Thursday, September 25


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

Jose has suspended KEYS TO THE GAME in order to focus on fixing the U.S. financial crisis. Now, more than ever, we need to come together and hit the economy with a chair, perhaps several times.

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

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Tuesday, September 23

Our Competitive Advantage

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

This seems like as good a time as any for Jose to point out the one small concern he has about this team: They may not be very good.

It’s an odd thing to say right now as the Sox stand with 91 wins, just one victory or Yankee loss away from clinching a playoff birth, but Jose really wonders. What exactly is this team’s competitive advantage? It’s certainly not the offense. Sure, the Sox have some guys at the middle of the lineup who can mash, but we also have a bottom of the lineup that includes a too old Varitek, a suddenly too young Lowrie and a too never very good Mark Kotsay-Hey Kid. (Note: Sarcasm.)

The relief pitching? It’s fine Jose supposes. Papelbon is still picking up saves for the most part, but somehow he seems a little unsteady. Like a drunk working the high iron, he never looks good but he always hangs on. Of course, when a guy on the high iron doesn’t hang on it’s messy. The same holds true for Paps. Oki’s been back on track and Masterson’s been good, but can they compare to the young guns in Tampa or the man from Anaheim who rendered Jose’s Bobby Thigpen card even more worthless? (Note: Jose traded a Lou Whitaker card for that Thigpen card the year Thigpen set the save record. In related news, did you know that Jose was once president of Lehman Brothers?) That leaves us with the starting pitching. This should be the strong point. Beckett, Lester and Dice. That’s a pretty good threesome. It’s like Garnett, Pierce and Allen, but without the foul stench of Connecticut. (Note: Just kidding, Jose is indifferent to Connecticut. By the way is Connect Four the official state game of Connecticut? It should be. And why is the second “C” in Connecticut silent? Jose bets it is for insurance reasons.) But how confident are you about Dice’s ability to not throw 150 pitches in the first three innings of a big game? And Beckett hasn’t looked like himself. And Lester? Jose is good with Lester. Lester is easily the best ventriloquist dummy of all time, well, after Franklin and Gabbo.

So maybe our competitive advantage is at manager. Tito is probably the best in the game right now. Jose thinks we should consider putting him in charge of the $700 billion bailout, since he’s already managed Manny Ramirez a.k.a. the $160 million bailout. The only problem is that his competition will be pretty good too. Scioscia has recovered nicely from his radiation poisoning in Springfield to emerge as a first rate skipper, Joe Maddon is a genius with his Tina Fey glasses and Ozzie Guillen… okay Ozzie’s sort of nuts.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us relying on Wally the Green Monster. Can you name the Tampa mascot or Chicago’s? The Angels have that monkey, but Jose has seen a bunch of monkeys up close in the last year, and they don’t seem so tough. As long as Korean tourists don’t give them any cookies, they’re generally not a problem. If Jose was going to take a bush animal for his mascot he would have gotten a hippo. Those things are scary. If the Angels had a hippo for a mascot, Jose would worry.

Anyway, Jose at least hopes that the mascot is our advantage or else he is going to be spending the next few weeks comparing and contrasting park organists and ushers in search of that one little advantage that will make the 2008 Sox special.

2. Jose has a new friend. He thinks we might be BFFs. His name is Justin… Justin Masterson. He will probably be the best man at Jose’s wedding. Okay Jose’s not engaged or anything, but at the very least, Justin will probably come over to watch WrestleMania.

It’s funny that Jose and Justin became friends so quickly. Jose usually takes time to build up friendships. Half of his friends are people he’s known since kindergarten. The other half are folks he’s known since college. The third half are people who are not great at math. Jose becomes friendly with people fast but he takes his time becoming friends. (Note: No he doesn’t.) But with Justin it was somehow different. The friendship was almost instantaneous. Jose invited Justin to become his friend, and Justin agreed.

It’s probably that they have so much in common. Justin’s favorite book is The Bible and Jose owns a Bible. It’s somewhere. Justin loves Jesus and Jose really likes Jesus. Justin likes to quote Virgil and Jose once saw Virgil with Ted DiBiase at the old Boston Garden. Justin is a right-handed pitcher and Jose often uses his right hand to pour from a pitcher. Justin loves Adam Sandler movies and Jose… well, there’s no link on that one.

The point is that we’re now excellent good friends, like Hamlet and Rosencrantz except without the Justin having Jose killed.

And now that we’re friends on Facebook, we will probably hang out a lot and get beers and jalapeƱo poppers. Unless, of course, Justin decides, based on this piece, that Jose is stalker… which he’s not. Seriously. Stalking seems like a lot of work and Jose just doesn’t have that kind of stick-to-itiveness.

If you’re worried, just ask Jose’s old BFF Curt Euro. He’ll tell you that Jose had almost nothing to do with his season and perhaps career ending injury. It was completely Euro’s fault for not tapping out of that hammerlock.

3. Jose is glad that DJ Dru got an epidural; Jose is not a big believer in this natural childbirth crap. But now that he’s done giving birth, can Dru please get back into the line up? Jose knows that maternity leave is normally three months and all, but that’s not really going to work this time. And the Kotsay-Hey kid will probably make an excellent wet nurse. (Note: Actually, he probably won’t, not if his mammary glands are anywhere near as dry as his bat.)

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

Monday, September 22

Celebrate Good times? Come on.

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

1. Lost amid the hubbub of the Yankee Stadium closing is the news that the Red Sox will clinch their fifth playoff birth in six years tonight. Jose is excited about this because it means an insane celebration that will make Jose love this team.

But what if that doesn’t happen?

What if this group is so much more professional and serious than teams past that they refuse to cut loose? Millar is gone, Manny is gone, Pedro is gone, Damon is gone. Hell, we’re down to one Jew, so seeing anyone dance the Hora is unlikely. (Note: Who would lift the chairs?) All that we have no is Papelbon who, in fairness, may be crazy enough to compensate for all of them. But one lunatic does not an asylum make. Jose’s fear is that Papelbon will, like last year, celebrate by stripping down to his jockstrap, but that Sean Casey will quickly hand him a towel and tell him “Put on some God damn pants and quick making an ass of yourself.”

Will DJ Dru just celebrate with an understated fist pump? Will Mike Lowell party with a glass of chilled Chablis? Perhaps Dice and Oki will do nothing more than offer a simple bow. Maybe Mark Kotsay will do…well, whatever it is that Mark Kotsay does.

Frankly, Jose is worried. This is not the gang of idiots, so perhaps they need a more structured way to celebrate. So Jose will step in and offer a suggestion for a fun yet responsible way to celebrate.

Here’s what Jose has come up with: An arcade party at the Dream Machine in the Watertown Mall followed by pizza at Papa Gino’s. Jose knows this may sound like it lacks in drama, but trust him, it’s super fun. Jose did this for his birthday like five years. For an hour you can play all the video games you want for free. Like Curt Euro isn’t going to be in to that? Also, as a plus, there’s an Old Country Buffet there, so Mike Timlin will be good. On the down side, it seems absolutely possible that DJ Dru could injure himself playing skee ball.

2. Yankee Stadium is not the only New York institution to fold this week. The musical Rent also left Broadway after a 12-year run. Despite the fact that the 5,124 performances of Rent, greatly exceeds the number of games played since this Yankee Stadium finished construction in 1976, the close of Rent has not gotten nearly the same press attention. Thus, Jose presents a list of reasons why the closing of Rent is more important than the closing of Yankee Stadium.
  • Rent is not being replaced with a new, $1.3 billion publicly funded musical.
  • Rent only made Jose want to slit his wrists on one occasion in 1999. Events in Yankee Stadium made Jose want to slit his wrists annually from 1995-2003.
  • While Rent includes many long annoying songs, it has never featured a 45-minute rendition of God Bless America.
  • Amazingly, far less slapping in Rent.
  • If a 12-year-old kid, had interrupted a performance of Rent, he would not have been put on television and given really great seats to the next performance.
  • In Rent, the rich guys are the villains.
  • If the star of Rent’s vocal repertoire can barely reach one octave, he is not praised for his amazing range.
  • Even though Rent is a remake of an old opera called La Boheme, people don’t count performances of La Boheme in Rent’s run. Yet, people do count games at the old Yankee Stadium in the new Yankee Stadium’s run.
  • Rent addresses many adult and disturbing issues, but nothing as disturbing or perverse as Wade Boggs on horseback.
3. They called it the House the Ruth Built, even though George Hermann Ruth never played in the iteration of Yankee Stadium that closed last night.

Still, there is a certain appropriateness to the appellation. The big, ugly concrete bowl does look like something that a fat alcoholic might have built. (Note: Actually, given that it was built by contractors in New York, it probably was built by a fat alcoholic.)

No, the architecture, the aesthetics were never what made Yankee Stadium great. What made it great, what allowed it to transcend its structural mediocrity, were the events that transpired there: A-Rod’s slap, Beckett’s gem, D battery night. There are probably some good things that happened to the Yankees there too, but they were so long ago that Jose can’t really remember them.

By contrast, Fenway Park, despite its innumerable flaws, is remarkable for what it is, an uncomfortable yet quirky gem. If Fenway is the Eiffel Tower, an elegant proof of its own importance, Yankee Stadium is Tokyo Tower, a gaudy affront to elegance made important only by its own self-importance. If Fenway is a Pollock painting, discordant yet somehow lovely, Yankee Stadium is a work by Thomas Kinkade “Painter of Light,” widely liked while completely lacking in merit.

It will be easy for critics to say that Jose is just bashing New York, and that is certainly the case. But, Jose would say the same thing about the Boston Garden. It was a dump that was important for what happened there, not for what it was. In that regard, perhaps Yankee Stadium is more like the 99 Restaurant in Charlestown. It’s not famous because it’s beautiful or interesting but because some bad, bad stuff went down there.

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