Friday, February 18


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.

1. Will the Red Sox give out championship rings on opening day? Won’t they give out championship rings on opening day? Will championship rings cure cancer? Will championship rings turn water in to wine?

Jose hasn’t heard this much jibber jabber about rings since the premiere of Return of the King. And from the press and fan attention received by this story, one could be excused for thinking that the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance. But be at ease Red Sox fans (Note: And hobbits), Jason Varitek does not need to throw a championship ring into the mystical flames of Mt. Doom to end the Red Sox championship drought and vanquish the enemy. Our bats and pitching did that just fine last October.

But seriously, relax. Jose knows forty year old single women who are less obsessed with rings than you all. (Note: Of course, maybe Jose doesn’t care because he doesn’t have tickets to opening day. If you want Jose to care, you know how to do it.)

2. Curt Euro got 1,200 words in the Boston Globe today. David Wells got 1,245. Does anyone else get the impression that these two are more likely to compete for the league lead in column inches as the lead in wins?

Actually, Jose finds it a little distressing. He imagines a scenario in July when the two spot an open mike at the same time. Curt gets there first and starts to opine, then suddenly Wells, in true biker tradition breaks a bottle or possibly a pool cue over Curt’s head and takes the mike. Curt retaliates with a series of rabbit punches and all of a sudden, we’re missing two pitchers and have 20,000 words on them in the Globe.

Here’s Jose’s solution. Sox skipper Terry Eurona should by each of them a little transistor radio and a “Mr. Microphone.” (Note: The little microphone transmitter that Ron Popeil invented)Then they can each walk around all day and pretend that they’re on the radio. That way everyone can feel special all the time.

3. Is Jose the only person who thinks Mosey Nixon was paying A-Rod a compliment when he said that Rodriguez wasn’t “the Yankee Type?” Doesn’t that mean that he thinks A-Rod isn’t an overpaid, arrogant, self-indulgent, overrated jerk? He’s wrong, of course, but that is what the “Yankee type” is.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.

Thursday, February 17


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.

1. And now the winter of our content has come to an end, and the spring of our content has begun. As pitchers and catchers gather in Fort Myers and the shivering masses of New England turn their eyes southward, the most glorious off season in Red Sox history concludes and the most glorious spring training in Red Sox history commences. Once this was the season to hope, now it is the season to strut. Where dreams of erasing past failures once began, visions of championships defended have taken root.

It’s a funny little camp this year, different and strange. Old rituals have given way to new. No longer must we report Megatron Lowe’s traditional first day trip to Jiffy Lube for a lube job. Instead, we wait for David Wells’ traditional first day trip to the strip club for a boob job. Pedro Watch has given way to the Halama Diorama. And careful observation of Scott Williamson’s fragile pitching arm has been replaced by careful observation of Matt Mantei’s fragile pitching arm. (Note: “Mantei” is close enough to “manatee” that Jose thinks he would like to call the flame throwing righty “sea cow.” That might be a fit, but who knows? After all, it’s still only the first day of spring training.)

Yes, it’s the first day of spring training and all is right in the world…except for poverty…and hunger…and that situation in the Middle East, that’s pretty bad. Well, it’s the first day of spring training and much is right with the world.

2. As long as Jose is trying to get in shape for the season, he might as well work on his translation skills with Tony Castrati’s piece from yesterday’s Herald.

Tony Castrati Trying to Make the Cut

What TC says: “For the first time in a long time, no matter where he goes, the manager of the Red Sox is being showered with applause.”

What TC means: “Provided he never goes to New York or Philadelphia.”

What TC says: “Terry Francona appeared at two Boston-area baseball dinners within eight days last month”

What TC means: That’s right; he worked twice within eight days!!! What stamina!!! I can’t imagine keeping up that kind of pace.

What TC says: “Francona has been in Florida for several days now, spending the latter part of last week with his family on what he described as a short vacation”

What TC means: I will say “what he described as a short vacation” so I don’t have to fact check and confirm that it was really a short vacation, rather than a long weekend, or a moderately long vacation.

What TC says: “Francona understands as well as anyone that his current popularity in Boston may be short-lived”

What TC means: It will be if I have anything to do with it. Bring back Grady! Bring back Grady!

What TC says: “Francona knows that he will be ``hammered'' again if and when things go awry in 2005.”

What TC means: I dig that. I like to get hammered when things go awry too, or often if things don’t go awry.

What TC says: It is difficult to imagine the Red Sox having another new manager anytime soon.”

What TC means:
Imagine there’s no Tito,
It’s easy if you try,
Imagine Grady staying,
We should have kept that guy.

What TC says: “Stability.”

What TC means: Apparently in the off season I forgot that one word isn’t really a sentence.

What TC says: “When you are the reigning world champions, improvement comes in small increments.”

What TC means: And yet when one is a writer covering the reigning world champions, there is so much room for improvement. Of course, for me improvement also come sin small increments, if at all.

What TC says: “Once the Red Sox rewrote history by winning their next eight games.”

What TC means: I still don’t understand the difference between rewriting history and making history.

What TC says: Nonetheless, late last season, there was some indication from Red Sox officials that they would like to at least partially refine the team's image in 2005.”

What TC means: I hear they’re going to spend a good two hours a day in spring training sending the players to charm school, like in A League of Their Own.

3. Mike Greenwell, the former Red Sox leftfielder and 1988 MVP runner-up, has told the press that he should receive the MVP now that Jose Canseco has admitted to using steroids.

That would make Greenwell the Carl Lewis of baseball. Lewis also won an award in 1988, an Olympic Gold Medal, after steroids led to a competitor’s disqualification. Well, it would make him the Carl Lewis of baseball without all of the other years of championship level accomplishment, anyway. Also, Carl Lewis never crippled and other members of the U.S. track team by mistake.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.

Wednesday, February 16


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

During Jose’s time working for the Massachusetts State Legislature, he learned that there is an old saying about constituents and issues. "One constituent calling on an issue is a crank, five are a movement, 10 are a crisis." Well, Jose’s comments on Pride and Prejudice yesterday garnered three critical comments, moving them closer to movement then they are to crank. Thus, Jose, in keeping with U.S. foreign policy, has decided to launch a preemptive strike. In the tradition of lazy sports writers everywhere he will answer his readers when he has no ideas for a post/column. Jose brings you the first ever KEYS TO THE COMMENTS.

1. "Nooo Jose! This is my favorite website other than SoSH to check everyday, but you don't like Pride and Prejudice? Please explain in a further key!" Anonymous

"Ditto the first comment, Jose...". Anonymous

"How can Jose not like Pride and Prejudice? Does Jose not see the sarcasm and wit of this timeless satire on social positions?" Anonymous

Now that Jose notices that all three of these posts are anonymous, he realizes that perhaps Jose just has one fan who really, really likes Pride and Prejudice. Hmm…Ockham’s Razor would say that that is more likely than the theory that three of Jose’s readers loved that book. After all, can the crossover between fans of a baseball blog and Jane Austen really be that big? (Note: Unless the Melendezette and Jose’s mother, both of whom love that book are writing in.)

So on to Jose’s issues with Pride and Prejudice, a.k.a. the most boring book Jose has ever read cover to cover. (Note: Not necessarily the most boring book in history, though it probably is, just the most boring book Jose has ever read cover-to-cover. This is jut like how game three of the ALCS may not be the worst game in baseball history, but it is the worst Jose has ever watched all nine innings of.)

Jose’s first issue is that this book has a fundamentally deceptive title. When Jose picked up this book, he naturally assumed that it was about former Red Sox outfielder Curtis Pride and his struggle against discrimination from those who hate the deaf. Wrong! As it became clear that the 4-A outfielder was not the subject of this book, Jose began to expect that it would be about PRIDE fighting and the bigotry PRIDE promoter and legendary Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki faced as a member of the Japanese Diet because of his wrestling background. Apparently, they thought that he was only going to pretend to legislate. Wrong again!! Finally, Jose assumed that if neither of his first two guesses were true, the book must at least be about a misfit young lion struggling to find his place in the pride and in the world, sort of like Shell Silversteins’s epic Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back. Three times wrong!!! (Note: And maybe four times wrong, as Jose’s friend Mait has informed him that only female lions associate in prides.)

As it turns out, the book is about some Englishwoman and her prejudiced and foolish dismissal of one man in order to be courted by another. Jose defies anyone to say that he wouldn’t rather read about Curtis Pride. (Note: Observe Jose’s use of "he" in the previous sentence. Jose does not defy anyone to say that "she" wouldn’t rather read about the Englishwoman.)

Jose read this book as the summer reading for his 12th grade British Literature class along with the modestly less boring A Passage to India. That is the only way he ever would have read it. And as bad as it was, at least when he finished it, he knew he would never have to sit through it again. Of course, he was wrong yet again, and this brings him to his second complaint – that this book insidiously sneaks into other media. Jose knew when he went to see Bridget Jones’ Diary, it would be a chick flick that he probably wouldn’t like. But how could he possibly have know that it would have been nothing more than a vehicle to foist Pride and Prejudice upon an unsuspecting public.

Jose’s third objection is Austen’s ridiculous use of alliteration in the title of what is ostensibly a piece of high literature. Alliteration is fine for blogs, newspapers and Harlequin Romances, but for serious literature? Did Dostoyevsky call Crime and Punishment "Perpetrators and Punishment?" Did Melvillie call Moby Dick "Of Water and Whales?" Did God call the Bible "Sinners and Saviors?" Nope. Because they know alliteration is just a little trashy. Yo, Austen, you want to use a literary device in your title? Why not sack up and lay down some enjambent.

Finally, Jose hated Pride and Prejudice because it was simply boring. Boring like an Andy Reid press conference. Boring like a Pirates-Twins preseason game. If it was any more boring, it would be a power drill.

So the next time Jose read anything by an author named Austen, you can be sure it will be by Stone Cold Steve Austin, or possibly Austin Croshere’s biography. (Note: Speaking of boring.)

2. "Your discourse on the Eagle is appreciated, how about some "Keys to the BC Eagles 20-0 season"?" Xavier Hall
This item is a little bit dated, as the BC Eagles are now decidedly not undefeated, but Jose still thinks it deserves a response.

To be honest, the odds that Jose will ever write on the BC Eagles are not so good. Jose’s basically doesn’t like BC all that much. Why is an interesting question. After all, Jose, at the age of eight, was as swept up in Flutiemania as anyone. He went to see BC play Alabama at Foxboro in driving hail storm with a relative who had gone to Alabama. (Note: As Jose recalls, this relative, who was a Jew from Worcester, got to Alabama by a curious route. He had only gotten in to two colleges Holy Cross, right there in Worcester, and Alabama. His Jewish mother from some part of what was then the Soviet Union was not going to let her son go to Holy Cross, so Alabama it was. So the only question his mother had was "Zis A-la-ba-ma…Ees in Yoonited Stayts?")

Heck Granny Melendez even knitted Jose a sweater in gold and maroon with a football player bearing Flutie’s 22 on the back. Jose loved that sweater. Of course, the first time he wore it to school, some yokel ripped him for wearing an uncouth homemade garment and he stopped wearing it. (Note: Sorry about that Granny Melendez. That sweater was fantastic. If Jose still weighed 85 pounds, he would so be wearing that sweater.)

But the Flutie era ended, and so did Jose’s interest in BC. In fact, Jose started to downright dislike BC. Why is sort of unclear. Was it the legacy of his great-grandmother who grew up in the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, where they still fight the 30 years war? Was rooting for a Catholic university, even for in his own home town, simply not in his blood? Was Jose desperately looking for a Japanese-German-Jewish University to root for? Or maybe just maybe…did Jose know even then , in his heart of hearts, that he would go to Boston University?

But Jose is a Boston guy, and he likes college sports okay, so he has pangs. Rooting for BU Football is not exactly compelling. (Note: When Ken Walter got the Patriots punting job, he beat out former BU punter Brad Costello. Jose was so disappointed. He desperately wanted the last BU player in the NFL to be a punter. Costello could have been there for 15 years after the program folded.) Every time BC starts to get some momentum in basketball or football (Note: Never Hockey…not ever hockey), Jose begins to feel the attraction of the local college story. Yes, deep down hidden away, Jose may even root for BC. But will he root enough to write about them? Not unless he wants to lose his 10 percent alumni discount at the BU Bookstore.

3. "It is well documented that Jose only refers to himself in the third person, with that one exception at the end of every KEYS. But what is the proper protocol for others to address Jose -- in the third person or the second person singular? Should I have been using "you" rather than "Jose" throughout this comment? And is the protocol the same or different for written and in-person communications? For example, if the Melendezette wishes to get Jose to turn off the damn WWF 2004 Highlights DVD already, does she say "Jose, you really need to go to bed" or "Jose, Jose really needs to go to bed"??? Thank you." Anonymous

This is a fascinating question. Actually, Jose doesn’t like to be addressed by others in the third person or the second person singular. No, he prefers the second person plural pronoun, which by a tremendous coincidence is the same as the second person singular in English. Of course, he likes the accompanying verbs to be in the second person singular. Jose only has hang ups about pronouns, not verbs.

SPECIAL BONUS: Jose is loathe to add a bonus, but he could not let today pass without mentioning one story of note from the Boston Globe. Apparently, a fellow named Mitch Kates is running the Boston mayoral campaign of city councilor at-large Maura Hennigan. Kates appears to be a middling political talent well-suited to a middling mayoral candidate, but he is not without a certain distinction. Once upon a time, Kates wrestled as Jason the Terrible, a goalie masked, ax wielding professional wrestler who in no way infringed upon the copyright of the Friday the 13th horror film franchise.

As you may have noticed, Jose is a bit of a pro-wrestling buff, and with that background, Jose offers some advice to the many influential Boston politicos who read and enjoy the KEYS. First, Jason the Terrible, as Jose recalls, claimed to wear the hockey mask to cover up a face that was horribly scarred in a fire that he started. It may have even bee a fire at an orphanage or foster home. Yet, in today’s Globe, Kates appears to be porcelain skinned. Where are the scars? Is he an arsonist, a liar or both? Either way, should he be running a mayoral campaign? Can the Globe editorialize on this? Second, Jose also recalls Jason the Terrible wrestling in Stampede wrestling in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Stampede, which may now be defunct, was long dominated by the famed Hart family, the most famous of whom are Brett "The Hitman" Heart and the late Owen Hart. Jose suggests that the Menino campaign hire a member of this family as an advisor to help him counter Jason. Jose suggests lesser known wrestler Jack Hart, who when last Jose heard, was representing South Boston in the state Senate…or does he just pretend to be a state Senator as his in ring gimmick. Sometimes it is so hard to tell.

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

Tuesday, February 15


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.

Congratulations to the Beanpot winning BU Terriers. This is the best day of every year to be a BU alum. God knows it’s not when they pick a president.

1. Jose knows that pitchers and catchers don’t report until Thursday, position players until the following week and bloggers until sometime in May, but darn it Jose is just too excited to wait. This year he’s taking a page out of Pedro’s book and he’s getting to Spring Training early. (Note: Jose’s father’s birthday is in November anyway, so blaming his late arrivals on the birthday party always did seem a little disingenuous.)

Now, keep in mind that this does not mean that Jose is actually going to Fort Myers. (Note: There have always been jokes about whether Fort Myers was named after Mike Myers or even Jimmy Myers, Jose thinks Shaughnessy made that last one, but did anyone ever stop to consider the possibility that it may have been named after former Celtics catastrophe Joe Forte? It makes sense doesn’t it? After all, they named a town in Ohio after draft bust Michael Young.) No, Jose likes to go to poor, cold desperate places on his vacations. This year he’s thinking Kosovo. So unless the Sox relocate their spring training to Novosibirsk or Gary, Indiana, Jose probably isn’t going to spring training any time soon any time soon. (Note: Just kidding. Jose likes cold and poor, but not “Gary, Indiana” cold and poor.) Instead, Jose will conduct spring training from his celebrated North End tenement, where it is decidedly not spring. Jose will just turn the thermostat up to about 80, buy a few flowering plants for around the house, set up a May Pole and presto change-o, spring has sprung.

2. We all know what spring training means for players, ignoring the manger, being thrown from moving vehicles and coming up with odd injuries that knock them out of the line up for three months, but what does it mean for bloggers?

Just like many players, bloggers get out of shape and out of practice during the off season. Now Jose knows what you’re thinking…and it disgusts him. No, but seriously, Jose does know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Jose, you wrote during the off season. You wrote about Ukraine and the hot stove and magic tricks. How could you be out of shape?”

Well, those sorts of KEYS are all well and good, but they do not exactly get Jose in the shape required for the rigors of the season. Think about it this way. Manny Ramirez may go to the batting cages at Good Times Emporium in Somerville three times a week for 15 minutes, but it’s not exactly the same as taking live batting practice. Since November, Jose’s basically shown up three or four times a week, done some cursory work and then gone home. That needs to change now. For instance, in preparation for the season, Jose is going to need to build up his endurance. Not only will he need better endurance to write every game day, he’ll need better endurance just to be able to get through the Boston Herald sports section. Do you think Jose reads that sort of thing in the off season? Absolutely not. Jose read the Herald today for the first time in months and it left him winded, depressed and discouraged. After all, who needs news on the assassination in Lebanon, when a hero saved a dog from icy waters? If Jose is going to have success this season, he needs to be able to plow through the Herald, the Metro and maybe even the Phoenix without breaking a sweat.

So let Jose give you a brief rundown on the sorts of drills he’ll be doing between now and the first spring training game. (Note: When he’ll be on a strict word count.)

Typing drills: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” It’s an oldie but a goodie. It tests Jose’s accuracy to all parts of the keyboard, as well as his speed. Right now both are lacking. Jose originally wrote that as “The quick brown foz juped over the lazy dog,” and it took him 35 minutes. Jose needs to get that down to about 20 seconds. So there’s some room for improvement.

Reading comprehension drills: As any regular reader of Peter Gammons columns knows, understanding baseball writing can be a challenge, and one cannot mock what one does not understand…unless one is mocking its very incomprehensibility. So Jose has cracked out some old SAT test prep books and is working the reading comprehension sections hard. Can he understand the essay about the difference between economic forecasts and weather forecasts? (Note: This is a real SAT essay from Jose’s SATs…that weather forecasts don’t change the weather is the difference.) What about the essay on symbolism in the works of Jane Austen? If Jose can work his way though anything about Jane Austen, author of his least favorite book ever, Pride and Prejudice, Tony Castrati’s latest drivel should be a snap.

Nickname drills – Jose picks random names out of the newspaper and work nicknames.

Kennedy School Belfer Center Director, Robert I. Rotberg – Red Mountain Rob

House Appropriations Chair, Jerry Lewis – Umm…So maybe that’s a little too easy.

Mayoral Candidate Patricia White – Patricia “Thanks Dad” White. Wait…That’s a Shaughnessy nickname for former Celtics owner Paul Gaston. See this is why Jose has to work on this stuff now, so he doesn’t get caught mid-season and end up having to pull and Eric Kneel.

3. Ultimately, spring training is all about fundamentals, and that’s what Jose has to work on. Much like his beloved Red Sox, Jose was successful despite his fundamentals rather than because of them. While the Red Sox survived consecutive four error games in the World Series, Jose survived numerous outings featuring horrific confusions of “to,” “too;” two” “its” and “it’s” and God knows what else. It didn’t seem so bad at the time, but when one looks at the season as a whole, it’s pretty horrific. Ask anyone who read the KEYS book. Jose knows all of the grammar rules; he just gets a little jumpy sometimes when it’s game time.

But, Jose is one year older now, and maybe not this year, but some year, he isn’t going to be able to get by on his stuff any more. He’s going to have to write smarter, not faster or harder. And getting his fundamentals in line now will make that transition a heck of a lot easier down the stretch.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.