Thursday, December 30



It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO NEW YEAR’S.

1. Hello and welcome to Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO NEW YEAR’S ROCKIN’ EVE. Jose is coming to you live from Circle Gets the Square in Melendezville where tens if not scores of people have gathered to watch the baseball drop, sip Andre "pink champagne" or Mr. Boston vodka from carefully concealed flasks, hang from street lights, and smash shop windows. Yes, whether you’re an alcoholic or merely a hoodlum, there’s something for everyone here, and that’s what keeps ‘em coming year after year.

Jose will be with you all through the night as we celebrate the new year here in Melendezville and across these United States. Once midnight has passed here, we’ll send you to celebrations live from Akron, Ohio; Winter Park, Colorado and Bakersfield, California so you can enjoy the best parties from every major time zone.

And we’ll be bringing you the hottest in music and entertainment. The Bangles are in the hoooouussssseeeee. And, get this, Billy Ocean is here!!! And if that’s not a enough, we might even have a special guest. And Jose’s not saying it is The Cowsills, but he’s not saying it isn’t either.

Now let’s kick off the party with a look at 2004 the year that was.

2. By any reckoning 2004, was a spectacular year for the city of Boston. The Patriots won the Super Bowl, The RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES, the Democratic National Convention went swimingly and Boston Rob finished second on Survivor All-Stars, but still married his way into a share of the winner’s purse. Actually, screw this. We all know what happened in 2004. We were there, it wasn’t even that long ago, and worst of all, Jose’s got nothing funny to add. Nothing. So instead let’s present the nominees for Jose Melendez’s 2004 Person of the Year. The nominees are:

Curt Euro -- Who taught us all about grit, determination, ankle anatomy and even self-promotion while on the way to winning three post season starts. (Note: Jose has no problem with self-promotion, he’s just making an observation.)

Megatron Lowe – Who taught us that being a little crazy and sucking for an entire year doesn’t mean you can’t come up big when you need to. Wait…scratch that it’s PERSON of the year. Robots need not apply.

David Ortiz – Who taught us all that even if you are so whipped that you say Friends is your favorite show despite being a giant Dominican man, it doesn’t mean you’re not a badass.

Johnny Damon – Who taught us that the second coming is significantly more pleasant for non-believers than it is portrayed in Revelations.

And the winner is….

Alexander Fleming, the inventor of antibiotics. Sorry. Jose thinks this guy should win every year, as Jose has long said he would rather be Jose today, than a Rockefeller in 1911. His invention kept Jose from dying from cellulitis before the Sox won the World Series, and for that, Jose salutes you.

3. Finally, let’s take a look ahead to 2005, and see what surprises the coming year has in store for us.

A. Sox right hander Wade Miller will go on Barbara Walters to talk about his struggle with sex addiction and then be thrown from a moving car by his wife. This seems like it happens every time the Red Sox have a Wade.

B. And speaking of Wades, 2005 will be the year when Wade Boggs finally does a Viagra ad. It’s a natural isn’t it?

"Hi, I’m Wade Boggs, batting champion, soon to be hall of famer, equestrian and sex addict, and when my bat speed slowed down, it got hard to keep doing what made me famous. That’s why I use Viagra."

C. The Red Sox 10-year, $40 million investment in catcher Jason Varitek will be proven unwise when Varitek is lost at sea. Varitek will go out to sea, after concluding that his new status as Red Sox Captain must mean that he knows something about boats.

D. Prior to being lost at sea, Varitek will supplement his income by performing weddings on off days, under the provision that allows captains to officiate.

E. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein will no longer be referred to as "30-year old Theo Epstein." He will suddenly, inexplicably be referred to as "31 year old Theo Epstein" instead.

F. The meaning of Pedro Martinez’s "Yankees are my daddy" comment will finally become clear when it is revealed that he is descended from a U.S. Marine who was part of the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic.

We’ve got to take a short break but we’ll keep partying through the night. Up next, the smooth sound of Color Me Bad.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO NEW YEAR’S.

Monday, December 27



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

1. Well, this is a surprise. When the Red Sox ended their 86 year old World Series drought, Jose was certain, CERTAIN, that it would be the most shocking, dramatic end to a streak in the entire world this year. But he was wrong. Sure the Red Sox world championship was spectacular and dramatic and ended a streak of excruciating length. Indeed, it made Jose happier than anything else in this world, but it just wasn’t the longest or most shocking end to a streak in 2004. More shocking still is the fact for the first time since the founding of Kyiv in 482 A.D. the people of Ukraine have freely and fairly elected their government. That means the end to a 1522 year drought – a long freaking time.

It was so long, in fact, that many Ukrainians had started to think they were – get this – cursed. Jose knows that it sounds ridiculous to us as sophisticated Westerners, but many Ukrainians had bought into the idea that there was a “Curse of Volodymyr the Great.” The theory, put forth by a pseudo historian/newspaper columnist named Bohdan Shaughnischenko, held that Volodymyr the Great, the king who made Kyivan Rus (the Kingdom from which modern Ukraine sprung) a major power in eastern Europe, put a curse on Ukraine after his sons Sviatopolk I of Turiv and Yaroslav the Wise of Novgorod challenged his rule near the end of his life.

Over the course of centuries, Ukraine would come close to having a decent and democratic government, but something would always go wrong. After World War I, Ukraine was independent briefly, but then the Soviets rolled in; so close but yet so far. It must have been the curse. Then in 1991, Ukraine became an independent country and held elections, but they were neither free, nor fair. Somehow the curse stuffed the ballot box and intimidated voters.

This year looked like it was going to be more of the same. The opposition ran a serious and credible candidate who looked like he could win, but just when the exit polls showed him with a 10 percent lead, the official results shoed him losing by 3 percent. All over the land of the black earth, Ukrainians couldn’t believe that they’d been sucked in again, only to have the curse break their hearts. But then a funny thing, happened. The proponents of democracy started to rally, the Ukrainian Supreme Court reversed key decisions (Note: Sound familiar Sox fans?) and all of a sudden democracy had a second chance. Proponents of dictatorship got nervous. Their newspapers ran pictures of Volodymyr with headlines like “Put Me on the Ballot,” and they dragged out Lenin’s carcass to give a speech at one of their political rallies. But it was too late. As soon as the forces of democracy believed they could win, they had won. On December 26, 2004 democracy in Ukraine completed the come back. It came back from 3-0 down to its ancient rival, dictatorship, and won in spectacular fashion. Today, no one can quite believe it, but everyone is happy. Today is different from yesterday.

Obviously, the bit above was fictional, but in a real way the people of Ukraine were cursed: Cursed, by centuries of cruel and/or incompetent government, cursed with a nearly indefensible geography and cursed with exploitation by imperial masters one after another. But today, Ukraine has given itself a blessing – a government chosen by the people and accountable to the people.

2. Jose will admit that he was surprised last week when the Miami Dolphins wore orange uniforms for only the second time in their history. That said Jose greatly appreciates their show of solidarity with Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.” (Note: What was the reason for them to wear orange uniforms the first time? A protestant rejection of the Good Friday Accords? Support for Orange County during its bankruptcy crisis? Advocacy for the ascent of William of Orange to the British crown in the Glorious Revolution?) It’s good to see football teams taking an interest in the world.

Jose is also happy to see the Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs showing their support for European Social Democratic parties with their red jerseys. (Note: Since the U.S. has been divided into red and blue America, how is it that the conservatives are represented by red? Everywhere else in the world, red is the color of the left. The significance of blue seems to vary, but in Austria it is the color of the far right, xenophobic Freedom Party.) Jose was less happy to see the Jets, Packers and Eagles showing their support for the Green Party. Jose leans to the left, but those people are just plain nutty.

3. This final KEY doesn’t really have much to do with the current situation in Ukraine, but it’s a Soviet themed KEY, and Jose has wanted to work it in for a while. Somehow there just aren’t enough good opportunities to talk about the Soviet Union in KEYS about free agent pitching or the situation at shortstop. So here is Jose’s question: Is Tetris the greatest accomplishment of Soviet society? The other candidates would seem to be Sputnik, the defeat of Hitler and the Soviet National Anthem. Jose, has to go with Tetris. While Sputnik was an extraordinary scientific and technical accomplishment, it was quickly matched and improved on by others. Tetris has never been improved on. Welltris? Please. While the defeat of Hitler was a monumental task and a crucial event in the history of the world, the Soviets needed the British and Americans to do it. Tetris was a Soviet accomplishment alone. And the Soviet National Anthem? It’s a great anthem full of pomp and enthusiasm. (Note: What can Jose say? He likes socialist realist art despite being an ardent democrat.) However, even that stirring anthem could be terrible when sung by wrestler Nikolai Volkoff. Volkoff never managed to make Tetris unappealing.

So there you have it. In its 74 years of history, the Soviet Union’s greatest accomplishment was the computer game about little shapes made of four boxes each. Jose knows that it seems small, but it isn’t really. After all, what was America’s greatest accomplishment between 1917 and 1991? Probably putting a man on the moon right? While Jose has never heard Carl Everett say he doesn’t believe in Tetris, so at worst it’s a push for the Soviets.

I’m Jose Melendez, and that is my KEYS TO THE UKRAINIAN ELECTION.

Thursday, December 23



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

With special guests: The Smothers Brothers, Bea Arthur, the Cast of Caroline in the City and music from Bel Biv Devoe.

1. Jose Melendez: Oh, hellllooooo. Come on in. Why not grab a cup of egg nog and pull up a cold steel folding chair by the fire. Or you could sit on the floor. The floor’s good too. But not too close to the space heater. That thing can burn your skin right off. What’s that? Yes, the fire is technically the oven, but fire is fire and Jose has on his carbon monoxide detector so we probably won’t suffocate.

Well, now that you’re comfortable, hello and welcome to the very first Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, live from Boston’s historic North End. Jose was just doing a few holiday preparations when you got here. Hanging lights, baking cookies, pouring vodka, you know, real Christmas stuff.

It’s so great of to give Jose this opportunity to share this holiday with all of his friends out there in Melendezville and around the world. And to our fighting men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jose sends his sincere thanks and best wishes for a quick and safe return home.

We’ve had a lot of fun over the past year from the Red Sox World Championship to the Hot Stove to—

(Doorbell rings)

Why who could that be? Not a special Christmas guest? Maybe it’s a special Christmas guest. Let’s go and see?

(Opens Door)

Why, why it’s Little Cesar Crespo. Merry Christmas Cesar.

Cesar Crespo: It’s not a very Merry Christmas for Cesar Crespo, Jose.

Jose Melendez: But Cesar, you’re getting a championship ring this year and a partial playoff share, how could this Christmas be anything but merry?

Cesar Crespo: Well, Jose I’m really depressed. I keep thinking about the past season and wondering, if I made a difference. I keep wondering if it might not have been better if I was never even on the team.

Jose Melendez: Oh Cesar, that’s no way to think. Let’s look back, and Jose bets it will turn out that you had a wonderful season.

(Chimes sound, screen goes blurry, fades into Cesar Crespo highlight reel. It is a short reel.)

See Cesar without your two RBI the Red Sox might never have… No, wait they won each of those games by more than 1. But without your six runs… Wait, no those weren’t decisive either. But at least you worked some key walks and showed your commitment to improving your plate discipline. Oh…nope.

Cesar Crespo: See? See what I’m talking about. I can’t help it, I’m just not a very good baseball player.

Jose Melendez: Well, Cesar maybe your really didn’t have a wonderful season and maybe nothing would have been different had they replaced you with scarecrow, but it’s Christmas and it’s no time for self pity. Now grab a bottle of vodka and drown those tears away. (Note: How good are things with the Red Sox these days? Jose still has to pick on Cesar Crespo. Cesar, if you’re out there, no hard feelings, Merry Christmas, and Jose is absolutely going to have as many RBI as you next year.)

(Doorbell rings)

Jose Melendez: And who could that be?

(answers door)

2. Why, it’s the three wise men, John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, and Jose will just bet they have a holiday song for us.

(Cue “We Three Kings”)

We three owners of the Red Sox,
Won’t cave in to those greedy jocks,
Won our rings, now reorganize things,
But we’ll still lead the league in walks

Oh-oh Nixon still will start in right,
Pedro took a southward flight,
OC’s gone, brought ER on
And Manny plays every night.

Scott Boras can be such a pain,Gold’s his goal, though I can’t complain,Over pay? Not me, no way But still the Red Sox do reign


This should have been my bidding group,But Bud Selig ordered a coup,
Paid my share, but still it’s not fair,
Les Otten was just a dupe


I’m the one who plays the bad guy,
Takes the rap for Pedro’s goodbye,
Contract mess? I’ll call the press,
But no, I would NEVER lie.

Oh-oh Nixon still will start in right,
Pedro took a southward flight,
OC’s gone, brought ER on
And Manny plays every night.

3. Jose Melendez: Wow, that was terrific wise men. Jose had no idea that you could sing such wonderful three part harmony. You should teach Theo to play the organ and then you would be all set. You could be on the next “Hot Stove, Cool Music” together.

Well, this is just about the most magical Christmas Jose has ever had. Jose knows that we all got what we wanted this year, a world championship for our beloved Red Sox and lots of nice Red Sox DVD’s, new ball caps and copies of the KEYS BOOK, under the tree.

But let’s not forget what Christmas is really about. Sure it’s about presents and family and peace, but when you really stop and think about it, it’s a day when Christians worldwide, excluding Orthodox, Greek Catholics, Copts and some others, but including Unitarians, come together to celebrate the birth of Johnny Damon.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!!!

I’m Jose Melendez, and that is my KEYS TO THE GAME CHRISTMAS SPECIAL.

Wednesday, December 22



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

1. This time the Yankees were sure they had Randy Johnson sewn up. They were absolutely positive. How sure were they? So sure that they declared the deal complete on no fewer than 672 occasions. And the deal was complete. Complete like Schubert’s unfinished symphony, complete like an Eli Manning pass, complete like the Yankees sweep of the Red Sox, complete like a crossword puzzle requiring a French word, complete like a Carlos Quintana visa application, complete like a Rosie Ruiz marathon, complete like a Mike Mussina perfect game, complete like Jose’s effort on today’s KEYS.

So needless to say, as of now, Randy Johnson is not a Yankee. But what went wrong? How exactly did the deal unravel? Rumors and theories abound. Some say Javier Vasquez refused to take a physical because he doesn’t want to be a Dodger. Others say he refused a physical because he was on vacation. Jose’s personal theory is that he refused a physical because he heard there might be a tetanus shot involved and he has a thing about needles.

Some theorists say that the Dodgers pulled out of the deal upon realizing that trading two quality major leaguers for a handful of magic beans might not be the best idea. Sure the beans sound good in theory, but Jose will bet you anything that when Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta brought them home to the McCourts, the tyrannical Jamie McCourt would have hurled them out the window in a fury and the next thing you know, there’d be a 100 foot tall bean stock in the middle of Dodger Stadium. And what’s worse, Giants have been known to come down those things, and you know how Dodgers fans feel about Giants.

Of course, if you don’t buy into theories that rely on phobias or horticulture, we can always use Occam’s Razor to think this through. (Note to the Gillette company: For your next razor, instead of having five blades, vibration and laser guidance, consider making a really simple but excellent one blade razor and call it “Occam’s Razor” and market it under the slogan, “The simplest is probably the best.”) The Dodgers realized that being involved in a deal that helped a division rival rebuild and the richest team in baseball load up without getting an obscene ransom was probably a bad idea and wouldn’t do a thing to put more butts in seats in L.A. or more cars in lots in South Boston.

2. As part of its tribute to the Red Sox, the Boston Globe Magazine last Sunday featured the “Ultimate Red Sox Crossword Puzzle. For the most part it was, perhaps, the easiest crossword puzzle Jose had ever done, but there were a few clues that caught him

Clue: Heroic Schilling of the injured ankle
Globe Answer: Curt
Jose’s Answer: Euro

Clue: Sort of English on a Lowe Sinker
Globe Answer: Topspin
Jose’s Answer: Energon

Clue: Free ____ (How Mann and Pokey came to Boston)
Globe Answer: Agency
Jose’s Answer: Monies

Clue: Career Sox Pitching Category Led by Roger Clemens
Globe Answer: Starts
Jose’s Answer: Chokes (Note: Jose went through a lot of ideas on this one: blisters, losses to Dave Stewart, pounds overweight, but chokes was the only one that had the right number of letters.

Clue: Place for Leskanic, Mendoza et. al. to warm up
Globe Answer: Bullpen
Jose’s Answer: Ft. Myers

Clue: Game to warm up players reflexes
Globe Answer: Pepper
Jose’s Answer: Tetris

Clue: Nickname of New York’s Mussina
Globe Answer: Moose
Jose’s Answer: Loser

Clue: Brings together as a team
Globe Answer: Unites
Jose’s Answer: Whisky

3. Another big news item is the Red Sox’s signing of right hander Matt Clement to bolster the starting rotation. Jose likes this move a lot, and thinks Clement’s high K rate could make him a star. That said, the minute he goes south, Jose will start referring to him as Matt Inclement. Jose just googled it, no one else has used it yet, so Eric (K)neel be forewarned, Jose owns that pejorative.

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

Friday, December 17



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

1. There are a lot of things in the world of baseball that could disturb Jose Melendez today. He could be disturbed by the fact that ESPN told him that Randy Johnson was headed to the Yankees last night. (Note: Of course, ESPN was lying, but it still didn’t feel too good. It’s like someone telling you a friend was seriously injured in an accident, and then saying he was just kidding. Sure you’re relieved that there was no accident, but you’re scared and disturbed by the fact that someone would make up such a mean spirited lie.) He could be disturbed by the fact that Tim Hudson, the best available pitcher is gone to the Braves. (Note: Sorry to the good people of Hudson. Jose appreciates your effort. Can you change your town’s name to Sheets or Burnett now?) (Additional Note: Is it true that the town of Mt. Washington, Massachusetts was named in honor of the Patriots signing mountainous defensive lineman Ted Washington in 2003?) He could be disturbed that Pedro is taking some odd shots at the Red Sox on his way out. He could even be disturbed by the growing evidence that the only members of the 2004 squad who will be there to hoist the flag on opening day will be Kevin Youkilis and Johnny Damon. (Note: Though as long as Little Crespo isn’t there, Jose can deal.) But Jose doesn’t sweat the small stuff, no sir.

What really disturbs Jose is the revelation in the Faith Rewarded DVD that David Ortiz’s favorite television program is Friends. Pardon? Friends? Seriously?

You are David Ortiz, the Dominican Jimmy Foxx, Big Papi scourge of the Yankees, king of the post season, ravager of right handed pitching…Friends? People used to fear you in the batters box. Pitchers hands would tremble, opposing fans would weep. When Jared Washburn came in to face you in the game 3 of the division series, do you know what he was thinking?

“I am terrified of this man. Terrified.”

Do you know what he’ll be thinking next time?

“I wonder if David sent a get well card to Matthew Perry when he was in rehab.”

Do you know what Paul Quantrill thought in game 4 of the ALCS before you cranked the game winner?

“This guy is a monster, a clutch monster, and I don’t like my chances.”

And now?

“Most guys like Monica or Rachel, but I bet David likes Phoebe. Yup, he seems like a Phoebe guy. I bet he likes how she plays the guitar and loves animals.”

This is a big problem, and it needs to be addressed right away. (Note: Big Papi gave Scarface as his favorite movie. How is it even possible for someone to have Friends as his favorite TV show and Scarface as his favorite movie. The only more ridiculous combination Jose can think of would be Full House and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.)

So here’s what Jose proposes: Ortiz needs to find a new favorite TV show. Friends is off the air anyway, so it’s time. And no it can’t be Joey. Jose thinks it should be something that fits in with his style of ball, something like “M*A*S*H.”

2. Let’s talk a little bit about the proposed Randy Johnson deal. Jose’s initial reaction is that the Yankees are trying to get taller, so if the Johnson deal falls through, look for them to go after Derek Lowe or possibly Acie Earl.

But wait, there’s more. A lot of people have wondered why Johnson has been so insistent that he go to the Yankees. Jose has a theory. Back in 1995, when Jose worked at Fenway concession stand 7, he saw Randy Johnson walking through the tunnels wearing a Beastie Boys shirt with the sleeves cut off. So here is Jose’s theory: Johnson wants to go to New York because that’s why the Beastie Boys are from.

Now that we know this, Theo should be able to counter it. First, he should point out that the Beastie Boys are on tour a lot and probably don’t spend that much time in New York any more. Second, he should offer Johnson the opportunity to hang out with Boston’s own Bel Biv Devoe if he comes to the Sox, because they are not on tour a lot, and probably do spend a lot of time just hanging around. (Note: Though under no circumstances should Theo offer Johnson the chance to hang around with the Cowsills.)

3. According to the Boston Globe, Dr. Bill Morgan, who performed the experimental surgery on Curt Euro’s ankle will “be leaving his post as the club’s medical director.” Jose has a few ideas for replacements:

Dr. Frankenstein: Maybe he can build a number two starter out of pieces of Matt Mantei, Lenny Dinardo and Euro “Tikka” Malaska.

Dr. Strangelove: Since the ownership seems intent on blowing the team up, maybe he could help.

Dr. Doolittle: The ability to talk with the animals seems like it would help a lot with this group.

Dr. Strange: One of only two people on this list who is an actual medical doctor, though as Jose recalls his surgical skills were lost in an accident, which in turn led him to seek his magical powers.

Dr. Doom: Never mind. His desire to take over the world would put him in direct conflict with John W. Henry, if we are to believe what some anonymous third hand sources tell us.

Dr. Who: In addition to having helpful time travel abilities, could do a great rendition of “Who’s On First.”

Dr. Nick Riviera: He would seem to be a god fit for a team that is committed to not overpaying staff.

Dr. Hawkeye Pierce: He’s from Maine so he’s probably a Sox fan, and he’s the best surgeon in the whole 4077. This also gave Jose an opportunity to work M*A*S*H into a single KEYS twice.

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

Thursday, December 16



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

1. When Sox ace Pedro Martinez announced that he would sign with the New York Mets, the clouds burst and the rain fell on Red Sox Nation. Then, when Curt Euro declared the following day that he would not be ready for opening day the rain came down in sheets (Note: But lamentably not Ben Sheets), like God himself, was hurling buckets at the city of Boston.

“When it rains it pours,” moaned the Red Sox fans as their formidable pitching duo disappeared.

Well, Jose hates to be the bearer of more bad news but…well…let’s put it this way…Jose just saw some guy with a beard ushering animals by the twos on to a big wooden boat about 100 cubits in length.

Here’s the news: Jose Melendez may not be ready for opening day. As loyal readers may recall, Jose battled heroically through a painful infection in his left elbow during the second half of the ALCS and the World Series. The first course of antibiotics did a great job of rolling back the infection’s progress, but much like the Yankees pitching staff, it lacked a knock out blow. So Jose took a second course of antibiotics that ended a few days ago. Again, the antibiotics are issuing late game walks and failing to hold runners. One bloop single and the infection may return in full.

The bottom line is Jose cannot guarantee that he is going to be ready for spring training and even opening day. It’s not that Jose can’t write through it, after all, he’s writing right now. But this is different, it’s the off season; the competition and the demands are less fierce. Writing three or four times per week is nothing like the wearing grind of the regular season. Once he starts writing day in day out, that bad left elbow might really hurt Jose’s ability to work the left side of the keyboard. Words with “w” are going to be difficult, and he might have to lay off “q” words completely. Can Jose be effective without the letter “q”? Clearly he can’t be as effective. After all, if he can’t cite Carlos Quintana, does he really have all of his weapons?

The question is whether the Sox can stay competitive if Jose has to take the first month off in order to return to full strength. Can the Sox survive with Dario Veras or Josias Manzanillo writing KEYS? Jose knows that no one wants to contemplate that, so it might be time for Theo to make a move for an obscure Latin reliever. Maybe he can pick up Eduardo Villacis from the Royals.

2. Welcome to the ER, bitch!!! While most Sox fans are sorry to see shortstop Orlando Cabrera go, the signing of Edgar Renteria has been widely heralded as an excellent move. How excited are Sox fans about signing the former All-Star and gold glover? Very excited. So excited, in fact, that according to Jose’s sources, residents of the Martha’s Vineyard resort town of Orlando, Massachusetts have decided to rename their town “Edgartown.” That’s dedication. (Note: It looks like Bostondirtdogs got in an Edgartown joke first. Nuts. Well, Jose has to give credit where it is due.)

In related news, the residents of Martinez, Massachusetts have changed their name to “Belchertown” as part of an effort to encourage the Red Sox to replace Pedro Martinez by bringing righty Tim Belcher out of retirement. Hopefully, their efforts will be less successful than that of the residents of Hudson, Massachusetts.

3. Jose hasn’t said too much about the John Ha-lama signing yet, but basically he likes it. Ha-lama is left handed, he’s versatile and he will increase the profile of the “Free Tibet” issue in the Boston metropolitan area.

Also, this is good for deity diversity on the team. We now have Jesus Christ, a Greek God and a reincarnation of the Budhda all playing on the Red Sox. Now if we can just sign an alien to represent the scientologists, we’ll be all set. Tom Werner is a Hollywood guy; Jose bets he can find one.

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

Monday, December 13



It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE WINTER MEETINGS.

1. Jose is sad. Jose, is just really, really sad. The Red Sox have caused a lot of sadness in Melendezville over the years, but this is different. The 2003 ALCS was a sort of sadness mixed with rage and a deep burning pain, sadness wrought by fire. When Roger Clemens left for Toronto it was a stinging sadness, like being slapped in the face by someone for whom you cared. When Mo Vaughn left for Anaheim, it was an empty, lonely kind of sadness, like the end of a relationship where things had gotten so bad, where the distrust was so complete, that no reconciliation seemed possible. This sadness is different. Pedro is different.

There is no bitterness, no anger, no sharp pain. All that remains is warm memories of good times, and sadness that there will be no new memories, that the warmth and goodness are gone. Pedro will not come out of the bullpen with his arm dangling and still pitch six shutout innings again, he will not strike out 17 Yankees again, he will not don a Yoda mask in the Sox dugout again, he will never salsa dance on the Fenway turf again.

If Roger Clemens was a bad breakup, if Mo Vaughn was a bad breakup, then Pedro is a good breakup. Have you ever ended a relationship where you were still in love, where there was warmth and good times, but it just couldn’t be sustained? Where fundamental differences in what each of you wanted out of life and out of a partner made staying together simply impractical? Jose has. And he was right to do it…and so were the Red Sox…and so was Pedro.

And it hurts. And it’s lonely. And it so, so sad. But it is the right decision…for everybody. But you recover with time; you fall out of love. You find someone, new, you find someone better. And the sadness stops, and the dull ache melts into the continuum of physical sensation and all that remains is those warm, happy memories.

Thank you Pedro Martinez. Red Sox nation enjoyed the time we spent with you, we’ll never forget it, and we’ll miss you, but we just didn’t have a future together. We wanted different things. You wanted four years, we wanted financial flexibility. And love? Love is wonderful but one of the most foolish myths of American society is that love conquers all. Love conquers a lot, but not all…and it sure can make one stupid, but not guaranteed fourth year stupid.

So good luck Pedro. We’ll miss you, and we wish you well. We’re sorry it needed to end, but this is the right thing for both of us.

2. According to a variety of sources, the Red Sox are making a serious play for Toronto first baseman Carlos Delgado. The Sox’s decision to pursue Delgado represents a stunning change of direction for the Red Sox. After getting burned by Venezuelan first baseman Carlos Quintana (Note: Touted by some as the Latin Wade Boggs, branded by others the Latin Sam Horn, and in reality closer to the Latin Brian Daubach) and reliever Carlos Reyes, the Red Sox appeared to have sworn off Carloses (Note: Or is it Carlosi?)for the past six years. Apparently, that era may be coming to a close. On the upside the, Red Sox have still avoided all players named Scott since the 1990-2001 run where Scoot Cooper, Scott Fletcher, Scott Hatteberg ensured that there was always at least one underperforming Scott on the team. (Note: This was also the time when the Patriots had Scott Sisson and Scott Seychules. Just about the only Scotts we didn’t have in town were Byron Scott playing for the Celtics and figure skater Scott Hamilton playing for the Bruins. Also, Scott Harshbarger lost his bid for Governor.)

(CORRECTION: Okay, there have been lots of other Scotts, Sauerbeck, Williamson...Jose was just lost in his grief about Pedro.)

3. Now a final note regarding the great Pedro Martinez. David Ortiz revealed potential for a future career as an agent when he stated "Pedro ain’t going to no Mets." We all that he was using a double negative because English is his second language. Dead wrong. He was playing us. Ortiz knew exactly what he was saying, and he was right – Pedro ain’t going to no Mets. He IS going to the Mets.

I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO THE WINTER MEETINGS.

Sunday, December 12



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

Today KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE comes to you live from our nation’s capitol, Arlington, Virginia.

1. Jose got very excited last night because led him to believe that the Red Sox had signed St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria to a four year $40 million package. It’s not that Jose misread, it’s that he was mislead. Yes…yes, that must be it.

Apparently, this is not the actual case. The Red Sox have only made an offer, which is a shame, because Jose was fully prepared to start in with a few Renteria jokes to set the tone.

For instance, Jose was going to bid a fond farewell to the Orlando Cabrera era. Yes, we all enjoyed yelling “Welcome to the OC bitch” (Note: All due credit to whoever came up with that line, God knows it wasn’t Jose) whenever OC would make one of his slick plays with the glove or drive an improbable two out double, but Jose thinks that we can all agree that this is an upgrade. After all, the OC entertaining as it may be, (Note: Which is to say not entertaining at all. Joes has never watched the OC, but he can tell.) is basically a trivial tribute to and affirmation of all that is decadent and deviant in American culture. But now we have replaced the OC with ER. ER is not only four time gold glover and superior shortstop, but also represents a high point in American television – he represents the heroic efforts of doctors and nurses in a big city emergency room as they struggle to save their patients while simultaneously struggling to save their own personal lives. He also represents Maura Tierney’s return to prime time television and the fact that the guy who played Kubiak on Parker Lewis Can’t Lose can still find work. What’s not to like? (Note: The blood. Jose Melendez is not crazy about blood, so he seldom watches ER, but still…)

So Jose joins with all of Red Sox Nation in hoping and praying that in the next day or two, he will be able to say “Welcome to the ER, bitch.”

2. So the Red Sox gave a two year deal to a 41 year old pitcher. Jose knows it sounds bad, but trust Jose, you need to hear the rest and think it through before you flip out. He’s not just any 41 year old pitcher, he’s a 41 year old pitcher who is chronically overweight, has a bad attitude and may well be an alcoholic. Also, he hates Fenway Park and has expressed an interest in heading the demolitions crew should the Red Sox ever take crowbar to steel. See don’t you feel better now that you know the whole story?

Signing Wells for two years for $8 million with the potential for him to earn $10 million more in incentives is the sort of the deal that not only raises eyebrows, but causes eyebrows to become fuller, thicker and more lush in order to be more noticeable as they are raised. There are a lot of Sox fans walking around today looking like Michael Dukakis or Frida Kahlo. Yes, Theo has earned a lot of faith and a lot of good will by putting together a WORLD SERIES CHAMPION team, but Jose is still a little wary of this deal.

Everyone says that Wells will fit in perfectly with the Red Sox “bunch of idiots” concept. Now, Jose likes people with extremely low IQs as much as anyone, but is it possible that the Sox are starting to take this approach a little bit too far? Instead of focusing on skill, age, and conditioning, is it possible that the Red Sox are only looking for people with limited mental faculties? If that is the case, is it possible that a Jose Canseco signing is just around the corner? What about a comeback from Mike Greenwell?

You can see why Jose is concerned. So in order to prevent these sorts of dangerous moves from happening in the future, Jose has a simple suggestion. Instead of acquiring idiots, the absolute lowest end of the IQ spectrum, maybe the Red Sox should start acquiring morons…people who are still very stupid, but not quite as stupid as idiots. After all, if they are looking for elderly pitchers who aren’t terribly bright, Roger Clemens is still available.

3. The Wells signing seems to preclude the possibility of the Red Sox making a serious run at former Pawtucket pitcher Carl Pavano, who is reportedly headed to the Yankees for $42 million. Jose is basically glad that the Sox are not signing Pavano. Not only does Jose feel like $40 million for four years is excessive for an oft injured starter, Jose is deeply wary of “men” who spell Carl with a “C.” Jose just finds the “C” to be soft and effeminate, perhaps lacking in toughness, unlike the stark and rugged “K” practically oozing manly virtues like ruggedness, independence and strength. It says something that when one googles “famous carls” the first links are to Carl’s Jr.

Think about Karl Marx versus Carl Jung. A revolutionary philosopher versus a psychoanalyst who constructed the idea of the collective unconscious. A man whose ideas fueled revolutions versus a man whose ideas fueled pretentious undergrads and even more pretentious grad students. Who do you want as your number two starter?

Think about Karl Rove versus Carl Levin. The evil mastermind of the Bush campaign (Note: God how Jose hates him) versus the bland yet annoying Senator from Michigan. Rove may be a clubhouse cancer, but he always brings the gas.

Karl Popper versus Carl Sagan. The Author of “Open Society and its Enemies,” the scourge of Plato and even his fellow Karl, Karl Marx up against the man who brought astronomy to the masses? Karl Popper would be “billions of billions” of times better then Carl Sagan on the mound. (Note: Jose recalls that Dave Barry is the master of the billions of billions joke, so this should be regarded as an homage, rather than an Eric (K)neel style swipe.)

So there’s your evidence. With their money, the Yankees will be acquiring a man whose name is a dubious testament to his potential. After all, who would you rather have Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes a man whose name spells his toughness out loud and clear or “Crazy” Carl Everett, a man whose name spells out his craziness. You make the call.

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

Wednesday, December 8



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

1. Aside from the steroid scandal tearing through the game, like drywall through Kevin brown’s fist, baseball’s biggest news is the passing of the arbitration deadline. The WORLD CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX offered arbitration to nine free agents, Pedro Martinez, Megatron, Jason Varitek, Orlando Cabrerra, Pokey Reese, Mike Myers, David McCarty, Gabe Kapler and Pedro Astacio. Jose knows that a lot of fans are confused about what arbitration means, aside from the fact that the team may not negotiate with players who are not offered arbitration until May, so Jose will do his best to explain it.

By offering these nine players arbitration, the Red Sox have seized the option to sign a player in one market at one price while simultaneously selling his contract in another market at a slightly higher price. This is why the Red Sox offered arbitration to Gabe Kapler even though he has already signed a contract with the Yomiuri Giants--different market. The price disparity allows the Red Sox to turn a profit. However, since price differences are usually small, one cannot make much money off of arbitration unless one does a large volume, hence the offers to nine players. After all, what explanation other than volume could explain Dave McCarty being offered arbitration?

Wait…that’s arbitrage? Sh*t…What the hell is arbitration then?

2. Among the players not offered arbitration was Curtis Leskanic, the hard throwing, occasionally wild righty reliever who will be forever remembered as the winner of game 4 of the ALCS. Curtis has long suffered from arm injuries and must now decide whether to continue as a major leaguer or return to his modestly less exciting life of pestering the beautiful but stuck up Michelle, squabbling with his brother Barry and flushing his father’s cigarettes down the toilet.

3. The public pressure for the Red Sox to resign Colombian shortstop Orlando Cabrerra is really mounting. Jose feels like everywhere he goes he sees these magnetic yellow ribbons on the backs of automobiles representing solidarity with Cabrerra. Jose must confess, connecting resigning Orlando Cabrera to the Tony Orlando song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” is pretty clever. Jose doesn’t have a car to attach a magnetic ribbon to, so he will just “Knock Three Times” in hopes that Cabrera returns.

Alternatively, Jose may strike out on his own and start drinking more 7UP in support of Cabrera. (Note: Or since Orlando Jones is no longer 7UP’s spokesman would drinking 7UP show enthusiasm for dumping Cabrera?) Regardless, Jose will be watching Drumline and Evolution in between his episodes of Mad TV tonight.

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

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.

Saturday, November 27


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

1. After all of the stress, after all of the tension, after all of the dread, it finally happened last night. In the beer splattered bowels of Boston’s financial district, Jose Melendez’s tenth high school reunion transformed from distant anxiety to current ennui. To be honest, Jose had been worrying about the reunion since the warm Spring day when he graduated from high school in 1994.

People worry about reunions for lots of reasons. Some people want to show their old classmates that they’ve done well in life, married a beautiful woman, lost weight or simply transcended the pimple faced geekdom that defined them in them in their youth. Perhaps others want to show people that they are no longer bullies (Note: Or perhaps that they still are bullies.) But none of these "traditional" anxieties troubled Jose. Jose is basically happy with who he is now and was basically happy with who he was in high school, he’s got nothing to prove. (Note: Though Jose will confess, he was a little disappointed that no one said "You’re Jose Melendez? The Jose Melendez? Wow. I read you like twice a month. You suck. You just f*cking suck, I can’t believe you were such a d*ck to Little Cesar Crespo.") No, what troubled Jose was the nagging fear that he might be asked to help with reunion planning.

You see, Jose was Class Secretary his senior year of high school, a position that turns out to be a lifetime office, and as a class officer he could conceivably bare some nominal responsibility for the reunion. Jose didn’t really think about that when he ran for the job, though he supposes he should have known. Jose assumed that, as in most nominal democracies, elected positions are subject to, well, elections. Typically, one does not become President for Life or Secretary for Life or whatever without some sort of military or security action and frankly the BHS Class of ’94 state security apparatus did not seem up to the task. Nevertheless Jose is Secretary for Life, joining Kim Jong Il, Bashir al-Assad and Ayatollah Ali Khameni in the club of leaders with lifetime tenures. Yes, Jose is in a club with some disturbing characters. (Note: Though Jose bets Kim and Assad don’t have to plan their class reunions. Khameni might though, Jose isn’t sure what goes into the job of being Supreme Leased of a country.)

Jose’s hope had always been that he would never get the call. Jose liked the Class President for Life and other officers fine, but they were not folks he hung out with in high school, much less now, so he figured the risk was minimal. Moreover, Jose’s poor effort in setting up the Spirit Week Semi-Formal Dance his senior year had established him as a poor team player and general malcontent. These factors gave Jose some room to relax, and yet the worry persisted.

When the five year reunion came and went in 1999 without Jose receiving anything more than an invitation, the worry dissipated. The Class President for Life and his friends were clearly going to organize these reunions ad infintium, and Jose was perfectly happy to let them. So Jose relaxed into his life, the black cloud of fear lifted from above him. He got comfortable. He let his guard down. He got caught.

Three months ago, Jose was walking the streets of his neighborhood in Boston’s historic North End, and he ran into the Class President for Life. There were a million things Jose could have done; he did none of them. He could have screamed and ran away. He didn’t. He could have pretended he was someone else. He didn’t. He could have simply collapsed to the ground and then been carted off to safety in an ambulance. He didn’t. Instead, he had a conversation. He choked. Jose talked with the Class President for Life, who it turns out lives two blocks from Jose, about work and the neighborhood, and yes, the reunion.

It was then that the crushing burden fell on Jose’s broad shoulders. The Class President for Life asked him to help…he asked Jose to let his friends know the time, date and location. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! THE HORROR!!! THE HORROR!!!

Jose was sucked in and escape was impossible, resistance futile. Jose was forced by circumstance, forced by history, forced by the duties, obligations and responsibilities of his high office to spend one, perhaps two minutes sending emails about the reunion to his friends, none of whom came anyway. And those minutes? Those minutes are gone forever, evaporated into the ether. Could Jose have cured cancer in those minutes? Flown to Mars? Scaled Everest? Eaten lunch? Who knows? That brief shining moment and all of its potential, all of its possibility is gone to the ages, just another victim of the high school reunion.

2. At the reunion Jose was able to accomplish something momentous, however. By virtue of being among the last handful of people still drinking when the bars shut their doors, Jose is prepared to declare himself one of the coolest, if not the coolest kid in high school. It may have taken him until the age of 28, but Jose finally did it!!! Also, Jose suggested starting a fight with the Lexington High School and Wayland High School reunions that were happening right up the street. That’s got to count for something.

3. Jose actually needs to be serious for a moment, and break character.

A few years ago, I learned that one of my classmates, a girl named Elizabeth Porreca had died. I saw the obituary in the Boston Globe. Last night, I learned that she died it a car accident. I didn’t know this girl beyond her name, and to be honest, I'm not even sure I’m spelling in correctly. In a class of 182 people, she was one of the people I knew the least, but it still broke my heart to hear that she was dead. The only thing I remember about her was that at the Halloween dance my senior year, she won the best costume contest by dressing as the Pillsbury Doughboy. It was a really great costume. I don’t know if more than a few of my classmates will ever read this, but I think it’s important that we remember her.

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

Wednesday, November 24


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

1. It’s happening again. It’s all happening again.

That is Jose’s initial reaction to the news that Gape Kapler, "The World’s Most Perfectly Sculpted Jew" is leaving the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX to play every day center field for the Yomiuri Giants. Jose knows this has been hard for a lot of people. For some, the pain comes from the knowledge that the greatest Red Sox team of all time is officially no more. For the ladies, the pangs are spawned by the knowledge that they will no longer be able to ogle Kapler when the Sox face left handed pitching. For others, the agony originates in the certainty that Kevin Millar is one trade of Kevin Youkilis away from being unable to claim that the team’s pregame drinking is merely saying the Kiddush. These are all good reasons for sadness or even despair, but for Jose it cuts just a little deeper. For Jose it is about abandonment, the loss of dear friends and the pain of childhood.

Jose is one-eighth Japanese and has thus always imagined that he has a special relationship with the Japanese people. (Note: See KEYS TO JAPAN. ) Okay, Jose doesn’t speak their language, he finds some of their food revolting and puts Kabuki in a special category of with Peking Opera and the ABC Prime Time Lineup, but still, he feels a kinship. (Note: Crud, Jose discovered "Lost" last week, and agrees with the critics that it is fantastic, making the previous joke invalid. Please substitute "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" for the "ABC Prime Time Lineup." Okay. That’s better.)

As a child, Jose’s affinity for the Japanese largely expressed itself in his eagerness to befriend Japanese children who lived in his neighborhood. Due to Belmont’s proximity to Harvard, there were always a few Japanese families living in the neighborhood for one year while the father went to Harvard. Each year Jose would befriend a Japanese boy his age, and each summer the boy would move back to Japan with his family. Jose slowly began to find Japan to be a viscous tease, constantly supplying him with friends and then stealing them away.

It was hard when Jose’s Japanese friends would desert him for the lure of Shinto shrines Godzilla movies, and their entire families, but Jose could understand that they were simply going home. What took Jose by surprise was when his friend Brad, who could not be any less Japanese, took off with his family to live in Japan immediately following fifth grade. Jose should have seen it coming; after all, Brad’s family had lived in Japan before, but the idea that a white guy, a really, really white guy, would ditch Jose to live in Japan was too much. Jose began to suspect that all of is friends would move to Japan before too long. There would be entire villages consisting of Jose’s old friends and their families. They would even have their own golf club. (Note: Jose accidentally typed "golf club" as "Gold Club," before he edited. The idea of all of Jose’s friends having their own Gold Club was much, much funnier.)

Until two days ago, Jose has basically gone a good 18 years without a friend ditching him to move to Japan, so he had grown accustomed to his friends not fleeing to the land of the rising sun. (Note: Okay, his friend Mark moved to Japan, but he’d already ditched Jose to live in New York, San Francisco and London, so no big surprise.) Now this. Now Japan steals something else from Jose.

Jose knows what you’re thinking. You’re thinking "Jose, did you even know Gabe Kapler?"

Well, no, Jose didn’t know Gabe Kapler, Gabe Kapler was not Jose’s friend in the traditional sense of someone Jose knew personally and went for beers with. Jose was not at Kapler’s Bar mitzvah or wedding, though Kapler did wave to Jose’s cousin as a wedding present from Jose. But Kapler was much more than a friend, he was a talented defensive outfielder who hit .279 for the Sox and hit 10 home runs and 56 RBI in 204 games with the Sox. He was a baserunner with lighting speed but no conception of how to steal a base. He may be easily replaced, but he will not be easily forgotten. (Note: The Melendezette had lived in Japan but is fairly emphatic about not moving back, so Jose is betting that he’s safe on that one, of course, if Gabe Kapler can live, one never knows.)

So Jose’s ambivalence towards Japan returns. Of course, if the Orix Blue Wave would only take BK Kim’s contract that ambivalence could easily transform into friendly good cheer. (Additional Note: But it the meantime Jose shares this anecdote from his friend Mark, who lives in Yokohama. “The Power Rangers were fighting some sort of bi-pedal scorpion type creature rampaging around my school the other day. It was kind of awkward, but I figured this was a chance in a lifetime and she was really cute, so I tried to hit on the yellow ranger. Unfortunately she was, literally, tied up at the moment (with some sort of web-like strings) and we only briefly had a chance to chat before she had to go back to work. Maybe next time – the Power Rangers actually do a lot of battling with monsters around my school. You'd think it would be inconvenient, but...”) Maybe Jose should cut Japan some slack. Any country where an American guy can actually hit on a female power ranger can’t be all bad. Also, what are the odds that Gabe Kapler becomes a Power Ranger in his spare time? That seems like a pretty good fit.

2. Despite receiving a two year $26 million offer from the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX, Pedro Martinez is still complaining about respect. Now everyone assumes that for Pedro respect means money – not an unreasonable assumption, but is it really correct? Respect can be shown in the form of cars, boats and shiny trinkets. It can also be shown in the form of securities. What about intellectual property? Couldn’t that be a form of respect? Perhaps Tom Werner could give Pedro the rights to "That 80s Show" as a sign of respect. Some might argue that would be a sign of disrespect, but Jose disagrees. Giving Pedro the rights to "That 80s show would say, "Pedro, not only are you a great pitcher, I believe you are so smart that you can save even this fatally flawed concept."

But maybe Pedro isn’t referring to these sorts of things when he speaks of respect. Maybe he really is like the recalcitrant teenager he has so often been compared to. And maybe like all teenagers (Note: By which Jose means none) what he really wants is the Sox to show him that they respect or love him enough to set limits. Maybe, just maybe, all Pedro is looking for is for John Henry to give him a big hug and say "Pedro, I respect you, but you need to get a haircut, show up on time and straighten up and fly right."

On the other hand, maybe they should just give him the rights to "The Cosby Show."

3. The Red Sox shook up their minor league organization this week by promoting Ron Johnson from manager of the Double A Portland Sea Dogs Manager to manager of the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox. Johnson will be replaced in Portland by Todd Claus. Claus is expected to assume his duties after he completes his current job delivering toys to Christian children worldwide on December 25. It is also possible that Claus will wait until after January 6, Orthodox Christmas, to assume his new duties.

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

Monday, November 22


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

1. Football has long been presented as a metaphor for war, with its formations, aerial bombardments and ground assaults. (Note: Thank you George Carlin. See Jose will never get caught plagiarizing from Carlin a la Mike Barnacle. If Jose ever gets caught plagiarizing, it will be stealing from someone big, like Dostoyevsky or possibly Melville. But get caught plagiarizing a comedian, even a great one? Jose would prefer not to.) So if football is like war, but without the death, pillage and shattered families what is the best analogy for this Patriots team? (Note: Okay, football has shattered families.)

Bruised, bloodied and broken, their strongest defenders shattered by injury, the Patriots have miraculously persisted and continued to win. Jose thinks one must go all the way back into ancient history for the right analogy and reflect on the story of Hanukah. Hanukah is actually a war story. The holiday commemorates the victory of a group of Jews led by Judah Maccabe (Note: Literally Judah the Hammer) over the Syrians who had occupied the Temple in Jerusalem and built a statue of Zeus there. (Note: Zeus the Greek God, not Zeus the character from the Hulk Hogan vehicle “No Holds Barred.”) Similarly, the Kansas City Chiefs have defiled our Temple by building a statue of Len Dawson in it.


We don’t have a Temple?

Well, where do we sacrifice livestock to God then?

“We’re not Raiders fans, we don’t kill live animals at football games,” you say?

Well, then. Okay, maybe the battle itself is a bad analogy, but what happened afterward is a better analogy. In order to purify the Temple, the Jews needed to burn ritually purified olive oil continuously, but they only had enough oil for one day and pressing new oil would take eight days. Miraculously, the miniscule amount of oil lasted for eight days, long enough for new oil to be pressed and sanctified.

Why is this a good analogy? Well, having success in the NFL with Randall Gay and Asante Samuel (Note: Or Earthwind Moreland) as your cornerbacks is also a miracle. Maybe it isn’t a miracle like, say, walking on water or parting the Red Sea, but it is of about the same magnitude as one day’s worth of oil lasting for about eight days. (Note: On the other hand winning in the NFL with Eric Warfield and William Bartee of the Chiefs as your corners is the equivalent of parting the Red Sea, and Jose does not expect the Red Sea to divide in two this evening at 9 PM EST.)

Wait…you have something else to say? You want to say that this is also a really stupid analogy and has almost nothing to do with war? That the first siege of Vienna is a far better analogy?

Hmmm…well, yes that may be true, Jose supposes, but now Jose has introduced a story that will allow him to refer to hard hitting Patriots safety as Rodney Harrison as Rodney Maccabe or Rodney the Hammer from now on. (Note: Jose wishes he’d thought about this during baseball season. Wouldn’t Manny Maccabe have been a solid nickname?) And isn’t that really what the holiday season is all about?

2. As for the Chiefs, Jose would like to say that their defensive line is analogous to the famed Maginot line of interwar France, a mighty defensive line that’s only weakness was that it could be easily circumvented by column after column after column of German panzers. Of course this analogy is also inapt, as it is just as easy to run through the Chiefs’ defensive line as it is to run around it.

3. Jose would love to get Chiefs wide receiver Dante Hall, mediocre second baseman Homer Bush, former Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase valet Virgil and free agent pitcher Eric Milton together in a room and just listen to them talk about epic poetry.

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

Thursday, November 18

11/18/04 KEYS TO WORK

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

In some ways, it is very odd that Jose Melendez would sit down and write KEYS about work. For starters, Jose doesn’t particularly like to work. There are some people who don’t know what they would do if they retired or can’t imagine a life where they don’t have to get up each day and go somewhere. Jose is not one of those people. No, Jose can very easily imagine himself living a life of quiet leisure a book in one hand, a Manhattan in the other, the television on and the radio blaring. Yes, Jose would interrupt his leisure time only long enough to pound out the day’s KEYS, to feed the ravenous Internet beast.

Of course, this is not a life Jose has, nor is it a life he is every likely to have. Jose works. Actually, Jose works a lot. In fact, a more likely scenario is that Jose will work until he’s in his 80s not because he is loves to work, but because he is lousy with money. (Note: Actually, Jose knows how not to spend money, and that’s probably the hard part. He just can’t figure out what to do with the money he saves. For now, he keeps it buried near the Kosciuszko statue in the public garden, but the interest rate on buried money is low, and the squirrels keep making withdrawals.) And it’s not that Jose hates his job, he likes it just fine. It is just that Jose doesn’t believe we were put on this Earth to write memos, hold meetings and wolf down our crappy Fresh City lunches during a seminar. (Note: In editing, yes Jose does edit, sort of, he noticed that this KEYS is sort of reading like Dilbert without the amusing pictures or witty dialogue. That’s just great.) Clearly, the human animal was made to sit around reading comic books, watching professional wrestling and complaining about (Correction: celebrating…WOLRD CHAMPS!!! Wooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!) the Boston Red Sox.

It is also odd that Jose would choose to write about work since he is in the business of work. KEYS is supposed to be an escape from reality, a sort of verbal Cubism, (Note: Or, wait…maybe Dadaism) mocking and disfiguring the ennui of daily life, not a commentary on daily life. Whatever.

Every day Jose talks to people about how we as a society can do a better job preparing people for work (Note: More money for Jose is a good start), and he has learned one very important thing – a huge number of people in this country have a really terrible job or even worse really terrible jobs, for instance, migrant farm worker, janitor, Wal Mart greeter and General Manager of the New York Yankees. Therefore, Jose should stop complaining, or at least complain in a foreign language so fewer people can understand his griping. Arbeit hat Jose nicht gut gefallen!!! (Note: Actually, when Jose was a PR guy, a job he truly hated after a while, he used to keep the lyrics to the old labor song “Dark as the Dungeon” up in his cube, so he could always be thankful that he wasn’t working in the mines. Of course, on really bad days, Jose used to fantasize about how awesome it would be to work in the mines and how much cooler it would be to have black lung disease than to tell yet another reporter about how wonderful Gigantor Pharmaceutical is.)

As Jose thought about writing about work, he received some advice from a friend who runs an Internet marketing company (Note: This guy will tell you at length how wonderful pop up ads are. Really. But he cannot explain why some pro wrestling sites have pop ups advocating for Saudi Arabian tourism. Jose would really like no know; it just seems like really bad targeting. Do the guys wearing Austin 3:16 shirts buy a lot of plane tickets to Riyadh?)

He said, “Jose, if you want your blog to take off, just bad mouth your employer. That always works.”

But, Jose can’t do it. He likes the organization he works for, they treat him well, they pay him money that keeps him in Red Sox tickets. So Jose will just have to settle for a lightly read blog that does not get him fired.

Which finally brings us to the end of the preamble to today’s KEYS. Jose has only been in the workforce for seven years, but he’s worked quite a few different kinds of jobs: stone mason, freemason, Anthony Mason. But he just seems to get bored after 18 months or so and needs to move on. Even at the job he stayed at for four years, he took a nine month leave of absence to run around Europe (Note: And sit around the house playing Madden 2001. It was 2003 at the time, but what do you want, he was unemployed.) Already, Jose has worked in three different sectors public (government), private (corporate) and non-profit (both political campaigns and true non-profits). Jose does not wish to discuss the relative merits of each sector. No, that would be most unJoselike. Instead, Jose would like to discuss the huge glaring liability of each sector. Jose believes that each sector carries one great plague, and anyone considering a change of career would do well to consider how well they can manage the plague. (Note: Or if they are the plague.)

1. Public/Government – Jose spent about 18 months working at the State House of a major northeastern state that is home to the current WORLD CHAMPIONS OF BASEBALL as a legislative aide. Jose’s boss was a wonderful human being and a serious and energetic legislator, but serious and energetic legislators were a distinct minority, a large minority, but a minority nonetheless. The plague of public service, as you might have guessed, is the hack, that worker, be he elected, appointed or a patronage hire, who simply does nothing, or nearly as bad does something, but slowly and at great expense. Jose knew one committee chairman in is time at the State House who kept hiring people to do the jobs that his existing staffers weren’t doing. He didn’t get rid of the old staffers, he just kept adding new ones. By the end there was one competent aide and about 20 hacks. Jose has no evidence, but it was rumored that there was one staffer for this legislator who spent most of his time out of the country, showing up just a few days a month in order to sit in the back of the office and draw semi-pornographic charicatures of his boss. It’s sort of sad, because government, to Jose’s mind, also attracts the smartest, most dedicated and most selfless people in the world. But the world’s most brilliant, efficient public servant just can’t compete for a space in the electorate’s imagination with the guy who draws dirty political comics two days a month in the back office.

2. Private/Corporate -- Well, these are the guys who are supposed to have their act together, the ruthless efficiency of the market and all. That’s sort of true, Jose supposes, but let’s not pretend that there is no such thing as corporate patronage. At the same time, hacks are not the problem in corporate settings that they are in government. No, the plague of corporate America are those folks who are driven only by money, nothing else, not pride in a job well done, not building a company, not winning the Stanley Cup, nothing. These are the people who do their job only for the immediate financial benefits and would leave tomorrow (Note: Or sell you out) for one dollar more. (Note: Do you hear that Scott Boras? Jose has your number. By the way, if Scott Boras is a profit seeker does that make Ramiro Mendoza a hack? Mendoza did just sit there, doing nothing, collecting a check. )

The key to dealing with a corporate setting, of course, is to assume that everyone is just looking to put one more dollar in his pocket in all circumstances and when making all decisions. Jose knows it sounds cold and calculating, but it really does help. If one never makes the mistake of assuming he is anything more than a number on a spreadsheet with a dollar sign next to it, one is never hurt or surprised. Actually, this is why Jose’s favorite people in any corporation are the accountants. The accountants always know it is only about the money, and they don’t try to pretend it is about anything else. Jose appreciates that kind of honesty. They also tend to run office football/final four pools efficiently.

Corporate Human Resources people, on the other hand, one has to watch out for. Like the accountants, they know it is all about the money, but unlike the accounts, they will never admit it. They will try to tell you that the company cars about the personal growth of its employees, their health, their families, blah, blah, blah. It is possible that a company may care about those things, but only to the extent that it makes workers more productive and therefore more profitable. Some HR people even stop remembering that it is all about the money and start thinking that their job really is to help employees. A tip to HR people out there – cognitive dissonance is powerful, but it is seldom the key to career advancement. (Note: Wait, cognitive dissonance is what allowed Jose to survive and thrive in four years as a PR person…now Jose is having cognitive dissonance about what he just wrote.) (Additional note: Jose should add that there are some wonderful people in corporate PR, and most non-profit HR people are actually quality people, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.)

3. Non-profit – Jose lumped political in with non-profit because political campaigns have much more in common with non-profits (low pay, bad office space, crummy benefits) than government jobs themselves. Most importantly, they share the same plague –weirdoes. Jose is not really sure why this is. He assumes it is because both sectors tend to rely on volunteers. Volunteers tend to bypass all of the screening that employees face because, well, they work for free. Also, non-profits, as one might expect, attract some tremendously self-righteous folks, who have contempt for actual for-profit work. Jose always thought this was stupid. After all it’s mostly for profit companies produce things we need like houses, telephones, and WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS!!! (Note: Of course Jose’s own field, public relations, is completely unnecessary; it is work that does NOT need to be done. More often than not, the entire point of corporate public relations is to help companies look like they are doing the right thing while they continue to do the wrong thing.)

Actually, Jose’s first job was on a political campaign working as a scheduler, and he hated it more than he has ever hated anything in this world. Maybe he hates Hitler more, but not by much. Every day, Jose would leave the office lamenting the fact that he needed to return in just 13 hours. But, it wasn’t the weirdoes. The campaign had some weirdoes, but they were quite likable. He just hated the job. You see, when one is the scheduler for a campaign, everything is your fault. If you don’t budget for traffic and the candidate arrives late, that is your fault. If you do budget for traffic and the roads are clear so the candidate arrives early, that’s your fault too. And if the candidate arrives at an event right on time? Well, you must have done something wrong anyway. Jose hated it so much that the highlight was his daily trip to the dumpster to get rid of the office trash. It was there that Jose made one of the most important discoveries of his life. If you are at your job making copies and the best office fantasy you can come up with is about how awesome it would be to be making copies for some other employer, it’s time to change jobs.

But today Jose is lucky. The non-profit he works for is run in a highly professional manner that seems to largely fight off the plague of weirdoes, and he seldom dreams of making copies. (Note: See Jose isn’t going to bad mouth his job just to become famous.)

On a final note about plagues, did you know that if you go to the actual Hebrew book of Exodus and look at the plagues of Egypt there is nothing in there about cattle disease, hail or boils? Nope, in Hebrew it speaks of hacks, profit seekers and weirdoes. Seriously. You can check on it just as soon as you learn ancient Hebrew.

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