Friday, April 13

Executive Privilege

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

1. KEYS TO THE GAME comes to you today from our nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C., mere steps from the White House where President George W. Bush is no doubt debating whether, if he traded Sammy Sosa to Iraq, Sosa might, with the help of drugs, emerge as exactly the sort of strong man Iraq needs. (Note: If there were controlled substances that enhanced governance like performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) enhance athletic performance, would we be opposed to them? Would we regard it as cheating? Jose has heard that these drugs may already exist. He thinks they’re called governance Enhancing Drugs, or GEDs. He hears people talk about getting them all the time, and how much better their lives will be after they get a GED, so he figures they must be pretty effective. Jose thinks pretty much everyone in the Bush administration should score some GEDs, because they certainly don’t seem to have them now.)

Anyway, President Bush is the first U.S. President to previously serve as President of a Major League Baseball team (note: Clinton’s fantasy team the Little Rock Little Cocks, does not count), and Jose wonders what he might do, now with six years of presidential leadership under his belt, if called upon to take over a team today? Since Jose has no interest in what he would do should he take leadership over the Texas Rangers, let us contemplate what he would do if given the reins of the Boston Red Sox.

• Fire Theo Epstein and replace him with the President of BC College Republicans. It’s not because Theo is a Democrat, but rather because he is insufficiently vigilant in taking action against the many immigrants on the team. Or was it that he’s a weak manager?
• Elevate bullpen terror alert to orange “High risk of terror from bullpen performance.”
• Establish new Department of Homefield Security, dedicated to wiretaps. Hire 30 agents needed to monitor all of Curt Euro’s calls.
• Establish faith-based base running programs.
• Reward Manny’s attention to detail by making him manager, giving him medal.
• Issue declaration that the Red Sox have not conceded defeat in 2006 AL East race. Vow to continue 2006 season until Red Sox win division.
• Declare the 2006 Red Sox the AL East champions, even though they did not win the most games, hire army of lawyers to enforce claim.
• Insist that the luxury tax on the Yankees should be cut in order make life better for the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins.
• Order abduction and torture of Omar Minaya, because his first name sounds Arabic.
• Encourage Hazel Mae to pose for pictures pointing at genitals of naked, Kevin Millar.
• Award huge, no-bid contract to Manny Ramirez… wait that one really happened.

2. As Jose was driving to work yesterday (note: or being driven more accurately). You don’t think that award winning bloggers drive themselves do you? Of course not, they hop in their swank Ford Contours and have their fathers drive them), he saw a brilliant business concept, one of those few ideas that is a virtual license to print money. Real money. Euros, not worthless U.S. dollars.

Now, Jose is no great businessman, to be honest he finds the fact that food appears on grocery store shelves as nothing short of miraculous, but he knew that this idea was a winner when he saw it. You know how it is. Sometimes you see an idea that’s so simple, so perfect that you just know it’s going to make a ton of money, like Crystal Pepsi or the war in Iraq, and you can’t help but wonder how you didn’t come up with it yourself,

As Jose’s vehicle jerked to a stop on Charles Street, it was there, right in front of him on the back of a tired looking truck— A Web site that provides skilled professionals trained to control the Yankees? It’s a goldmine. Imagine that the Yankees are coming to town for, let’s say a critical five game season determining series. You’re short staffed and your bullpen is thin, so what do you do? Do you panic and blow five games? Do you turn on your future Hall of Fame left fielder? No, you just call Yankee Pest Control and let them fix the problem.

And why should this be limited to Boston? They can probably travel right? Why couldn’t Tampa Bay or Baltimore contract for their services too?

So Jose thought he would check it out, see if he could get a number, or have some pamphlets sent to Tito. Talk about disappointment. Rather than featuring pictures of A-Rod, Giambi, Jeter and the like with big red Xs through them, there were pictures of termites, carpenter ants and rodents. Not a single Yankee to be found. (Note: Well, almost. Jose is pretty sure there was a picture of Jorge Posada on there, though it might have been a rat.)

As Jose did a little more research, he discovered two more disturbing things. First this company is dedicated primarily to killing. That’s not cool. Jose doesn’t like the Yankees, but he certainly doesn’t want them killed. (Note/Bad Taste Alert: Has anyone looked into what this company was doing when Thurman Munson and Corey Lidle took their famous flights?) Second, they appear to be far more focused on controlling insects than on controlling Yankees, in which case they should really consider calling themselves Insect Pest Control.

Still as disheartening as this discovery is, the good news, for any entrepreneurs out there, is that a market niche still exists. Find a niche and fill it, right? There are Yankees out there just begging to be controlled, who will be man enough to do the job? Jose’s thinking Mr. Matsu. Those Japanese are pretty good entrepreneurs.

3. Jose did the right thing yesterday.

Jose can look out the window. Jose can read a weather map. Jose can analyze a Doppler radar reading and he didn’t like what he saw. The rain was on its way, on its way with a vengeance, and it was going to wash the Seattle Mariners right on out of town. So you know what Jose did? He called it. At 11:03 AM Eastern Daylight Time yesterday, Jose called it. He reached the conclusion that it was going to rain for too hard and too long to get a KEYS in, so he stopped it right there and then, unlike Red Sox owner John W. Henry who waited until four or five PM to call the game.

Shame on John Henry. He allowed fans to sit there sucking down beer and popcorn and Luis Tiant brand Cuban sandwiches for a good three hours after the gates opened before he bowed to the inevitable wrath of the gods. But not Jose. Jose wanted to be responsible to his fans, and to be on the level with them. So he made the decision not to write at 11:03. Sure he didn’t tell you guys, but you knew didn’t you? Of course, because everyone knows you cannot operate a laptop in the rain. You just can’t. The water plays total havoc on the keyboard.

And you know what the consequences were? Jose gave up potential thousands in concession sales. Sure no one has bought anything in months, but this could have been the day where people started flowing into the KEYS store and buying books, thongs and t-shirts. Yes, Jose could have left you there quaffing six dollar glasses of watered down Jose Brau and scarfing down “Jose Jot Dogs” at $4.25 a pop, but he didn’t and you know why? Because he respects and cares about his fans. Also, he is apparently unlicensed to sell beer and sausage on the net.

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

Wednesday, April 11

Rituals Ancient and Austere

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

1. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Japanese culture, the rituals that precede the epic confrontation between Japans’ two biggest baseball stars, Mr. Matsu and Ichiro, this evening may confuse you. In order to assist you, Jose has put the one-eight of his brain that is Japanese to work, summarizing the finest guides to the ritual, the internet has to offer.

Matsuzaka mounts the mound and Ichiro enters the batter box even though first pitch may be minutes away. There are strict traditions and rituals that must be obeyed in preparation for the at bat. The pitcher and batter first face away from each other and perform shiko, a foot stomping ritual which drives demons from the field. Next, each takes ladle of water Matsuzaka from a relief pitcher, probably Hideki Okajima, and Ichiro from the man on deck. The water purifies the field. Also, for Ichiro’s benefit, it slows down the infield.
Next each takes a first handful of salt and throws it onto the field, infuriating the ground crew, who will now have to deal with brown spots for the rest of the year. Each then squats and faces the other. From here they clap their hands in unison, in the rhythm of the intro to “Put Me in Coach” to summon the gods. Gods love clapping. The players also turn their palms upwards, as if to say, “come here and let’s play that game where I try to slap your hand and you try to get away.”

Then comes the stare down. Each man crouches down and glares at the other. Eye black helps! Over the course of the next several minutes, the cycle of stare downs and sewing the ground with salt continues cyclically, until one man blinks or starts to laugh.
How can you tell when it’s time for the first pitch?
Well, aside from the yelling of “play ball," the umpire will offer a cloth to each player to wipe the sweat off of his hands, or alternatively, to blow his nose.
Now and only now, with the elegant, ancient ritual complete, the park purified, the warriors cleaned of sweat does Matsuzaka strike out Ichiro on five pitches. Banzai!

Please try to be sympathetic to what may seem like a strange and foreign custom. And remember, even though the ritual preceding the first pitch may take a full five minutes, we can handle it. It can’t possible take longer than Nomar’s ritual before each pitch.

(Note: Thanks to Canada’s Sumo page, for providing insight into this mysterious ritual. See Ron Borges how easy it is to not plagiarize?)

2. While the NESN television crew (note: or so Jose heard) failed to immediately identify the long standing animus between Sox reliever Brendan Donnelly and the Mariners’ Jose Guillen, the Globe’s Nick Cafardo did a nice write up today capturing the sordid history. (Note: Reader Moises Sabina of Portland, Maine suggested that Jose nickname Donnelly “Brendan ‘Black’ Donnelly,” in honor of what is apparently a popular television program. Not a terrible idea. However, in light of the recent trouble radio host Don Imus has gotten into over racial remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, Jose thinks he will skip anything that could ever, even vaguely by the most self-righteous of people, be interpreted as a racial remark. Moises may not understand this, as there are few people of color in Portland, Maine, but the only way this joke would be appropriate is to call him Brendan “African-American” Donnelly. And that’s not funny. Wait… hold on. Al Sharpton on line one.)

But Jose digresses. While Cafardo did a good job of identifying the most obvious causes of the feud (note: Guillen through a fit when Donnelly and other Angles pitchers did not issue retaliatory beanballs in 2004, and responded by pointing out pine tar on Donnelly’s glove in 2005) he missed what we liberals call “ the root causes.”

Let’s look at the timeline:

March 6, 2004—Donnelly tells Guillen the seat next to him on spring training bus to Tucson is taken. It is not.
March 10, 2004—Guillen calls Donnelly a “stupid head.”
April 4, 2004— Donnelly sticks hand of sleeping Guillen in warm water—leading to nickname “piss boy.”
April 29, 2004—Guillen has sex with Donnelly’s mother.
April 29, 2004—Donnelly’s mother gives Guillen herpes
May 15, 2004—Guillen breaks Donnelly’s glasses
May 30, 2004—Donnelly calls INS on Guillen.
June 7, 2004—Guillen calls DEA on Donnelly
June 20, 2004—Donnelly post some really mean stuff on Guillen’s myspace page about how he’s a whore and how he thinks he’s so great but he’s not.
July 4, 2004—Guillen celebrates Fourth of July by putting cherry bomb in Donnelly’s locker.
July 20, 2004—Donnelly tells Guillen to go back to Hati.
July 20, 2004—Guillen corrects Donnelly on the geography of Hispaniola.
August 1, 2004—Peace and Truce of God, nothing happens.
August 2, 2004—Donnelly replaces Guillen’s normal bats with sticks of TNT.
August 20, 2004—Guillen blows up Donnelly’s car.
September 5, 2004—Donnelly puts Guillen through a table.
September ???, 2004—Guillen rips Angels pitchers for failing to retaliate after hit batsmen,
September 27, 2004—Guillen suspended for remainder of season without pay.
September 29, 2004—Guillen suspends Donnelly naked from a flag pole in front of Angel Stadium.
December 25, 2004—Donnelly sends Guillen lump of coal for Christmas.
January 6, 2005—Guillen sends Donnelly Hunta virus for Greek Christmas
June 14, 2005—Guillen points out Donnelly has pine tar on his glove, Donnelly suspend eight games
April 11, 2006—Donnelly strike out Guillen on three pitches in Fenway debut,
April 11, 2006--Guillen acts like a punk.

Jose’s not saying it’s Spiderman vs. Dr. Octopus or Shawn Michaels vs. Brett Hart or even that it’s The Cosby Show vs. The Simpsons. But there’s a lot of history and it’s not pretty. And you know what they say about history. He who doesn’t learn from history is doomed to take a fastball in the ear.

3. According to the Globe, peppy new shortstop Julio Lugo struggled to find his way to Fenway Park for yesterday’s home opener and nearly arrived late to the ballpark. Sources say that, while Lugo drove very quickly, far quicker than his predecessor at short Alex Gonzalez, his failure to get his foot set on the break pedal before making decisions about which way to go led to some sloppy performance and possibly to inadvertently throwing away his map.

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

Tuesday, April 10

Just Another Game That Jose Doesn't Have a Ticket For

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

1. Wow it’s the home opener. Super great. Jose is so excited. Fenway reopening, new Conigliaro’s corner, snazzy new super duper ultra max premium seating with built in massage, blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t get any better than this, or something.

Really, it’s the home opener, what could be more fantabulous? After all, this is, what ,the seventh game of the season? That’s a lucky, lucky number.

Okay, have you caught the sarcasm in Jose’s tone yet? Can you tell that he is less than overwhelmed that it is the home opener. You know why? Because the home opener is a sorry, lazy excuse for a real opener, a man’s opener that begins on the first day of the season. Jose has been to the home opener twice, once in 1987 and once last year and on neither occasion was it the real opener. In 1987, he cried like a little girl, not because of the touching tribute to the defending AL champions, not because spring was back, but because we had trouble finding parking and he missed what was, as best he can recall, Al Nipper’s first inning of work. Sure who wouldn’t cry at lost time with Al Nipper? But still, he was a baby, and all he was crying about what was just another regular season game. Real fans travel to Kansas City or Oakland or wherever to get their fix as quickly as possible. What did Jose do? Nothing. That’s what.

So what is the big deal about today? It’s the Red Sox and St. Josh a Beckett versus a lousy Seattle team with God only knows who on the mound. Whoop–de-freaking-do. (Note: Jeff Weaver. Even more whoop-de-do. Blunts for everyone.)

Sit out in the cold, drinking $7 beers and chomping on stuffed intestines? No thank, you, no thank you at all. Jose would much rather be in his office creating jobs… unlike his boss a Mariners fan who gets to the game. Not that Jose is bitter.

2. This harkens back to the weekend’s series with the Rangers, but Jose still wants to mention it. Has anyone thought about the implications of Sammy Sosa’s return to Texas for national security?

Back in the 2000 presidential campaign, then Texas Governor George W. Bush answered a question about what his worst mistake had been, by saying that it had been trading Sammy Sosa when he was owner of the Texas Rangers. Now that Sosa has returned to Arlington, what is the “after action report” going to teach the President? What will be the lessons learned?

Here’s what Jose fears. What keep Jose up and night is the concern that president will conclude that if we leave the U.S. military in Iraq for 18 years, we can just get them back no problem, and so what if their a lot less strong and effective? Sammy hit a homer against the Red Sox didn’t he?

Jose would urge the President to learn a different lesson. When he traded Sosa along with Wilson Alvarez and Scott Fletcher to the White Sox in 1989, at least he got Harold Baines in return. Harold Baines was ho hum with the Rangers, but he was, over the course of his career, a terrific hitter. So, if we’re going to send something valuable to Iraq for 18 years, lives, money etc. at least try to get something of value in return: democracy, economic security, peace, something. Because right now, the war is looking an awful lot like Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson.

3. In a move that seems designed to increase the team’s depth, the Red Sox yesterday acquired Diamondbacks pitching prospect J.D. Durbin. In addition to giving the Sox another live arm in the minor leagues, the acquisition of Jonathan Adam Durbin gives the Red Sox depth in “people named J.D. who’s given first and middle names do not begin with J. D. in sequence.”

The move is reminiscent of 1993 when the Red Sox attempted to bolster a sagging line up and questionable pitching by stocking up on Scotts, combing infielders Scott Fletcher (note: appearing twice in this KEYS!) and Scott “The Worst Two Time All-Star Ever” Cooper, with pitchers Scott Bankhead and Scott Taylor.

The Patriots also attempted the Scott strategy in 1993, carrying quarterbacks Scott Zolak and Scott Secules, running back Scott Lockwood and kicker Scott Sisson.
The Celtics efforts to acquire Byron Scott were, however, unsuccessful.

The end result of this bold strategy was an 80-82 baseball team, a 5-11 football team, and a 45 percent increase in the market price of haggis in Boston.

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