Friday, June 1

Mine and the Shaft

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

1. After much consideration, consultation and contemplation, Jose has determined that Alex Rodriguez’s decision to yell “mine” while heading to third against the Blue Jays two nights ago, thereby causing a pop up to fall between fielders was, in fact, “bush.” (Note: Bush being a baseball term derived from the current president meaning incompetent, wrongheaded and immature.)

It’s not bush because it was deceptive, rather it was bush because it was illegal. The Major League baseball rulebook clearly states that “Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play.”

What A-Rod did was clearly an effort to confuse, and he should have been called out.

The problem is not that A-Rod yelled, but that he yelled “mine,” which is really confusing to fielders trying to avoid a collision. Had he yelled “ha” as he claimed, there would have been no problem, unless one regards yelling out for shrimp in Chinese as “confusing.”

What’s frustrating is that there are so many things he could have yelled that would not have constituted interference. He could have yelled:
  • I have a boner right now
  • Jumanji
  • I had sex with your wife
  • The blond I was with was really a man
  • Hammer Time
  • Meca leca hi meca hiny ho
  • I have Smurf lips

Any of those might have worked and yet been totally legal, distracting but not confusing, yet A-Rod chose to yell the one thing that was illegal. Why did he do it? Because he knew it would work. It’s like the old Smothers Brothers bit:

Tom (singing): I fell into a vat of chocolate. I fell into a vat of

Dick (singing): What’d you do when you fell in the chocolate?

Both: La dee doo dum la dee doo dum day...

Tom (singing): I yelled ‘fire’ when I fell into the chocolate...

Dick (annoyed, singing): Why’d you yell ‘fire’ when you fell into the

Tom: I yelled ‘fire’ cause no one would help me if I yelled ‘Chocolate!’

A-rod yelled, “mine" because nobody would have dropped the ball if he’d yelled chocolate. Well, maybe noted chocoholic Troy “Yummy” O’Leary, but he wasn’t playing third.

2. The New York Post, in its ongoing pursuit of a Pulitzer, ran a follow up this morning on the mysterious blond woman Alex Rodriguez was seen with early this week at a Toronto strip club.

The Post identified the woman (note: Jose will not name her in accordance with his longstanding policy of not naming women who have sex with New York Yankees) as a 30 year old exotic dancer originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This is a the latest in a long series of instances wherein Rodriguez has demonstrated questionable judgment. When asked for comment on why he would be having an affair with a 30 year old stripper rather than one of the many 22 year old groupies Rodriguez responded “I was excited running around third base. I don’t know what my intention was.” (Note: Real A-Rod quote!)

Stranger still is that the Post reported that in 2004, the Dallas Observer had reported that Rodriguez had been seen on two occasions at a swingers club. Wouldn’t a striker outers club me more his style?

When asked whether he was having sex with the stripper, Rodriguez claims to have simply exclaimed “ha,” but eyewitnesses and video confirm that he pointed toward her rear end and yelled “mine.”

Cynthia Rodriguez was unavailable for comment. (Note: Yes, this violates the no naming women having sex with Yankees policy, but since A-Rod is blatantly fooling around and his child is 2 ½ years old, Jose figures that’s more than three years since they last had marital relations, making Cynthia fair game.)

Jose has no policy against showing pictures of women having sex with Yankees.

3. As a self-conscious fellow, Roger Clemens is, of course, well aware that he shares a last name with legendary writer and wit Samuels Clemens who wrote under the name Mark Twain.

Samuels Clemens chose the name Mark Twain because in his days working the river boats river boatman would yell out “Mark Twain” when the depth decreased to the minimum safe depth of two fathoms. In tribute Roger Clemens will adopt a pen name based on things yelled around him, so upon his eventual retirement, look for a book authored by a man named either “Whereis Roger” or “Fat Traitor.” That is assuming Clemens is literate.

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

Wednesday, May 30

The Ultimate Souvenier

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

It started with a phone call.

“Mr. Melendez,” the voice reported, soft, sultry. “Three days hence you will receive a package, sent to your abode by U.S. Post, and what is inside will reshape your world.”

“What? Who is this? What to you mean?” Jose was perplexed.

“You will soon be receiving… the ultimate souvenir.” It sounded threatening.

“How did you get this number? How do you know Jose’s address? And wait? A souvenir? Sweet.”

“Those questions are unimportant,” the voice continued. “Know only that I am an… admirer of your work. Though I must confess, I do take… exception… to some of your quips about players… shall we say… intimate infirmities.”

“What are you talking about? Jose has nothing but respect for the sexually dysfunctional.”

“No not the dysfunctional per se. It will all become clearer when you receive your present… Mike Lowell’s cancerous left testicle.” The word testicle hung in the air like a Kei Igawa curveball.

“You can’t be serious? Are you insane?” Jose’s collar seemed to be tightening. He knew it was unlikely. Will the Postal Service even deliver testicles?

“It only cost three dollars on E-Bay, but it is three dollars very well spent.”

“Do not send Jose Mike Lowell’s nut, or John Kruk’s nut, or anyone’s nut. Do you understand? Do you hear Jose? Do you--” Click. Dial tone.

Jose was left with nothing to do but wait. And wonder. And worry.

The package arrived on a Tuesday, as promised, a stark cube of USPS red, white and blue.

Gingerly, Jose took it into his kitchen and applied his car key firmly to the packing tape preserving the form. POP! The tape snapped, under the jagged metal and parted. Carefully, so carefully, Jose separated the folds of cardboard that masked secret and found…

Styrofoam peanuts.

Delicately he unpacked, removing each peanut in turn until a layer of newspaper was revealed. A round layer. Dear God, maybe it was Mike Lowell’s testicle. The newspaper gave way to a pocket of bubble wrap concealing a solid orb, plastic casing perhaps? Jose peeled back the bubble wrap to reveal… A baseball? MacGregor. Was it some sort of sick joke? A ball inside the ball?

Jose examined the item, trying to identify the mechanism that would open it to reveal what this final layer of packaging hid. He turned the horsehide slowly, meticulously in his fingers until he saw it.

The lines were smooth and fluid, dark and familiar. Jose blinked. He blinked again, unsure of whether he could actually be seeing what he thought he saw.
“J” flowed into “O” flowed into “S” flowed into “E.” By the time he saw the “M” beginning the next word he knew it. “Jose Melendez #19.”

No, rather than being some medical anomaly, the voice had sent him a genuine Jose Melendez autographed baseball.

Jose was elated. His heart beat a little faster, his breathing grew shallower. The ultimate souvenir indeed! This was far better than Mike Lowell’s testicle,

And then he noticed something. This signature? It was not his own. Who then would be signing baseballs Jose Melendez? A con man? A rogue? Or was it possible, just possible, that Jose himself was not the real Jose Melendez?

The voice had spoken truth. Jose’s world was being reshaped and his reality was becoming unhinged.

As the Yankee season gets more and more fun… err pathetic... the New York Post, it seems, has decided to take its pound of flesh from the least incompetent player on the team, Alex Rodriguez.

The Post reported this morning that Alex Rodriguez was seen in Toronto taking a woman who was not his wife to a strip bar and later his hotel room. In similarly astonishing news, the Post also reported that the Jason Giambi has used performance enhancing drugs, Roger Clemens is an egomaniac, Johnny Damon loves big fake boobs and the sun rises in the East.

But as obvious as it seems, Jose thinks we should give Alex Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt. There are plenty of other perfectly reasonable explanations for A-Rod’s dalliance with this mystery blonde.

Here’s Jose’s theory. Alex Rodriguez, who famously wanted to check out Harvard when he visited Boston during the 2003/2004 trade talks, has been taking advantage of the nine games a year in Toronto to work on a degree in sociology at the prestigious University of Toronto, Canada’s finest university. He goes to school in Canada rather than the U.S. because most Torontonians don’t recognize him because he’s not on the Leafs’ checking line. Rodriguez, is probably doing that classic undergraduate term paper on the lives and motivations of exotic dancers, and thus was at this adult entertainment venue for research purposes with his partner in what is surely a group project. Afterwards, since Rodriguez is so seldom in Toronto, they had to go to his hotel room to actually write the darn paper.

Doesn’t that make just a little more sense than the idea that one of our great athletes, and a family man, is an adulterer? If you use Jose’s favorite analytical tool, Ockham’s Razor, which dictates that the simplest explanation is most likely the accurate one, there’s really no other way to go, is there?

3. The Globe today reported that Terry Eurona has declared himself the best cribbage player in the Red Sox locker room. Unreported was the fact that Eurona’s cribbage superiority complex may have been the true cause of the A-Rod deal’s collapse back in 2004. Apparently, Tito was intimated by A-Rod’s skill, reported in today’s New York Post, at getting pegs into holes.

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

Tuesday, May 29

First Game

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

1. Interesting fact. Did you know that there are people on this good Earth, who have never seen a baseball game? Really. There are. But now there is one fewer.

Last night, Jose gave a Kosovar Albanian the greatest gift that an American can give a Kosovar, you know except for freedom from tyranny and pending, genocide, a chance to see a major league game. In 2005, while visiting Kosovo, Jose had tried to explain the great American game to this fellow, let’s call him Jack, but despite the innate Albanian love of all things American, he struggled to follow Jose’s lovingly hand scratched diagram.

“Where are the other eight men?” he asked when Jose explained that the batter was the only offensive player on the field. It’s all in the 2005 KEYS, you should read it. It’s excellent.

But a mere diagram is no substitute for the actual experience of attending a baseball game, much less a major league game at Fenway Park. As the emerald turf stretched before him as he emerged from the tunnel, Jack got that look that we’ve all seen in four year olds attending their first game, that we remember having ourselves when we first entered Fenway. But seeing it on a 33 year old man, dressed in what can best be described as a Miami Vice getup, is a different experience entirely. Wonder on the face of a child is beautiful, but common, wonder on the face of an adult, by contrast, is as rare as an inside the park homerun.

And that’s when the questions started.

Why is this guy going to the base? Why is a foul a strike sometimes but other times not a strike? How come the Japanese guy doesn’t pitch every day?

Some of the questions were easier to answer. Jose can explain the strike zone or the ground rule double, but others such as why Casey Blake was out after getting hit on the fingers on a swing, or why in God’s name we play Sweet Caroline in the eighth, reminded Jose that there are many things in this game that remain opaque, hidden beneath cloaks of time and behind walls of dusty tradition.

2. Jose loved Amelie Benjamin’s piece in today’s Globe Red Sox Notebook about the feud between Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia about who is slower. The centerpiece of the article was Youks claiming that his inside the park home run last night proved that he is faster. This, of course, proves nothing, as Steven Hawking could have rounded the bases on that ball.

Jose likes it because it reminds him of his feud his freshman year of high school with his friend Dan over who would be the slowest cross country runner not only on the team , but in Belmont High School history. Dan tried his best. Despite his long legs and lanky frame, he managed to run truly pathetic 10 minute miles throughout the 3.5 mile course. But Dan couldn’t compete with Jose. Jose’s inferior conditioning and general unwillingness to exert too much effort gave him the edge he needed to run 10 minute 30 second miles, allowing him to still be chugging away, long after Dan had crossed the tape. Jose’s specialty was lollygagging his way through the course and then going into the high kick down the final stretch, once everyone who had finished 10 minutes prior could see him, thereby demonstrating his grit and determination.

Only once, in the entire season, did Jose outpace another runner. Sadly, one competitor from Lexington out-slothed Jose running an astonishing five minutes behind him. Jose figures either the guy got hit by a bus while running or it was one of the Molina brothers, either way, Jose has to tip his cap.

3. Let’s be honest. As happy as we all were to see Mosey Nixon back at Fenway last night, to stand and shout and give him his due, weren’t we even happier that he was the guy up with the bases juiced in the eighth against a lefty? (Note: Yes, he did have a long sac fly rather than his more traditional “struck out swinging on a changeup away.”)

As hard as Nixon played for us, and as well as he played, there are few things in Red Sox history that Jose will miss less than watching Mosey face lefties in critical situations. On the list of things at bats has hated to watch over the years, it’s pretty much any Cesar Crespo at bat, Jim Rice with a runner on against a groundball pitcher in his last few years and then Mosey versus a lefty.

You’d think Wily Mo Pena would be making the list, with his remarkable ability to get so far ahead of an off speed pitch that he actually swings before the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, but even if it’s futile the chance that he might inadvertently start World War III by knocking the ball to Red Square makes Jose not hate his at bats.

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