of the Cuban leader’s baseball playing days. Since Castro was known to be a pitcher of some skill during his days at Belen College and the University of Havana (note: though he never played professionally) , it has often been wondered what might have happened if he’d had the stuff to compete at a major league level? Would history have turned out differently?

Jose, to be honest, finds the discussion a little trite. Sure, it’s fun to imagine, but Jose suspects that even if Castro had livelier stuff, it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference.

A far more interesting question is what might have happened if Papa Doc Duvalier had been an excellent drag bunter? The implications would have been stunning. As a tyrant and, Papa Doc was all too eager to sacrifice others for his own benefit. Perhaps if he had learned the honorable art of the sacrifice bunt, he would have understood that self-sacrifice is, in its own way, worthy.

Another interesting question is what would have transpired had Nikita Khrushchev been a baseball player? On any of the number of occasions when he banged his shoe on his desk during the UN General Assembly, perhaps his spikes would have gotten caught in the desk, embarrassing the Soviet leader and decreasing his prestige. Perhaps, so chastened, he would have lacked the courage to send missiles to Cuba.

Regardless, it seems like now might be a good time to start teaching Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to field a position.

Kruscheve Comes in spikes high

3. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair. After tonight, Khe-Sahn Gabbard will have started just three big league games this year, and Jose will have ended up at two of them. That’s just not right.

Jose supposes it could work out okay. A few years ago, Jose thought he was so smart in his annual season ticket draft. He carefully selected games five days apart at the beginning of the season in order to get as many Pedro starts as possible. The only problem was that he miscounted, and instead got a healthy helping of Brian Rose starts, though one of those included a game winning single by Manny off of Mariano Rivera on a Friday night, so it wasn’t all bad. Similarly, the Sox won the first Gabbard start Jose saw this year.

Still, Jose cannot help but be a little disappointed that he is seeing Gabbard. It’s a little like buying tickets for AC/DC and expecting to see Bon Scott and then finding out that he died and that Brian Johnson will be singing instead. Wait… Brian Johnson was still kind of good. Maybe it’s more like expecting to vote for George McGovern and Tom Eagleton and then discovering the day before the election that Eagleton’s been replaced by Sargent Shriver. Wait, that’s no good either, Gabbard’s got a much better chance of winning tonight than either Eagleton or Shriver did of becoming Vice President.

Okay, Jose’s got it. Getting Red Sox tickets and then ending up with a Khe-Sahn Gabbard start is a lot like ordering kung pao chicken and then discovering that it’s the version of kung pao that’s 80 percent celery. Sure, it might be pretty good, but even if it is, you’re still going to be kind of disappointed.

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