Friday, December 3



It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO STEROIDS.

1. This is going to come out sooner or later, so Jose might as well make a statement now and try to diffuse the story. With the revelation that Jason Giambi confessed to using steroids and that Barry Bonds confessed to unwittingly using steroids, Jose has to accept the fact that his grand jury testimony will probably be coming out next. Before you read Jose’s testimony in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jose wants to set the record straight.

First things first, did you know that a grand jury is not just a group of senior citizens whose grandchildren are on a jury? Seriously. Grand juries are made up of people of all ages who have extremely bad luck.

Now Jose knows there has been a whispering campaign going on about the remarkable year he had. Lots of people have been questioning the fact that Jose Melendez never wrote more than 600 or 700 words on the Red Sox in a season before and suddenly he dropped more than 90,000? Jose knows that this is way out of line with his expected production at the age of 28, but that does not, NOT, mean Jose was using steroids over the course of the past year. And even if he was, where is the evidence that steroids make one funnier, or let one type faster. Did steroids come up with the monetary conversion jokes? Did steroids remember that Bronson Pinchot was the star of Perfect Strangers? (Note: Steroids did come up with the nickname “Mosey” Nixon though. Jose’s giving all of the blame for that one to steroids.)

Still, there is the matter of what Jose said to the grand jury. Frankly, Jose chalks it all up to a big misunderstanding. Take a look at this transcript below and you will see how easy it is to get confused.

US Attorney: Mr. Melendez, were you on any occasion given substances known as “the cream” and “the clear.”

Jose Melendez: Yes.

US Attorney: And were you aware of the fact that these substances had performance enhancing abilities.

Jose Melendez: Well, lots of writers use them, and lots of writers have written about using them, so Jose figured it was a pretty well known phenomenon, and not a big deal.

See. That sounds pretty innocent, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing. It turns out that “the cream” and “the clear” are steroids!!! Jose had no idea that they were talking about steroids. Jose assumed that the cream meant the half and half Jose uses in his thrice daily coffee and the clear was the vodka Jose has been known to quaff. God knows Jose couldn’t be an effective writer without either of them.

So when word of this scandal breaks in the next few days don’t be surprised, don’t be alarmed. Just know that Jose was taken out of context and that the KEYS you enjoy are only written with the assistance of LEGAL performance enhancing drugs.

2. If Jose was Barry Bonds’ lawyer or agent, he would already be preparing a line of defense for when Bonds’ records and hall of fame eligibility is challenged by anti-steroid forces. We are sure to hear plenty of arguments about whether Bonds knew what he was taking and whether he used steroids in the 73 home run season, but all of those arguments are crap.

If Jose was Bonds’ counselor, he would issue one statement only when the scandal comes to a head. “Manny Alexander took steroids, and he didn’t hit anywhere near 73 home runs. Steroids don’t matter.”

Of course there is a rebuttal. In 2000, when Alexander was caught with steroids, his home runs numbers had shot up to 4 from 0 in 1999. Thus, the percentage increase is infinitely high. Bonds, by contrast, only increased his home run total from the previous year by 49% when he hit 73. So arguably, steroid helped Alexander’s power numbers more than Bonds’.

3. In addition to the news that Barry Bonds used steroids, today’s other big news is that the Yankees are looking for ways to void Jason Giambi’s monstrous contract. The Yankees are said to be exploring a standard clause that allows a contract to be voided if a player does not keep himself in playing condition. Jose’s opinion is that the Yankees should save themselves the legal bills and just wait it out. By all indications, Giambi was also taking Clomid, a female fertility drug, so when he gets pregnant and goes on maternity leave, they won’t have to pay him anyway.

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

Thursday, December 2



It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

1. According to the Associated Press, the Yankees have pulled out of negotiations with the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire ace lefty Randy Johnson. Officially, the Yankees withdrew from negotiations because the Diamondbacks’ demand for starters Javier Vasquez and Brad Halsey, reliever Tom Gordon and 300 suitcases full of gold krugerrands was excessive. (Note: While Jose could easily crack wise about the Yankees “pulling out” or “withdrawing early” because their partner was too demanding, he will not, as this is a family blog. Instead, he will just stick to jokes about family friendly subjects like drug abuse.)

The unofficial reason for the breakdown of trade talks, of course, is something completely different. While it has escaped the gaze of the mainstream media, Jose has noticed that this decision came on the same day that it was confirmed that Yankees DH Jason Giambi had confessed to using steroids, human growth hormone and birth control pills to a grand jury investigating BALCO. The real (Note: Not real) reason the Yankees soured on Johnson is that they were burned by signing the drug addled Giambi to a 7 year $120 million deal and are deeply concerned that Randy Johnson is also using human growth hormone.

“Johnson is 6’10”, that’s huge,” said Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner. “Giambi was using human growth hormone, and he’s only 6’2’’, so Johnson must be taking unbelievable amounts of the stuff.

I was just devastated when I found out Giambi was using drugs. When he was a scruffy Oakland A, I could have understood it, but as a Yankee? As a New York Yankee? With that world class hair cut? I’m just shocked. I won’t be fooled again. From now on I’m sticking to signing men of character like Gary Sheffield. We’ll just adjust our priorities and move on, maybe resign Steve Howe to fill our need for left handed pitching.”

2. Rumors are swirling that the Red Sox will look to White Sox Shortstop Jose Valentin to fill the gap at short until phenom Hanley Ramirez is ready for the majors in a few years. In addition to ensuring the departure of Orlando Cabrera, Valentin’s signing would also guarantee the trading of first baseman Doug Mientkiewiecz as a cost cutting measure.

Trading the Mientkiewiecz would open up uniform number 13 for Valentin and allow the Red Sox to simply recycle old John Valentin #13 jerseys, rather than drop the literally hundreds of dollars required for new uniforms. It would also prove a boon to Red Sox fans whose Valentin shirts have been tucked away since Valentin’s departure in 2001.

Now if Jose could only find some other player named Nomo for the Sox to sign, he could take his own Sox t-shirt out of mothballs.

3. Finally, an item that comes to the KEYS from SoSH member Bucknahs Bum Ankle.

There is a handy little site called Acronym Finder that allows one to look up any acronym in the world and see what it stands for. When one enters SoSH two things come up, neither of which is “Sons of Sam Horn.”

The first is “Smoothed Out Slappy Hours,” which is apparently a Green Day album. Jose is not a big Green Day fan to be honest. Aside from the fact that he finds the idea of them as heirs to the punk mantle disgusting, Jose was at their riot on his first day of college in 1994. Green Day was giving a free concert at the Hatch Shell and a riot just plum broke out. To be honest, Jose had left before Green Day even came on. He could sense the crowd turning ugly, and he had recently recovered from jaw surgery. He figured one good punch in the face would be all that was needed to get his jaw wired back up again, so he ditched. Also, Jose saves his rioting for World Championships.

That said, Jose can only assume that with the word Slappy in the title, the album is about Alex Rodriguez.

The second acronym that comes back is “Somalia Shilling.” This presents a bit of a quandary. As long time readers know, Jose has determined that Curt (Austrian) Schilling was properly converted into Euros, and that other currencies called the “Schilling” or “Shilling” are irrelevant. Given his membership in and fondness for SoSH, could Jose reasonably start referring to Curt Euro as Curt Somalia Shilling, or Curt SOSH?

Jose is going to have to say no because the Somalia Shilling is not spelled the same as Curt’s former last name. Besides the value of the Euro keeps going up and up, making the $13 million per year contract look like a bargain. Today, that $13 million is only 9,798,009 EUR. See, value. And the Somali Shilling? Well, $13 million equals 40,040,000,000 SOSH. Not so good. If one looks at that measure of value, we should be calling Kevin Brown “Kevin Somalia Shilling.” Jose will keep his Sox pitchers in Euros thank you.

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

Wednesday, December 1


Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME 2004 the book is now available at the KEYSTOTHEGAME store just in time for Christmas and the last few days of Hanukah and in plenty of time for many people’s birthdays. Even better, Jose has slashed prices on all KEYS merchandise. Be the first one on your block (Note: Unless you live on Jose’s block) to help pay Jose’s electric bill.


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

1. Jose will be honest. The Mets’ offer to Sox ace Pedro Martinez has him worried…really, really worried. Jose is not particularly worried that Pedro will go to the Mets. He may well go to Queens, but that is not worrisome. If Pedro leaves for the Mets, it will make Jose sad, but not worried. (Note: Jose is getting paid today based on the number of times he uses the word “worry” or its derivatives.)

Pedro has been one of Jose’s favorite players since the moment he got here. He is a pitching genius, a joy to watch and apparently a genuinely nice human being. Still, in the game of baseball today, players move around, so there is no point in worrying about it. Jose would only genuinely worry about Pedro going to the Yankees, not because the Red Sox would face him regularly, but because then Jose would have to hate him, and Jose doesn’t want to hate Pedro Martinez. To Jose, watching Pedro pitch for the Yankees would be like watching Eliot Ness run scotch for Al Capone, Mick Jones jamming with Kenny G or Homer Simpson doing a guest spot on Joey. It is incongruous and too awful to even imagine. It would break Jose’s heart. (Note: In an uncharacteristically classy gesture, Jose did not compare it to Franklin Delano Roosevelt coming back to life and working to rebuild the Nazi Party. He thought that would be a bit much.) But it looks highly unlikely that Pedro will go to the Bronx, so nothing to worry about there.

No, what has Jose worried is the prospect that Pedro may stay. Jose had wanted the Red Sox to resign Pedro despite the fact that 2004 was his worst year in the majors, but then the Mets had to go and make him an offer. Jose’s worry is based on what the Mets’ offer says about Pedro. It is a baseball truism that the Mets only go after players whose best days are well behind them, Mo Vaughn, Cliff Floyd, Tom Glavine etc. (Note: Jose would not be surprised to hear that the Mets are preparing offers to Johnny Bench, Al Kaline and Cap Anson as we speak.) Therefore, if the Mets are offering Pedro a three-year deal, he must be approaching a frightening downturn.

Now, some may argue that the Mets’ long history of courting over-the-hill players is not evidence that Pedro is finished since the Mets have a new general manager. But teams have personalities and traditions and tendencies that transcend general managers. For instance, the Astros only go after guys whose last name begins with the letter “B” like Carlos Beltran, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Jeff Bkent. The Rockies only go after guys whose power numbers are way down and are too cheap to buy steroids so they need to get their artificial power boost from Coors Field. And the Yankees? The Yankees only go after players who hate America and hate freedom and aren’t too cheap to buy steroids. See, tendencies.

So wherever he goes, the evidence is that Pedro will no longer be Pedro. Jose want to be wrong, but boy is he worried.

2. This idea is probably null and void now that backup catcher Doug Mirabelli has signed a two-year, $3 million dollar deal, but Jose is going to float it anyway.

From time to time Mirabelli and Sox starter Jason Varitek have claimed that they are the best catching tandem in the league and should market themselves as a package. Jose thinks this is a great idea. Instead of signing each player individually the Sox should offer them a job sharing deal. You know job sharing, like with young mothers. Since neither woman wants to work full time, the two share a single job, one works tow days and the other three, or as former fringe congressional candidate Phil Hyde might call it “timesizing not downsizing.”

So here is Jose’s idea. The Red Sox offer a four-year $40 million deal to Varitek and Mirabelli combined with the stipulation that the $10 million per year is paid out on the percentage of outs caught. For instance if Varitek catches 80% of the games, he gets $8 million and Mirabelli gets $2 million. And you know what the best part is? If it’s only one job, they only take won roster spot.

Wait…that’s not true? Well that’s bullsh*t. Leave it to Major League Baseball to screw over working mothers.

3. Jose is absolutely ecstatic about the news that the Sox are aggressively pursuing a trade for Arizona lefty Randy Johnson. While many have suggested that Johnson would be a replacement for Pedro Martinez, Jose thinks that Johnson would really be a replacement for Derek Lowe.

Let’s be honest, with Lowe’s departure, the Red Sox desperately need to get taller in order to bolster their sagging rebounding, and at 6’10’’ Johnson would be an upgrade on the 6’ 6’’ Lowe. Pedro is great, but at 5’ 11’’, the guy is simply never going to have an impact on the glass, he’s more of a sparkplug guy.

On a slightly different note, if Johnson is acquired in return for Balki Arroyo, among others, will the Big Unit be expected to fill in for Balki on the next Dropkick Murphy’s single? What would Johnson play anyway? Jose guesses trombone. With those freakishly long arms, reaching seventh position would be a snap.

Also, what about Cousin Larry Appleton? Would he move to Arizona too?

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

Monday, November 29


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE UKRAINIAN ELECTION.

1. Okay, so Jose is departing a little bit from his normal writing routine here. This piece will be relatively free of references to Jason Varitek, Mosey Nixon and the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX!!! (Note: Though it is possible that Jose will sneak in a reference or two to Doug Mientkeiwiecz due to his Slavic ancestry.) As it turns out, Ukraine is actually someplace Jose knows a little bit about. Not only has Jose’s father worked there, but Jose has read Orest Subtelny’s excellent and extremely lengthy Ukraine: A History. Not only has Jose read Ukraine: A History, he has drank more than his share of superior Nemiroff Ukrainian Vodka . And not only has Jose drank a lot of Nemiroff Vodka, he has drank some of it in the actual county of Ukraine. You know, the one in Europe.

Jose is also the descendant of the mayor of Kolomyia, a Ukrainian city of about 60,000, so he naturally feels qualified to comment on all things Ukrainian. Never mind that his ancestor was appointed by the Hapsburgs and was not an ethnic Ukrainian. And definitely never mind that Jose also feels qualified to comment on things he knows nothing about, like rodeo, architecture and hair care. (Note: Riding a bull is insane, Boston City Hall is ugly, but not as ugly as people think and hair gel leave too much nasty residue.)

To understand the current crisis, one needs to know a little bit about Ukrainian history. The Western part of Ukraine is Ukrainian speaking, Greek Catholic/Uniate (Note: This church follows the Orthodox rites but still recognizes the Pope as the head of the church. Priests can marry and everything. It sort of makes one think about the church’s objection to letting all priests marry doesn’t it?) and was historically dominated by Poland, Lithuania, and Austria. Russian/Soviet domination came only after World War I.

Eastern Ukraine, by contrast, is mostly Russian speaking and Russian Orthodox, and it has been under Russian/Soviet domination since the 17th Century. In his book, Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington actually identified a civilizational fault line running directly through the middle of Ukraine and flagged it is a potential flashpoint.

The election controversy today is basically a reflection of this ancient divide. The current President Leonid Kuchma is Russian leaning and so is his designated successor, Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich. Electing Yanukovich ensures that Ukraine will remain well within the Russian sphere of influence. The opposition leader, Victor Yushchenko, represents Western Ukraine, and his election would begin to move Ukraine into the European sphere of influence.

All indications are that Yushchenko won the election, but the official vote counts show him losing by three percent. As a result, Yushchenko has organized mass demonstrations in the capitol, Kyiv (Kiev in Russian), and around the country. (Note: Yes, they do actually have Chicken Kyiv in Kyiv.)

Currently, the Ukrainian Supreme court is trying to decide whether to declare a winner or order a new election.

So that’s the basic historical and political context. On to the humor!!! (Note: Let’s see, it took almost 400 words for Jose to set the stage. Should Jose really be writing jokes that take 400 words to set up? Will this even resonate with an American audience? Probably not, but Jose will be huge in Ivano-Frankivsk…HUGE!!! You know, among the one percent of the population that speaks English.)

2. While Jose is interested in Ukrainian politics in and of themselves, what has really fascinated him about this imbroglio is the comparison with recent American presidential elections. For instance, did you know that in Ukraine thousands of eligible voters were purged from voting lists as convicted felons even though they had never committed a crime? Oh…wait…that was only here. But surely Yanakovich was using an American playbook when he distributed leaflets suggesting that Yushchenko would ban the bible. Oops…that was only here too. Well, let’s try this one: Yushchenko’s claim to victory rests on Western sponsored exit polls that showed him winning by around 11 percentage points. Yet when the votes were tabulated, he ended up losing by three points. Because of the wild discrepancy, everyone assumed the election had been fixed. In the U.S., Western sponsored exit polls suggested that John Kerry would be elected, though by a much smaller margin, yet when the votes were tabulated, he ended up losing by three points, so naturally everyone assumed there was fraud.

We didn’t assume there was fraud? Instead we assumed that exit pollsters are idiots? Huh.

Having demagogued enough on the 2004 election, lets talk about the juicer comparison, the 2000 election. Following the Ukrainian election, the Central Election Commission rushed to certify the vote before allegations of irregularities were fully investigated, arguing that establishing a winner quickly was of the greatest importance. As Jose recalls, the executive apparatus in the state of Florida seemed quite eager to hurry to certification as well.

The similarity in rhetoric has also been fascinating. Following the election Mr. Yanukovich, the presumptive winner, stated that after a long and contentious campaign, it was time for the country to unite (Note: Behind him…the candidate who received fewer votes). Boy does that sound familiar.

And in a final note of similarity, Yushchenko, like Al Gore before him, has gone to the courts for satisfaction. As Jose writes this, the Ukrainian Supreme Court is evaluating the fairness of the election. If the American election is any guide, Yushchenko should not be too optimistic. On the other hand, the Ukrainian court apparently holds a reputation as being above politics, a reputation that the American court no longer enjoys. Of course, Yushchenko is coupling his legal appeals with mass protests and a thus far unheeded call for a general strike, something Al Gore decidedly did not do in 2000. In the future, Jose would like to urge aggrieved American politicians of both parties to call for general strikes, because frankly, Jose could use a few days off. Hell, Jose is even considering heeding Yushchenko’s call for a general strike. Sure, the call is intended for Ukraine, but Jose can sympathize can’t he?

So in the meantime, Colin Powell joins European Foreign Ministers in lecturing the Ukrainian regime on the importance of fair elections. But if the real goal is to end this dispute quickly, Jose has a suggestion. President Bush should make Katherine Harris his special envoy to Ukraine. Now there’s a woman who knows how to resolve elections, not fairly, but fast. Can’t you imagine the dialogue between Harris and Prime Minister Yanakovich?

Katherine Harris: Mr. Prime Minister, I admire your efforts to rapidly certify your questionable victory in order to ensure a swift transition of power and national stability, but if you want to end this quickly, you need a denigrating nickname for your opponents. We used Sore Loserman. Perhaps your supporters could call Mr. Yushchenko “You Should Go.”

Viktor Yanokovich: You wear far too much makeup and look like a clown or possibly an aging prostitute.

Now that’s diplomacy.

3. Thus far the protests have been peaceful, but Jose is deeply concerned. Orange is the color of Yushchenko’s party, so the streets of Kyiv are filled with protesters wearing orange scarves, ties and hats. If Jose has learned anything from studying Irish history and Syracuse athletics, it’s that people marching around in orange are a sure sign that trouble is about to start.

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