Friday, October 3

ALDS Game 2--SNAP!

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

1. George Elliott, the famous transsexual author, once wrote “The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”

Jose is not sure exactly when (s)he wrote that, but he suspects it was after one of the ten consecutive post season games the Red Sox have taken from the Los Calanaheim Angles.

Unlike many moments in the history of the Boston Red Sox, these games against the Angels have been golden moments, all of them. From Hendu’s homer, to Roger Clemens inexplicably winning a Game 7 (note: thank God, Jeff Suppan wasn’t starting for the Angles that night), to Papi’s walk off, to Manny’s fly into the night last fall, the good moments against the Angels are wound together in such a smooth and subtle continuum that it is easy to miss exactly how special, how golden each of these shimmering singularities is.

This series will fade. We will not remember most of its splendid moments. The 2004 ALDS is absent from the World Series DVD collection. The same holds for 2007. These series are forgotten, picayune overtures that hint at Act I and Act II before being retired to hazy memory. Despite the dramatic walk off homers in 2004 and 2007, do we remember those moments the way we remember ALDS moments against other opponents? Will anything from this series remind us of O’Leary seven RBI’s in the 1999 ALDS finale or Pedro’s six no hit innings? Will any pitch seem as extraordinary as Derek Lowe’s back door breaking ball to strike out Terence Long in 2003?

These series against the Angels begin with haste and end as quickly and unceremoniously as a series in May. We cannot see them and savor them. We know them only as something has passed and is then forgotten.

Jose never thought he would say this after reading Silas Marner, George Elliott is making sense.

Still, the story in incomplete. There is more going on here then the abrupt evaporation of golden moments. There is something more sinister, violent even.

There is another quote about the Angels that is a partner in describing the long streak, and the short series. Jack Handy of Saturday Night Live once said over soothing music and calming images “It’s true that every time you hear a bell, an angel gets its wings. But what they don’t tell you is that every time you hear a mouse trap snap, an angel gets set on fire.”


Huh, that was 11. Funny.

2. In 1867, Japan began the period of transition from feudalism to industrial society and colonial power called the Meiji Restoration. The Restoration came in direct response to Commodore Matthew Perry’s success at forcing Japan to open in 1853. The superior firepower of Perry’s black ships convinced elements in Japan that the country needed to modernize rapidly or else it would succumb to Western power. In other words, the Japanese needed to learn from their enemies and make fundamental adjustments in how they organized themselves in order to compete.

Over the past year, the Angels have undergone a similar process. After being humiliated by Commodore Tito, and his black, err black, white and Dominican, fleet in 2007, the Angels realized that they needed to learn from the Red Sox if they were to compete with them. As a result, they shifted from being a team that relied entirely on speed and acquired Mark Teixera to give them the best possible (note: though still inadequate) facsimile of Boston’s 3-4 slugger combination.
It worked. Just like Japan in the Meiji period, the Angels went through a rapid and spectacular transformation.

The crowning validation of the Meiji Restoration was Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Japan won despite the fact that Jose’s great-grandfather had gotten the hell out of the country one-year prior, so they were at a huge disadvantage.

So the validation of the Angels Restoration should be a victory over the Boston Red Sox. But where is it? It is as though a strong and modernized Japan laid siege to Port Arthur and then gave up after three days because it was hard and kind of boring. If the Angles don’t show some spine, the Red Sox won’t even need to Teddy Roosevelt to cut us a sweetheart deal in Portsmouth, we will just dictate terms.

When all was said and done, the British presented the Japanese with a lock of admiral Nelson’s hair, to commemorate their victory in the battle of Tsushima. If the Angels keep playing like they have been, they won’t even get a lock of Jeff Nelson’s hair.

3. Orange County Register columnist Randy Youngman, which Jose assumes is his porn name, joined in the Greek chorus of columnists muttering in monotone that the Angles postseason losing streak against the Sox goes back to 1986. But Youngman breaks free from the crowd and distinguishes himself as the choragus by invoking the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in his recollection.

While he does not explicitly compare the losing streak to Chernobyl, the comparison is implicit and it is devastating.

People died as the result of both events (note: Donnie Moore and Chernobyl victims rest in piece) and the impacts of both disasters continue to this day.

But the analogy is profoundly imperfect. Whereas Chernobyl destroyed an entire city, the Angels losing streak has only destroyed Orange County. Also, the Chernobyl reactor was enclosed in a massive concrete sarcophagus in order to contain the radiation. As best Jose knows, no one has considered building a massive sarcophagus to contain the Angels, even though teammates of 1986 team member Reggie Jackson regard him as radioactive.

If one insists on comparing the Angels losing streak to a Soviet disaster in 1986, Jose would suggest that the obvious analogy is the sinking of the SS Admiral Nakhimov, a passenger boat that collided with the bulk carrier Pyotr Vasyov in the Tsemes Bay, killing 423. The Pyotr Vasayov, was Japanese built, lending credence to the notion that the Angels will, this evening, be sunk by something built in Japan.

In addition, much like Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, the Admiral Nakhimov’s captain Vadim Markov seemed utterly unconcerned about the impending disaster, saying, “Don't worry. We will pass clear of each other. We will take care of everything."

There is one major difference, however, that may prove decisive. The Admiral Nakhimov did not have monkey.

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

Wednesday, October 1

ALDS GAME 1—Why We Are Different

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

1. The setting is new, but the scene is the same.

It is North Carolina here, yet it is still Boston within these walls. A semi circle of cardboard is lashed to the top of the closet, a flimsy backboard to a flimsier hoop. On it is an image, frozen, eternal, perfect. Orlando Cabrera dives into a jubilant crowd, Dave Roberts edges Kevin Youkilis for position in the scrum and even Johnny Damon, the good Johnny Damon, the bearded Johnny Damon embraces a still ambulatory Mosey Nixon.

As Jose’s eyes drift to the left a poster hangs, long since denuded of the glass that once gave it sheen. Ramirez, Damon, Martinez, Foulke. They are all there, jolly specters of the best of days.

Still further to the left, the other closet flaps open. There amidst the striped shirts and khaki slacks Jose can see the crisp white of his number 19 jersey, MELENDEZ stitched across the back, a necessary error if he is to distinguish his jersey from Josh Beckett’s. It is a good jersey, a prized possession and a generous gift, but it is not Jose’s playoff jersey. That honor goes to a grey road uni with 49 and WAKEFIELD framed neatly across the back. Jose got the jersey in 1995 when he was slinging fries at Fenway. It still has streaks of red face paint on it from the 1999 ALCS, when joy turned to grief and from Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS when grief descended like night, only to be broken the next day by four years of shimmering dawn. The shirt bears the stains of history. It bears the stench of history. It has not been washed in nine years.

To the closet’s left side a license plate/clock declares Jose to be the Red Sox “#1 FAN.” The clock does not work. Its white hands stretch across a compass rose of a clock and freeze at 10:40, the exact time the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. It is eerie. Sure, Jose set the hands there about two minutes ago so he could write this sentence, but still it is strange and wonderful.

Just below the clock hangs a final poster.


Pedro’s smiling face perched a cross a slim cartoon body face stares across at Rahjh’s impudent mug. Game 3, 1999. Until 2004, it was the happiest day of Jose’s life. Not only did the Red Sox crush the Yankees, but Jose also saw Jimy Williams at a bar sucking down scotch after scotch.

And that is all. Except for the Red Sox coffee cup on the table to Jose’s right.. and the four KEYS books atop the bureau to his right… and a Wakefield t-shirt… and a Red Sox Hideo Nomo t-shirt… and the sleepy dork, happily typing away in the voice of a long forgotten relief pitcher while the world passes him by.

This is who Jose is. This is who the Red Sox are. It is who you are too. It is why we will win. While Jose feverishly types his youth away, the Orange Country Register lists yesterday’s top five most read stories as:
  • For Kobe, 30 is the new 20
  • New O.C. football Top 10 released
  • Lakers keep an eye on the beasts in the East
  • Mr. October: Angels need to improve post-season approach
  • 5 things to watch for in Lakers training camp
These are the guys who will defeat us? The guys who play in this town? 100 wins, guaranteed home field throughout, good pitching and a monster lineup, and on the eve of the playoffs they rank below two off-season Laker stories and high school football in their own hometown? Thank God that last night there was no high school field hockey or they might have dropped out of the top ten.

The people of Anaheim are not us, nor are they we. They just aren’t. We let jerseys putrefy for nine years. We get memorabilia for players who were terrible. We brood and rejoice and brood a little more. They are fans, barely, but we are more. We are a religion, we are a movement, we are a people.

Yes we can? Certainly, but that is unremarkable. Yes we will.

Yes. We will.

2. On his blog yesterday, Tony Castrati suggested that the suddenly muscular Angles (note: not a typo, see KEY 3, or any think Jose has ever written about that team) have switched places with a Red Sox squad that had the league leader in stolen bases for the first time since Nixon was riding high. Specifically, he compared them to the plots of three movies: “Freaky Friday,” “Trading Places” and ""Like Father, Like Son.” While Jose admires any effort to work Kirk Cameron, the star of Like Father, Like Son into a baseball column, Jose categorically rejects Castrati’s analogy. Also, why not work in Malcom-Jamal Warner instead? This season has resembled the plot of at least three episodes of Malcom and Eddie. Also, unlike Warner, Cameron does not have a surprisingly good jazz combo, though Jose regrets that Warner’s group is not named “Theo and the Trio.”

But back to Castrati’s poor analogy. First, let’s start with the fact that these three movies have almost nothing in common. One is about two white guys trading bodies, one is about two white girls trading bodies and one is about high finance. And ff one wants to compare “Like Father, Like Son” to something, how can one ignore the Judge Reinhold vehicle “Vice Versa?” The only difference between the two films is that Reinhold changes bodies with Fred Savage thanks to a mysterious skull while Cameron trades bodies with Dudley Moore due to mysterious potion. They were made within a year of each other and can be purchased together as a two DVD set. Doesn’t Castrati do any research?

Now, let’s examine why each of the three films Castrati cites is a bad analogy.

In “Freaky Friday” a coke addled teenager trades bodies with her technically a man mother. Or, if your prefer the 1976 version, an FBI agent/Astronomer trades places with a voiceover woman from the underappreciated 1977 Doonesbury special, and inspires John Hinckley to shoot Ronald Reagan. Jose thinks it’s pretty clear where this analogy goes off the tracks. While Red Sox-Angles playoff series have inspired players to shoot their wives and themselves, they have never once inspired anyone to shoot an elderly actor/president. Also, Jamie Lee Curtis is twice the man John Lackey is.

What about Trading Places? In this one, two rich white investors destroy lives before eventually destroying themselves. Actually, this one sounds like it might be just about right. Wait, that’s the banking crisis Jose’s thinking of not the playoffs. Never mind.

And actually, the plot is less centered on the rich brothers than on the subject of their manipulation of a black hustler and a white commodities trader. Jamie Lee Curtis plays prominently in this one too as a hooker who is three times the man Chone Figgins is. To Jose’s mind, the only way this analogy holds up is if current Angle and former Red Sox Darren Oliver teams up with Jon Garland to bankrupt the Red Sox commodity trading owner, John W. Henry, by cornering the market on concentrated frozen orange juice. If Oliver and Garland do corner the market on concentrated frozen orange juice in the next few days, Jose will concede that the Red Sox could be in trouble.

This leaves us with “Like Father, Like Son”/“Vice Versa.” Here’s why this one doesn’t work. For this analogy to hold, you’d have to assume that the Red Sox were Dudley Moore /Judge Reinhold to begin with and were magically transformed into Kirk Cameron/Fred Savage. Castrati argues that would be a bad thing, but he is wrong. Does he know that Dudley Moore is dead while Kirk Cameron prominent evangelical Christian actor? Also Dudley Moore was the star of a film called “Arthur,” and playing a carton aardvark is not exactly a great career move. So if this transformation did transpire, it would be to Boston’s benefit, which destroys Castrati’s model.

Still, Jose will give Castrati some credit. He had the right instinct in going for a Kirk Cameron analogy, he just picked the wrong film. Given the troubles the Angles will have driving in runners in this series, the correct Kirk Cameron film analogy is “Left Behind.”

3. There have not been a lot of Normans on the Red Sox throughout their storied history. There was Norman Zauchin, who played a few years in the 50s and Norman Siebern, who played on the Impossible Dream team before wrapping up his career a year later. Nelson Norman coached for the Sox in 2001. But that’s pretty much it. At least it was until today.

Today that changes. Today we are all Normans. As we head into Battle against the Angles, 25 Normans will don helms of blue and Terry Eurona will prepare to be crowned Tito the Conqueror.

Norman Schwarzkopf will be watching. He’ll be in camouflage, so you can’t see him, but he’ll be there.

Norm and Norma Nathan will be watching from the great gossip column in the sky.

Norman the Lunatic, back to his asylum , his wrestling days long gone, will beg to watch the game just like Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Even Greg Norman will take a break from winemaking to see what a champion looks like.

Today, the Battle of Hastings will be replayed just a few days shy of its 942nd anniversary and, then as now, the Angles will be defeated and subjected to 1,056 years of subjugation minimum

Watch out Angles, the Normans are coming and it's Hastings all over again.

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