Friday, September 14

If Jose Had a Hammer

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

1. Some call it the greatest rivalry in sports, the Red Sox and the Yankees.

But not everyone.

There are people out there, shady and mysterious, who do not agree. They claim that it is no more a rivalry that the relationship between hammer and nail, or hammer and window, or hammer and the kneecap of a ratfink or hammer in the hand of an exceedingly dumb person and screw.

They argue, these linguists from the Bronx, that with the Red Sox on the losing end so often the word rivalry is simply inappropriate. Perhaps, they claim, the Red Sox and the Yankees are far more like hammer striking nail than two swords clashing. The Yankees are a hammer. The Red Sox are a nail. But maybe, these pinstriped professors of English do not truly understand the relationship between hammer and nail?

They imagine that the hammer, since it strikes the nail repeatedly, pounding it, crushing it with leaden blows, is the superior in the relationship, that the nail battered and abused is subject to the hammer’s steel will. But is it really? Think about the ultimate purpose of a nail, to fasten, to hold, to bind. A nail’s duty, its raison d’etre is to defy gravity. And how does it oppose such a fundamental force? By drawing strength from the blows of the hammer.

Imagine hanging a picture. If you simply hold a nail against the wall and then let go, the nail and with it the picture will crash to the ground. But what happens when you strike the nail with a hammer? With each blow, the nail gains power, with each heavy strike, the nail’s ability to defy gravity increases. Swing after swing after swing, the hammer lands heavy on the nail, its brute force increasing the strength of the nail, increasing its ability to hold up the picture, to fulfill its destiny. And when the final blow is struck, the nail reaches the zenith of its power, firm against the wall and immune to further blows. The hammer can strike the nail again and again, but the nail will not go any further, it has its position, and it will hold it no matter what.

Yes, the Yankees are the hammer and the Red Sox are the nail. And for years they have struck us, brutalized us, but the final blow was struck in 2003, Aaron Boone set the head of the nail that is the Boston Red Sox flush against the wall and when Mariano Rivera tried once again to swing the pinstriped hammer in 2004, it was powerless. The hammer had given too much strength, too much holding power to the nail, and the nail would yield no more.

So where are we now in this battle, this true rivalry between hammer and nail? We are at the end game of all clashes between hammer and nail, the hammer can do no more and the nail is at the peak of its might, guaranteed, forever, to hold up that picture frame we call the division lead.

2. As the Red Sox and Yankees head into the weekend series that will end the Yankees division championship chances, there are dozens of crucial questions swirling. Is Roger Clemens healthy? Can Mr. Matsu pull himself together? But none is more important, more hotly contested than this: If the 2007 New York Yankees were a 1980s sitcom which one would they be?

The nominees:

Silver Spoons
Similarities: About an incredibly spoiled rich kid learning life lessons. The Yankees are incredibly rich, and they’re about to be taught a lesson.
Differences: No train going through Yankee locker room yet. Jason Bateman—not a true Yankee.

Similarities: Brooding father figure named George. Bad haircuts (note: Ma’am’s) prominently featured.
Differences: Yankees have noticeable lack of loveable black orphans.

Mr. Belvedere
Similarities: Catchy theme songs.
Differences: Bob Uecker much better defensive catcher than Jorge Posada.

Perfect Strangers
Similarities: Yankees feature loveable immigrant (Wong) and nervous guy (A-Rod).
Differences: Balki already a well-established Red Sox icon.

Charles in Charge

Similarities: Olive skinned man tries to manage a bunch of idiots.
Differences: No one on Joe Torre’s staff is as smart as Buddy Lembeck

The Golden Girls

Similarities: Geriatrics always looking for sex.
Differences: Roger Clemens is older than Rue McClanahan and Derek Jeter is not quite as manly as Bea Arthur.

See. There are a lot of good comparisons but nothing is quite perfect. Maybe the best analogy is Rosanne, like the rotund actress, the Yankees are a disgrace when they appear on a baseball field.

3. Jose is going to miss the last hour of tonight’s game, as he has a social obligation, but he’s not going to videotape it. It’s not that he doesn’t want to, it’s just that he can’t really deal with a $500,000 fine right now.

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

Wednesday, September 12


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

1. The Red Sox are going to the post-season.

There. Jose said it. It’s okay to say it. Yes, yes, they haven’t technically clinched anything, and yes the division title is maybe vaguely in doubt still, but the Red Sox are up about a million games on the wild card second place Tigers, and there ain’t no way, they’re falling that far.

This means that as much as Jose would like to rant and worry about the upcoming Yankees series, he just can’t muster the energy. He has other concerns— namely, how to get playoff tickets.

It used to be that Jose could get tickets through sheer force of will, rising early on a Saturday morning and dialing the phone until his fingers were sore and chaffed. In 1999, Jose was at every single home playoff game. But that era ended with the birth of the virtual waiting room and the rise of the pink hats, and now Jose is stuck scheming like everyone else.

But Jose has a plan. It’s a time honored strategy, ancient and refined. What is it? Well here it goes: blackmail. That’s right blackmail! Or wait, blackmail is illegal right? So let’s call it… uh… negotiation. Jose is going to “get to yes” on the ticketing question.

But with whom is Jose going to negotiate? Why, with someone on whom he has information of course—his ticket supplier. Jose has had a cut of a friend’s season tickets for the past two years, but the friend, let’s call him Mr. M for now (note: Mr. M does not stand for mentally retarded male) understandably plans to keep the playoff seats that come with the season passes for himself.

That’s where the negotiation comes in. Mr. M is recently married, and Jose wonders if his wife knows that Mr. M is one of only two people to ever purchase a KEYS thong, ostensibly for his “research assistant.” If you are reading this Mr. M, be prepared to hand over playoff tickets unless you want your wife getting a KEYS thong in the mail, with a note saying.

Dear Mrs. M,

Congratulations on your nuptials. Jose
understands that Mr. M really likes to see all of his women in KEYS delicates,
so Jose thought he would give you one as a wedding gift.



So what will it be? Give Jose the tickets or have your wife get that awkward letter? The choice, as rap duo Black Sheep would say, is yours.

(Preemptive note against Jose getting his ass kicked/marital discord in the M household: Okay, so Mr. M is someone Jose regards as a friend, but Jose doesn’t really know him that well, and has never met his wife. This creates a problem, as Jose has no idea if she’s the sort of person who would take this seriously. Jose thought about asking Mr. M for permission to do this bit, but what if he said no? Then Jose would be completely stuck without a first KEY and would have to write some lame Kevin Cash thing, and no one wants that. So Jose decided that he would go ahead and write the bit, but add this disclaimer. So Mrs. M, if you’re reading this, this is all a big joke and your husband has nothing to hide… that is unless he fails to hand over playoff tickets, in which case Jose is pretty sure he saw him buying black market KEYS thong knock offs in Chinatown to give to Swiss hookers.)

2. After hearing about a friend of a friend eating a $700 for two people meal in London, which included bacon and eggs ice cream, Jose has started thinking about excess. What is reasonable to spend on one’s personal pleasure and what is unreasonable? In a world where a billion people live on less than one dollar per day, is it truly reasonable and responsible to drop $700 on ice cream with pork in it?

Jose is of two minds on the issue. The first mind says “No, are you crazy. That’s wrong, wrong, wrong.” After all, who in God’s name needs to spend $700 to get a spectacular meal? Is it that different than the spectacular meal one would get for, say $300? But then Jose is of a second mind. We all have our weaknesses, our hidden passions that drive us to the supple madness of excess. Jose, for instance, spent, $5 on a Jose Melendez baseball card. That’s crazy. Perhaps for some people, the $700 dinner gives equivalent pleasure to what Jose gets from a flight to Europe. And who is Jose to judge?

After mulling over the ethics of it all, Jose reached a few conclusions. First, excess in moderation is okay. There is nothing wrong with going nuts once in a while, but if you eat $700 dinners often, you are a total jerk. Second, waste is intolerable. If you pay $700 for a meal, you’d better not leave any crust on the plate or fat on the bone. Hell, you should eat the bone and then lick the plate just to be sure. Jose concluded this because he has his own excesses. He spends hundreds of dollars every year on baseball tickets, and just this year alone he’s spent $160 on tickets for games he never even went to. Does that make him a bad person? (Note: Yes.)

So the point is that the occasional splurge is okay if it is worthwhile (note: $20 million per year for Manny) but not if it is wasteful ($14 million per year for DJ Dru, $5.75 per hour for Cesar Crespo.)

3. Jose feels obliged to weigh in on the Patriots sign stealing scandal. Yes, it has nothing to do with baseball, but neither to world poverty and blackmail, and it didn’t stop Jose from writing about them.

While it is pretty clear that the NFL has a rule against electronic surveillance of an opponent’s defensive signals and that the Patriots broke that rule, Jose contends that there should be no punishment. That rule is clearly superseded by the federal law permitting warrantless wiretapping. See, there’s a reason they called it the Patriot Act rather than the Jets Act.

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

Tuesday, September 11

On Being a Bleacher Creature

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

1.Man, Jose loves sitting in the bleachers. He forgets how much he loves it sometimes, what with the fancy grandstand seats he sits in most of the time these days, but for sheer borderline alcoholic excitement, nothing beats the bleachers.

Jose imagines that returning to the bleachers must be a little like getting behind the wheel of the 1981 Dodge Omni he drove in his youth after driving a BMW for a few years. At first, it would seem like a major come down, but pretty soon those old pleasant quirks would start to feel as comfortable as venerable sweatpants. Jose loved that Omni, or “Oni” as we called it because the “m” had fallen off. It had everything: wheels, a transmission, a gas tank, an engine that sometimes worked—everything. Sure, it wasn’t as nice as a BMW, just as the bleachers aren’t as “nice” as the grandstands, but have you ever had a BMW where a hard right turn with the AC on would give a Christ-like footbath to the passenger side occupant in the form of a good gallon of condensation? Didn’t think so.

And have you ever been in a BMW that struggled so hard to get up hill that you got passed by bicyclists, allowing one to get a glimpse of hard working female posteriors one might have otherwise missed? Again, Jose thinks not.

No, for all the glitz and glamour Jose will take the inexpensive, chaotic fun of the bleachers or the Oni over the elite and refined comfort of the grandstand or a Beamer. Of course, Jose currently drives a 1991 powder blue Toyota Corolla that is technically owned by a bear with a long connection to Transcendental Mediation, so what does he know.

2. Another nice thing about sitting in the bleachers is that more people are drunk and therefore likely to chat than in other sections.

In about the second inning last night, Jose and his brother Sam, saw a fellow in an A-Rod T-shirt sitting between two charming lasses. Now our initial thought was that he wasn’t having sex with either of them, as one can reasonably assume that someone wearing an A-Rod shirt is, like his hero, into more mannish ladies, and both of these ladies were all woman. But he seemed awful friendly with both of them, so our opinions changed quickly.

But which of them was this fellow with? That was a matter of considerable dispute. The brunette with the warm eyes to his left was wearing Yankee white and blue, which would seem to make her a likely target, but she was waving a Sox flag, which convinced Jose that she was not his beau. After all, not only would no Yankees fan ever bring a Sox flag to Fenway, pretty much no Sox fan would either. Flags are a pain in the neck. You can’t put them on the ground while you two-fist beers, you have to fold them into little triangles, and who can remember which flies higher, the Red Sox flag or the U.S. flag? Pain in the neck.

Still, Jose’s brother, based on the blue and white, or perhaps his contrary nature, assumed ol’ soft eyes was the one.

And it was a choice that made sense, as soon as one saw that the curly-haired blonde to the A-Rod fan’s right was wearing a red Sox shirt with blue lettering. What Yankees fan would ever wear that? But then, Jose noticed a problem. It was a Damon jersey. Who in God’s name would wear a completely undesecrated Damon Red Sox shirt to Fenway in this day and age? A die-hard Damon loyalist, who remembers what he did rather than who he has become? No, no! A Yankee fan seeking to taunt her neighbors. (Note: Though why this would be a taunt is unclear. Jose is glad that the Yankees have the ever increasingly arthritic Damon and not us.)

After marinating on the question for a few innings (note: yes that was a veiled reference to the film “Kissing Jessica Stein”), Jose made his move. He took advantage of a few fans getting up for refreshment, to jump down two rows to behind the A-Rod Guy.

“Hey A-Rod Guy,” Jose bellowed.

His head whipped around, surprised to be summoned in the bleachers with anything other than “Hey *sshole.”

“Yeah?” The A-Rod Guy responded nervously.

“Jose is wondering if he can ask you something to settle a bet?”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“Given that they both have Red Sox stuff, which one of these girls are you with?”

The girls laughed… hard. Jose suspected he had his answer.

“Neither,” he answered sheepishly. “Though this one has the blue and white on. My girlfriend’s at Villanova.”

“Is she a Yankees fan?”

“She probably doesn’t care, but would lean Yankees. Though she’d be too smart to wear a jersey here.”

“So you’re really not hooking up with either of these girls,” Jose pressed.

“Nah,” riposted A-Rod guy. “She’s a Sox fan,” he said pointing to the blonde, “And she’s a Pirate’s fan or something,” he said indicating the brunette.

“Well if you do sleep with either or both, you’ll let Jose know right?”

“You’re creepy,” pointed out A-Rod guy.

So Jose gave A-Rod guy his URL, told him to respond to today’s KEYS and then left him be. Of course, he said he wasn’t going with either of them, but Jose has his suspicions. Jose thinks he was just lying because intercourse between Red Sox fans and Yankees fans is illegal in this state. Jose thinks the Massachusetts General Laws call it “The Unspeakable Unnatural Act” When the game was over and Jose and his entourage waited to escape the bleachers, Jose saw the A-Rod Guy with an arm slung casually over each woman’s shoulder. A sign of things to come, perhaps?

Well, we’ll have to see if A-Rod Guy responds. He promised he would, but if he’s anything like his hero, he won’t deliver in the clutch.

3. Mike Lowell is the oldest looking 33-year-old Jose has ever seen. And it’s not just the gray hair, the dude looks grizzled.

This is an interesting factor in whether the Sox are willing to offer him a three-year contract after this season ends. On the one hand, he’s playing great this year, but on the other hand, it seems absolutely possible that if current aging trends continue, by the end of a three year deal in 2010, he will look slightly older than the mummy of Ramesses the II, which is 3,200 years old. Jose says older, because Ramesses, even in his current state still has his natural hair color. Mike Lowell has no such luck.

Will Lowell look this good in three years?
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Monday, September 10

Let's Go to The Video Tape

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

1. Over the weekend Jose saw a nifty little indie flick called “King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” about the battle to be the all time Donkey Kong champion.

In the film, challenger Steve Wiebe, a middle school science teacher breaks the Donkey Record set by Holyoke native and hot sauce Billy Mitchell in 1982, but the record breaking performance, videotaped at Wiebe’s Redmond, Washington home, is disallowed because it is a video tape of an uncertified machine. Also, because of corruption. It was like Tim Donaghy was refereeing.

Yet, when Wiebe breaks Mitchell’s record at Funspot in New Hampshire, a video tape sent in by Mitchell with an even higher score is played immediately after Wiebe’s record setting performance and is validated by officials as the true record. So in one case, a video tape is disallowed, while in another case it is allowed. The most remarkable think is that Tim Tschida wasn’t even the official making the decisions.

But Jose does not mean to relentlessly and needlessly summarize for you a movie that you should all go see. No, Jose is trying to make a point here. As it becomes clearer that the Red Sox and Yankees will both make the playoffs and a meeting in the ALCS becomes possible, we need to prepare for a Yankee bid to skip the ALCS games and send in video tapes instead.

Jose can see it now. The Red Sox show up for Game 1 at Fenway. The crowd is jumping, the national anthem is electric, but where are the Yankees? They are absent, too smug to even take the field. Instead, there is only a video playing on the jumbotron of the Yankees crushing the Orioles 15-2, or some such lopsided score. The officials consult and Tim Tschida rules that since there is no way the Red Sox would have gotten 15 runs off of Wang, the Yankees will be awarded the game.

Alternatively, Jose could see a situation where the Red Sox are up 3-2 going to the ninth and the Yankees demand to play a video tape of A-Rod’s game winning home run off of Papelbon earlier in the season rather than actually playing the inning.

Jose is not saying that this is going to happen. Jose is just saying that there is precedent and we should keep our eyes open.

2. Jose has thought a lot about the whole Michael Vick dog fighting thing this summer and it keeps bothering him. While dog fighting is brutal and wrong, Jose cannot help but think that there are a lot of folks out there who care way more about animals than humans. This is f’d up. For instance, Jose went to a Darfur fundraiser over the weekend and listened to Harvard Professor Samantha Power recount a story of why Colorado Congresswoman Pat Schroeder had claimed that there wasn’t more interest in the Rwandan Genocide even as hundreds of thousands were slaughtered. Schroeder, a smart lady, pointed out that her office got hundreds of calls on endangered species in contrast to the few they got on Rwanda. Nothing happened not only because of political cowardice, but because of the will of the people—the people cared more about animals that Rwandans.

Jose is not saying it’s necessary, but he would gladly let bald eagles clutching maces in their talons fight nunchuck toting whooping cranes to the death in order to stop genocide. If you care more about people than whooping cranes, call 1-800-GENOCIDE and tell your representatives to support intervention in Darfur.

There is one addendum to this though. Jose is not totally convinced that this is about animals in general rather than dogs in particular. People seem to really like dogs, way more than cats. And unlike ferret ownership, Rudy Giuliani does not regard dog owning as a form of mental illness.

So Jose asks you this: If Michael Vick was not running a dog fighting ring and instead was running monkey knife fights would he still be in the NFL? Jose says yes. While monkey knife fighting is only legal in international waters, as indicated by The Simpsons, it is not harshly punished in the U.S. In 2006, two Missouri men were arrested for organizing monkey knife fights, but did you ever hear about it? Nope.

3. In other news, contrary to published reports former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will not be visiting DRays starter Scott “Disputed Province of” Kazmir prior to this evening’s game. Sharif’s plan to visit Kazmir and advise him on taking a more aggressive strategy against the Red Sox were thwarted when he was deported to Saudi Arabia this morning.

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