Friday, December 22

'Twas the Night

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

'Twas the night before Christmas, I was hanging with Manny,
And all he kept doing was rubbing his hammy;
“I got to get traded this year,” he complained.
“Cause otherwise, I will not play through the pain.”

“They say that I’m lazy, that I just don’t care,
That I’m more concerned ‘bout the length of my hair,
But on Christmas, when I’m all at home in my bed,
I just dream about hitting and swinging the head,

Of the bat, knock a homer, give a tip of my cap,
And then into the field, where I’ll catch a quick nap.
When down in the lobby there was such a noise,
I thought Enrique Wilson had arrived with his boys.

And Manny jumped up and headed downstairs,
Though he felt like crap, it’s not like he cares
When Enrique’s in town, and he wants to hang out,
It don’t matter if Manny’s got shingles or gout.

But it wasn’t Enrique on down at the bar,
But a jolly old fat guy with a sweet, tricked out car,
With rims that did spin and dice in the mirror,
A present for Manny, it seemed rather clear.

“Yo Manny,” he shouted with gusto and verve,
“You dig on this ride? Do you think you deserve
It for Christmas, or should I be giving you coal,
Cause you sat, left the four spot a horrible hole.

Use Nixon, Use Lowell, Use Pena, Use Tek?
Or, Youkilis! Or Kapler or some other drek?
Did you quit on your team, when you could have played ball?
Or was that knee gimpy in fact after all?"

And Manny he stood there and wrinkled his nose,
At the site of the fat man in comical clothes,
And he thought bout his knee, how it hurt when he ran,
So he spoke to St. Nick, and said “Whatever, man.”

Then he looked at the ceiling, then looked at his shoes
Then he sat down, and ordered a glass with some booze.
And then, said to St. Nick, “Hey, man what do you think?”
While awaiting, an answer he bought him a drink

Well, Manny,” the elf said while lifting his glass,
“My thought is that this year I’ll give you a pass.
You hit the ball well, and you helped out your team,
And they need you back next year it certainly seems.

So you wear your pants long, so they cover your feet,
So you slide for a ball, but then you catch a cleat,
In the turf and then tumble and fumble the ball,
Before leaving the field to go pee in the wall.

So what if you sit out just once in a while?
Cause watching you play, well it makes me smile
Your swing is so perfect, the best that I’ve seen,
Who cares if your intellect isn’t so keen.

You play like a kid with a smile and a wave,
Like a kid who simply cannot always behave;
But the team needs you now, despite all of that stuff,
They can’t just replace you with, say, Aubrey Huff.

As long as it’s Papi and you back to back,
I think that the Sox every year have a crack
At taking the series and winning it all,
At getting some back up, the World Series ball.

So this car is for you, it’s a nice Christmas ride.
You like Caddies right? So drive this one with pride.”
Then he stood, and gave Manny the keys to the car,
And then walked to the door at the end of the bar,

And he handed a number, to the waiting valet
Who brought over the reindeer, and Santa Claus sleigh
But I heard him exclaim, “Yeah it’s kind of uncanny,
But you can’t do much better than Manny being Manny.”

2. While there has been plenty of focus on DJ Dru’s disposition, his constitution and his shoulder, there has been precious little examination of his prowess as a spinner of discs. The man is a DJ for crying out loud and has there been a single article, a blurb even about what kind of music he plays? We all knew that Balki Arroyo played the guitar and that Johnny Damon can bang a tambourine (note: though probably only on the one and the three like a square). Hell, we even know that Lenny DiNardo has the most interesting and eclectic musical tastes on the 40 man roster. But still we know nothing about the DJ to whom the team is prepared to make a five year commitment.

So Jose did a little bit of reporting and learned that Dru is into mashups. You know what a mashup is right? It’s not what Mike Greenwell would do to Ellis Burks in the outfield, rather it’s when a DJ takes two different songs and mixes them together to create a hip new sound. For instance “Spanish Bombs Over Bagdad” is a mashup of Bombs Over Baghdad by Outkast and, presumably, “Spanish Flea” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

So what are the favorite mashups of DJ Dru?

  • A mashup of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails and “Sunshine on My Shoulder” by John Denver called “Hurt My Shoulder”
  • A mashup of “Hustle” by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” by the White Stripes called “I Just Don’t Hustle”
  • A mashup of “Hold on, Hold Out by Jackson Browne and “Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers called “Agent: Hold Out”

The only question is which one will become his theme music.

3. According to the Boston Herald, public health groups have targeted a number of stores for selling drinking games, arguing that they encourage recklessness and are, in effect, a threat to public health.

See, it’s happened. neopuritanism has finally crossed the line. First, they ban smoking. Jose is okay with this. Smoking is not only bad for you but bad for everyone around you and is really only worth doing if it causes one to choke in front of one’s gorgeous Albanian interpreter who finds one’s inability to smoke properly charming. Then came the New York City ban on trans fats (note: presumably guaranteeing that David Wells will never pitch there again). And now, they’re going after drinking games. What scourge of public health will they focus on next?

Here’s what Jose’s afraid of. The next target will be baseball. It fits the profile. Do people derive pleasure from it? Yes. Does it cause people to spend money that could better be spent on shoes for their children? Check. Does it cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke? Of course. You remember both Rudy Seanez eras. Does it destroy families? It goes without saying.

So what, oh what, will keep the neopuritans from trying to ban baseball next? Remember if beer pong is a crime only criminal will play beer pong.

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

Wednesday, December 20

Saving Souls, Saving Games

Buy the KEYS 2006 Book Or Anger J.C. Romero

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

1. Lets’ talk about God. Lots of other people are talking about him/her/it these days. Yes, with wars of religion on the rise, with madmen claiming to know the word of God and taking lives, there is more and more discussion of the nature of the big G. Sadly, there is still little review of the question circuitously raise by XTC in the song Dear God—What is God’s impact on the price of beer. Instead the question posed far more often is whether, with so much evil being done in the name of the Deity, so much violence, so much intolerance, is God even worth having?

The answer is yes. See, theology is easy.

The problem is not that there is a God, rather it is that we simply haven’t found the right God yet, a chill, down to Earth God to whom we can relate. (Note: Sacrilege ahead.) Yahweh is too vengeful, Vishnu is too much like Dr. Octopus, Jesus is too skinny, Buddha is too fat (note: and too not technically a God), Thor’s comic book is too boring, the Scientology God is too vague and too silly, and Allah is… well Jose has nothing bad to say about Allah, and Jobu is too weak against the curveball.

Yet despite their weaknesses, all of these God’s have great strengths as well. The solution to the God problem is to combine them, to create sort of Frankenstein’s monster of a God, combining the best aspects of other gods and reanimated from the death proclaimed by Nietzsche.

After carefully weighing all of the gods out there, Jose has concluded that the best possible God would be a human man walking the Earth among us who merged the infinite love, grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ with the competent utility play, and gentle, non-threatening bat of Ed Romero. Thus, the right God for the post modern world, the best God, if you will, is new Red Sox reliever J.C. Romero.

Rather than hanging from a cross like the old J.C., the new J.C. will be hanging curveballs, which while still painful, we can all agree, is a marginal improvement. Progress!

As for the credible infield play, J.C. Romero is a pitcher, so it is not quite the same, but let’s be honest, the name brand matters and J.C. Romero’s got it. Like you wouldn’t worship Charlie Zeus or seek wisdom in the teachings of Jimmy Buddha? (Note: Apologies to Father Guido Sarducci for sort of imitating his legendary “Billy Christ” bit.)

Yes, we have our new savior in J.C. Romero, and Jose, for one, looks forward to watching him end wars and save souls, if not end games and save wins.

See, you didn't buy the book, and now he's pissed.

2. Jose loves unwrapping presents, and nearly without exception, Jose is able to be gracious and show enthusiasm upon opening even the most absurd, kitschy and useless of gifts. But some gifts, even the magnanimous Jose could not abide. For a few, he could not muster a forced smile or cock his head towards the light to contrive a twinkle in his eye.

One such gift was advertised in the Boston Globe this morning. Imagine waking up on Christmas morning, slinking into a robe, shuffling into a pair of slippers and thumping down the stairs to sit before a Christmas tree, fragrant and blinking. You unstuff your stocking, finding delights one after another among whimsical little do-dads and sweet Christmas chocolate, perhaps even with a nip of brandy hidden for later. Your stocking empty, you move on to the gifts. Your mother opens a waffle iron, your father also opens a waffle iron, and your wife opens something shiny. Perhaps you even have children, in which case this all happens five hours earlier. Then it is your turn. Your wife, your loving, loyal, affectionate wife hands you a box. You peel off the paper, crinkling the delicate snowflakes that decorate it, and tear back the tissue paper to reveal—a Boston Dirt Dogs long sleeve t-shirt as seen in the Boston Globe.

“Don’t you love it?” a voice asks. You don’t know whose it is; you don’t want to know. “I know you love the Red Sox, and I heard this is the best Red Sox blog, so I thought it would be perfect.”

And your smile wilts into a frown. You choke back the tears and clamp down on your tongue drawing salty Christmas blood.

You were ready for disappointment. You really were. You could have lived with a vintage Carl Everett jersey, a framed copy of the Margot Adams Penthouse spread or even an album of standards recorded by Michelle Damon.

But Dirt Dogs gear? It is the lump of coal, the cold carbon reminder that you are wicked and sinful.

And then, suddenly, the Calvinist impulses take over, you remember that you are sinful, you are fallen.

You recall that really, all self-delusion aside, you are a borderline racist who is prone to boasting and fabrication and who loves Trot Nixon completely out of proportion to his OPS, and quickly but oh so surely, the Dirt Dogs shirt starts to seem like an awfully good gift.

3. Who the hell does Jimmy Carter think he is?

What in the name of J.C. Romero gives him the right to rip off Jose? Sure, he was President, but only for like one term. That’s only one term more than Jose. And Jose doesn’t go to bed every night with nightmares of stagflation.

And yet Carter goes ahead and writes an op-ed about his new book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid in today’s Boston Globe called “Reiterating the keys to peace”.

Carter will probably hide behind the old “I didn’t write the headline” excuse, but come on, that’s like refusing to blame Grady Little for Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS just because he didn’t pitch, catch or hit. Both Carter and Little created the context for bad things, and thus are responsible.

So let’s make a deal Mr. Carter. You stop ripping off Jose, and Jose will pull publication of his new book Pal ‘a’ Stein: Peace not Apartheid, a story of the interracial collaboration between George Steinbrenner and Yankee GM Bob Watson that brought the Yankees back to the top, before Watson got sick of George and left for a cushy MLB job giving disproportionate suspensions to Red Sox players.

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

Monday, December 18

Going Home Again


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

1. In the Tim Robbins film Bob Roberts, a story about a conservative folk singer turned senate candidate, one of the title character’s catchier ditties is a song called Times are Changing Back. It’s a soulful plea for a return to the simple, decent values of patriarchy, segregation and sexual repression.

Well, if you took out the bigotry, misogyny and the yearning for a golden age that never was, that tune could be the brand new, same as the old KEYS TO THE GAME.

After a two year run at wallballsingle that drew more than 100,000 hits (note: and God knows how many walks), Jose returns home to where he started his first blog. The upside of this move is that KEYS T-Shirts, thongs and mugs will finally have the right URL on them again. The downside is that Jose will have to deal with this compu stuff all by himself, and to be honest, Jose knows only marginally more about high technology than Grady Little.

The question is: How will this work out? Despite what Bill Simmons would have you believe, going back to the dame what brung you is not always the way to go. Sure, it worked out well, at least for a while, when the Celtics brought Antoine Walker home, but are we still all feeling good about Doug Mirabelli’s heroic return? Are we all certain that Any Pettitte will get his game back together just because he’s wearing those slimming pinstripes again? And what if Roger comes back?

The point is that when things change, there is a reason that they change. It’s not always a good reason, but it’s a reason nevertheless, and unless that reason has ceased to be, unless it has been removed, a return to the status quo ante is usually not the best idea.

The reasons of course, vary dramatically from example to example. Antoine was traded for Raef F’n LaFrentz, Andy Pettitte’s wife allegedly told him he could stay in New York with his whore or come to Texas with her (note: so is he back with the whore now?), Roger Clemens left for the money, and Jose? When Jose left two years ago it was to try a more polished format, to be part of a larger community of writers. But here’s the problem, Jose isn’t part of a community of writers, he is a loner, in love with the city… Wait, that’s Kevin White. Okay, Jose is a loner in love with his own obscurity, content to make chippy little points about the greatest sport in the world through rhyme and reference and randomness.

And back at his own site, under his own corrugated tin roofed internet shack, he can do it. So welcome to the good old, new KEYS.

After two years away, there's no place like home...

2. According to both Boston papers, the Red Sox’s deal with outfielder DJ Dru (note: yes that is his nickname) is now in jeopardy because Dru failed his physical due to problems with his shoulder. The current plan is to seek a second opinion on Dru’s shoulder before a final decision is reached.

For some pundits this has confirmed their fears that Dru is injury prone. For other it has convinced them that what they always regarded as a bad deal is now and indefensible one. Jose has a different take—outrage. He is not outraged that the Red Sox signed a “soft” player. He is not outraged that Dru failed the physical. Nor is he even outraged that the Red Sox may still make a frighteningly large commitment to an injured player. No, Jose is outraged that Dru gets a second opinion.

One of the very, very few things Jose has in common with some professional athletes is that he too has lost a job because he failed a physical. (Note to prospective employers: It was not drugs or anything that will run your insurance rates up.) And Jose was shocked, because Jose is a really healthy guy, who has never had any major diseases or infirmities. So Jose asked for a second opinion and you know what he got? Another evaluation by the same doctor. That’s right, Jose asked for a second opinion and all he got was the same opinion from the same guy on a different date.

Does this happen to DJ Dru? No, of course not. The guy who is hated by his teammates, who held out when he was drafted, who never gets clutch hits, who has no heart and no hustle gets a real second opinion, while Jose, who types his fingers down to the sinew through skin infections, power outages and the current sad state of professional wrestling gets lip service and a “I’m sorry to tell you this, but…”

And what if the second opinion is favorable for Dru? Do they have to go to a third opinion to break the tie? Is this like a best of seven series where there are four home opinions and three away opinions? Are opinions weighted by some complex Bill James formula that measures a doctors correct diagnosis percentage?

Well, you want a second opinion, Jose will give you one, they should still sign DJ Dru, but get some health guarantees in the contract, and if he doesn’t take it, sign DJ Jazzy Jeff instead, he’s not doing much and he’s got to have a chip on his shoulder.

3. Jose received an unsolicited email from an old Japanese friend, a Hanshin Tigers fan, who had apparently taken a break from looking for the missing Colonel Sanders Hanshin fans threw into the river after their last championship to weigh in on Mr. Matsu.

He offered the following advanced scouting “As you may know, Dice-K defeated Ichiro three times consecutively by strikeouts when they faced each other at the first time. He has ten different types of pitching balls as well as very tough nerves. I expect that he could win more than 20 games.”

While Jose is a little skeptical about the 10 pitches, it did lead him to due a little research on Matsuzaka and guess what he learned? That in addition to being able to throw at least five pitches, he also shares his name with Matsuzaka beef, a beef from the Matsuzaka region of Mie Japan that has a high meat to fat ratio. Presumably, the inverse is known as Wells Beef.

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

Henry Opens Japan

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

1. On July 14, 1852 Commodore Matthew Perry, went ashore in Kurihama, Japan, after making threats of naval bombardment, and presented a letter from President Millard Fillmore that would open Japan to the U.S. He later went on to further fame as Chandler on Friends.

On December 14, 2006, exactly 154 years and five months later, the historical drama would repeat itself, as historical dramas are prone to do, when John W. Henry, having successfully applied the threat of force much like Perry before him, once again opened Japan to American trade. One wonders if years from now, the Japanese will speak of John Henry’s yacht with the same awe and dread with which they once regarded Perry’s “black ships.”

And yet as eerily similar as the two events are, rather than being mimeographs of each other they are more like reflections. While Perry opened Japan to American imports, Henry opened Japan to exporting baseball talent to America. And in this reenactment, the role of Holland, the meddling misers with the inside track on Japanese wealth, was played by Agent Scott Boras, who is much like the Netherlands in that he is incredibly low and is friendly to whores.

The question now is what does this historical parallel teach us about what will come next? When Perry opened Japan it led to the Meiji Restoration, a period of intense modernization wherein feudalism ended and many Western ways and technologies were adopted. Thus one would assume that Henry’s endeavor would lead to a similar modernization of Japanese baseball including the abolition of the posting system and the wholesale use of performance enhancing drugs. See, history really does repeat itself first as tragedy and then as farce. It’s just not very good farce.

2. The testimony below was submitted to Governor Elect Deval Patrick’s Transition Working Group on Economic Development.

Good afternoon. Jose’s name is Jose Melendez, he is a blogger, and it is his pleasure to offer this esteemed working group, and ultimately our new governor, his recommendations for economic development in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

For generations, the Commonwealth has tried to develop its economy by courting business with tax incentives, infrastructure assistance, workforce development assistance and outright bribes. And what have we gotten for our money? Fidelity took tax breaks and still exported jobs. John Hancock, FleetBank and Gillette were purchased by outsiders. And Jose doesn’t know about you, but he is having an awfully hard time finding any new software for his Wang Computer.

It is time turn our energies towards new investments, new strategies. Jose refers you to a study that shows that the recent signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka by the Boston Red Sox, a local athletic concern, is likely to pump an additional $75 million into the Massachusetts economy. However, if we settle for $75 million alone, we are doing our Commonwealth a great disservice. While the Japanese market is formidable, it is not enough. The Commonwealth must support the signing, development and placement on the Red Sox roster of athletes from all key economies. The administration should set as a goal to have one player from every major economic power on the Red Sox roster by the end of the decade. If the Red Sox replaced players from low leverage economies such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela with players from international economic powers such as Germany, France, South Korea and the United Kingdom, as well as players from emerging economies such as the People’s Republic of China and India, Jose estimates that we could secure as much as $1 billion in additional foreign investment in the Massachusetts economy. This would solve all of our problems and we could then all by diamonds and space shuttles.

Thank you for your consideration, and feel free to contact Jose with any further questions.

Thank God that the name
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Is only this long.

Seem that’s a haiku, the famously overused Japanese form of poetry that consists of three lines with five, seven and five syllables respectively. If Daisuke Matsuzka contained any more than its seven syllables it would be useless for the purpose of haiku.

Of course, haiku is overexposed. Remy and McDonough used to do it on Sox broadcasts, and pretty much everyone writings about sports has used it as a cop out at one time or another. And whenever a Japanese player emerges the temptation to resort to it as a cheap gimmick to fill column inches is particularly overwhelming. But Jose isn’t going to do it… not again anyway.

That one up there is all you’ll see. The Japanese culture is so rich, that there are dozens of other ways to pay tribute to Matsuzaka using the traditional art forms of his native land. Over the course of this season, you will see Jose explore Matsuzaka’s inaugural American season in Japanese woodblock prints, kabuki, anime and of course, origami. His little folded paper replica of Matsuzaka striking out A-Rod with the bases loaded will be as elegant in its complexity as Jose’s Zen rock garden commemorating the same event will be in its simplicity.

Also, Jose plans on planting a Japanese cherry tree, conducting a tea ceremony and buying a Toyota.

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