It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.
1. It’s happening again. It’s all happening again.
That is Jose’s initial reaction to the news that Gape Kapler, "The World’s Most Perfectly Sculpted Jew" is leaving the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX to play every day center field for the Yomiuri Giants. Jose knows this has been hard for a lot of people. For some, the pain comes from the knowledge that the greatest Red Sox team of all time is officially no more. For the ladies, the pangs are spawned by the knowledge that they will no longer be able to ogle Kapler when the Sox face left handed pitching. For others, the agony originates in the certainty that Kevin Millar is one trade of Kevin Youkilis away from being unable to claim that the team’s pregame drinking is merely saying the Kiddush. These are all good reasons for sadness or even despair, but for Jose it cuts just a little deeper. For Jose it is about abandonment, the loss of dear friends and the pain of childhood.
Jose is one-eighth Japanese and has thus always imagined that he has a special relationship with the Japanese people. (Note: See KEYS TO JAPAN. ) Okay, Jose doesn’t speak their language, he finds some of their food revolting and puts Kabuki in a special category of with Peking Opera and the ABC Prime Time Lineup, but still, he feels a kinship. (Note: Crud, Jose discovered "Lost" last week, and agrees with the critics that it is fantastic, making the previous joke invalid. Please substitute "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" for the "ABC Prime Time Lineup." Okay. That’s better.)
As a child, Jose’s affinity for the Japanese largely expressed itself in his eagerness to befriend Japanese children who lived in his neighborhood. Due to Belmont’s proximity to Harvard, there were always a few Japanese families living in the neighborhood for one year while the father went to Harvard. Each year Jose would befriend a Japanese boy his age, and each summer the boy would move back to Japan with his family. Jose slowly began to find Japan to be a viscous tease, constantly supplying him with friends and then stealing them away.
It was hard when Jose’s Japanese friends would desert him for the lure of Shinto shrines Godzilla movies, and their entire families, but Jose could understand that they were simply going home. What took Jose by surprise was when his friend Brad, who could not be any less Japanese, took off with his family to live in Japan immediately following fifth grade. Jose should have seen it coming; after all, Brad’s family had lived in Japan before, but the idea that a white guy, a really, really white guy, would ditch Jose to live in Japan was too much. Jose began to suspect that all of is friends would move to Japan before too long. There would be entire villages consisting of Jose’s old friends and their families. They would even have their own golf club. (Note: Jose accidentally typed "golf club" as "Gold Club," before he edited. The idea of all of Jose’s friends having their own Gold Club was much, much funnier.)
Until two days ago, Jose has basically gone a good 18 years without a friend ditching him to move to Japan, so he had grown accustomed to his friends not fleeing to the land of the rising sun. (Note: Okay, his friend Mark moved to Japan, but he’d already ditched Jose to live in New York, San Francisco and London, so no big surprise.) Now this. Now Japan steals something else from Jose.
Jose knows what you’re thinking. You’re thinking "Jose, did you even know Gabe Kapler?"
Well, no, Jose didn’t know Gabe Kapler, Gabe Kapler was not Jose’s friend in the traditional sense of someone Jose knew personally and went for beers with. Jose was not at Kapler’s Bar mitzvah or wedding, though Kapler did wave to Jose’s cousin as a wedding present from Jose. But Kapler was much more than a friend, he was a talented defensive outfielder who hit .279 for the Sox and hit 10 home runs and 56 RBI in 204 games with the Sox. He was a baserunner with lighting speed but no conception of how to steal a base. He may be easily replaced, but he will not be easily forgotten. (Note: The Melendezette had lived in Japan but is fairly emphatic about not moving back, so Jose is betting that he’s safe on that one, of course, if Gabe Kapler can live, one never knows.)
So Jose’s ambivalence towards Japan returns. Of course, if the Orix Blue Wave would only take BK Kim’s contract that ambivalence could easily transform into friendly good cheer. (Additional Note: But it the meantime Jose shares this anecdote from his friend Mark, who lives in Yokohama. “The Power Rangers were fighting some sort of bi-pedal scorpion type creature rampaging around my school the other day. It was kind of awkward, but I figured this was a chance in a lifetime and she was really cute, so I tried to hit on the yellow ranger. Unfortunately she was, literally, tied up at the moment (with some sort of web-like strings) and we only briefly had a chance to chat before she had to go back to work. Maybe next time – the Power Rangers actually do a lot of battling with monsters around my school. You'd think it would be inconvenient, but...”) Maybe Jose should cut Japan some slack. Any country where an American guy can actually hit on a female power ranger can’t be all bad. Also, what are the odds that Gabe Kapler becomes a Power Ranger in his spare time? That seems like a pretty good fit.
2. Despite receiving a two year $26 million offer from the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX, Pedro Martinez is still complaining about respect. Now everyone assumes that for Pedro respect means money – not an unreasonable assumption, but is it really correct? Respect can be shown in the form of cars, boats and shiny trinkets. It can also be shown in the form of securities. What about intellectual property? Couldn’t that be a form of respect? Perhaps Tom Werner could give Pedro the rights to "That 80s Show" as a sign of respect. Some might argue that would be a sign of disrespect, but Jose disagrees. Giving Pedro the rights to "That 80s show would say, "Pedro, not only are you a great pitcher, I believe you are so smart that you can save even this fatally flawed concept."
But maybe Pedro isn’t referring to these sorts of things when he speaks of respect. Maybe he really is like the recalcitrant teenager he has so often been compared to. And maybe like all teenagers (Note: By which Jose means none) what he really wants is the Sox to show him that they respect or love him enough to set limits. Maybe, just maybe, all Pedro is looking for is for John Henry to give him a big hug and say "Pedro, I respect you, but you need to get a haircut, show up on time and straighten up and fly right."
On the other hand, maybe they should just give him the rights to "The Cosby Show."
3. The Red Sox shook up their minor league organization this week by promoting Ron Johnson from manager of the Double A Portland Sea Dogs Manager to manager of the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox. Johnson will be replaced in Portland by Todd Claus. Claus is expected to assume his duties after he completes his current job delivering toys to Christian children worldwide on December 25. It is also possible that Claus will wait until after January 6, Orthodox Christmas, to assume his new duties.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.