Friday, February 25
1. This is a terrible part of spring training. All of the players have reported, games don’t start for another week, so Jose is reduced to talking about long toss. How far can Wade Ohne Umlat toss? 150 feet? Good but not good enough. 180 feet? That’s more like it! Next stop Moundsville. See. Boring.
Curt Euro is already throwing off the mound and surprise, surprise, didn’t feel as good as he would have liked. Fascinating. Real first KEY material.
How slow is it at camp? So slow that both the Globe and Herald wrote feature stories yesterday on how Euro Bellhorn doesn’t talk. So slow that it makes Cecil Fielder look like Dave Roberts. So slow that it makes Grady Little look like Albert Einstein.
It is so slow that Jose almost thought about converting long toss distances to meters for his readers in the metric world. But Jose will not complain (Note: Anymore). He will not write one of those self serving pieces reporters do about how terrible it is that there is no big controversy. Jose will not lust for someone to be thrown from their car or flip off the manager. No, instead Jose will bide his time. Waiting…plotting…until one day when you least expect it…BAM!!! There will be a game to write about.
2. The Red Sox are scheduled to go to the White House on March 2 to meet the President. (Note: Of the United States). All 18 members of the championship team who remain with the Red Sox will attend and all members who have moved on are invited. Thus far, none of the players who are no longer with the organization have agreed to attend. Jose is surprised. Really, really surprised.
He’s not surprised that Pedro turned it down. After all, he’s a proud man, and this isn’t even his president. He’s not surprised Megatron Lowe turned it down either; he’s all the way on the West Coast. (Note: Though Jose is a little surprised he hasn’t told the media that the Red Sox never even invited him.) He’s not surprised that the World’s Most Perfectly Sculpted Jew declined. Japan is even further away, and he’s probably more interested in an opportunity to see Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s famed bouffant hair up close than to meet President Bush. (Note: Koizumi’s hair has been a subject of much discussion in Japan and around the world. In Jose’s opinion it looks like he got a 20 dollar bill at some point, saw the portrait of Andrew Jackson and said “That’s what a leader should look like!!!” Hopefully Koizumi’s interest in mimicking Jackson is limited to hair styles, otherwise Japan’s indigenous Ainu population is likely to be facing massive and unconstitutional deportation.) Jose isn’t even surprised that Dave Roberts isn’t coming. After all, slowing down long enough to shake hands might be hard when you’ve got speed like that.
No, what really surprises Jose is that Little Cesar Crespo hasn’t accepted. Jose would imagine that it would be hard for Crespo to get a meeting with anyone higher than the Nebraska Commissioner of Public Safety. This should have been a big day for him, and he can’t imagine why he wouldn’t accept, except perhaps that he couldn’t make contact with the Red Sox traveling secretary. Making contact always seems to be a big problem for him. (Note: Are players who weren’t in the playoffs invited? Jose hopes so. Lenny DiNardo deserves his chance to meet the leader of the free world!!!)
3. The shocking return of Antoine Walker to the Celtics, an event that greatly pleases Jose, has raised the possibility that perhaps some of Jose’s favorite former Red Sox could also return to the fold. (Note: That’s right. It’s so slow Jose has been forced to talk about basketball, albeit briefly. Are you happy now?) Here are a few of the players Jose would like to see return. (Note: Well, not really return to the team, not as players, after all, they’re all terrible. But maybe they could be non-roster invitees, or sell hot dogs, or something.)
Billy Ashley – The last time Jose saw Billy Ashley, the Sox were playing Les Expos and there was a competition to see which there would be more of Ashley strikeouts or Expos errors. Ashley won 4-3.
Dario Veras – If Jose couldn’t have been Jose Melendez, he would definitely have considered being Dario Veras.
Tim VanEgmond – Jose once had him on a fantasy team because he knew he would be sent to the minors where he couldn’t hurt Jose’s ERA.
Arquimedez Pozo – While most commentators liked to make Eureka jokes about the infielder, Jose preferred more sophisticated humor, comparing him to the whip wielding character in Waiting for Godot.
And in that spirit Jose draws on Godot to end today’s KEYS.
Spring training is boring. Jose doesn’t think anything interesting is going to happen. Let’s leave. Yes…Let's go. (He sits…motionless.)
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.
Wednesday, February 23
1. New Red Sox beat writer Chris Snow earned accolades in yesterday’s KEYS, a rare feat for the "legitimate press," for providing multiple sources of humor in his Red Sox Notebook. But Snow’s success should come as no surprise to those who have Jose’s familiarity with the famous Toronto reggae scene. Snow shocked the record industry in 1993 with his hit song "Informer," off the album "12 Inches of Snow." It was a catchy little number about "licky boom boom down," which is apparently some kind of fruit candy. Unfortunately, his track record suggests that a second critically acclaimed notebook is unlikely for the "Canadian Vanilla Ice."
2. Today was a special day. Jose found a copy of the Boston Herald (Motto: Still Marginally More Accurate Than the Enquirer.) (Note: Apologies to Dave Barry for stealing the motto bit) on a table at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Brockton, and that means that he got to read the latest news on college booze hounds and the names of the children of celebrities in actual paper and ink. (Note: Jose’s absolute favorite celebrity kid name is…oh wait Jose doesn’t care at all. Never mind.) To be honest Jose is shocked, and sort of disappointed, that the Herald has not yet started having a "page 3 girl" in the paper every day. Here, in this most European of American cities, one would think there would be room for that.
Getting a print copy of the tabloid also means that Jose had a rare opportunity to look at the sports section as it actually appears in the paper. Frankly, Jose was a little concerned. The stories on the back page of the Herald were:
"Truth: Foul on Kobe: Pierce ‘disappointed’ that Bryant dragged Shaq into scandal"
"Late Balloting: Canseco offers to give Greenwell ’88 MVP award"
"New World Order: Yankees trying not to concern themselves with rival Sox"
"Pool Bonanza: Pre-Season Sale, FREE Installation on Caribbean Pools Only"
Yeah. Jose was a little bit shocked and a little bit saddened too. After all, this is the back page/sports section front page of a tabloid newspaper in a major metropolis. And it seems a little bit inappropriate, and yes, a little bit bush league to have something like that right there with the major news of the day. And besides it’s late February. Seriously, what business does a basketball story have being on the back page at this time of year. Come on Herald…it’s time for baseball…or at least baseball related spring training activities.
3. Okay, okay, these are KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING and not KEYS TO THE BOSTON NEWSPAPERS, so Jose should probably put in at least one KEY that is directly connected to the great sport of baseball. So here’s Jose’s shot.
In between laying down reggae licks, Chris Snow reported today that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner sent Red Sox owner John W. Henry a congratulatory note during the off season. KEYS TO THE GAME has obtained an exclusive copy of that note and will make it public here for the very first time.
Dear Mr. Henry,
Congratulations on winning the World Series . WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! I WANT IT. IT’S MINE. HOW COME YOU GET TO HAVE IT??? WAAAAAAAAA!!!! I PAID FOR IT. WAAAAAAAAAAA!!! GIVE IT BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
Yours in Christ,
I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.
Tuesday, February 22
1. According to Globe reporter Chris Snow, former Sox first baseman and noted ball hawker Doug Mientkiewicz said of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry “It wasn’t what everyone made it out to be…The Twins-White Sox is just the same to me.”
In other news, Mientkiewicz described the U.S. Civil War as being “basically the same as Shays’ Rebellion.” He went on to compare the Gore vs. Bush election to Menino vs. Davis-Mullen, Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant to “Leaping” Lanny Poffo vs. Iron Mike Sharpe, and Spiderman vs. the Green Goblin to the New Mutants vs. Magus.
2. Apparently Chris Snow is having a banner day for comic news. He also reported that outspoken current Red Sox first baseman and noted chicken hawker Kevin Millar is negotiating to appear on Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” a New York based program. Jose doesn’t know too much about the show, but he can only assume that this means that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will be giving Millar some sort of make over. (Note: Okay, that was a cheap shot, because the sexuality of the left side of the Yankees infield is irrelevant to their performance, not a big deal whichever way they swing and nobody’s business. Still, it is an unbelievably easy joke to make, and Jose didn’t get where he is today – a blogger writing tens of thousand of words for free – by taking the high road.)
3. Media hack after media hack are now piling on to criticize the Red Sox for their continued taunting of Alex Rodriguez. Has it occurred to anyone that this might, just might, be a tactic to get inside the head of the third baseman? (Note: Yes, lots of people have.) This is a classic wrestling strategy, and it is just beginning to unfold. Just you watch.
Right now the Red Sox are just flexing their muscles and taunting A-Rod about his past failures. But watch what comes next. The Sox will give A-Rod a few spring training at-bats to get comfortable, to begin to relax. Then in the third or fourth game, A-Rod will dig in on a 3-2 count and suddenly “Ba-du-du-du, Da-da-da.” The driving introduction to “Dirty Water” will begin to sound, coming seemingly out of nowhere. A-rod will whip his head around, looking for the source of the haunting music but to no avail. Meanwhile the opposing pitcher will have zipped in a fastball for a call third strike. A-Rod will go nuts…smashing his bat against the back stop. Reporters will begin to wonder if the Red Sox really are in A-rod’s head.
A few days later, on another 3-2 count, Jason Varitek will suddenly appear on the Jumbotron.
“Hi Alex,” he’ll say. “I’ll bet you can hardly wait for your opening day *ss whoopin’” Strike three zips by a distracted, petrified Rodriguez.
“Looks like you’re out again,” Varitek will say.
After another few days, Varitek will join the Minnesota Twins radio announcers to do a little bit of color commentary in a game against the Yankees. For some reason, the radio team will be sitting in the seats along the first base line. Don’t ask why, just believe. Varitek will join them right before A-Rod’s first at bat.
“Look for him to slap one down the line,” Varitek will say. “Or more likely to slap someone going down the line.”
As he keeps looking over his shoulder at his enemy, A-Rod will swing and miss horribly. On his third swing and miss, the bat will go flying out of his hands towards Varitek, but like all A-Rod’s swings that day, it will miss horribly, whacking a shocked Billy Crystal instead.
Varitek will calmly rise, extend his right hand, palm flat and bend his fingers slowly, in succession. Bring it. A-Rod will charge the catcher and BAM!!! One punch and the diva goes down. “See you on opening day, punk.” Fade to black.
So now you can see that there is a perfect logic to everything the Red Sox have done so far. Now if we can only bait A-Rod into a hair cut match.
(Note: It is possible that some of you may feel Jose is ripping off Bill Simmons who has done some really great stuff on what pro sports would be like if they were more like wrestling. Here is the difference. First, as Jose has said before, he knows way more about wrestling than Simmons. This is not something to be proud of; it is just a fact. Second, whereas Simmons writes fantasies about what sports-entertainment baseball would look like, Jose honestly believes this stuff is going on. Also, not something to be proud of.)
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.
Monday, February 21
Now that position players have reported, spring training can begin in earnest. Of course, this is actually the hardest part of spring training for Jose to get through as a blogger. Without a game to serve as a daily focal point, Jose has no choice but to deal in the rumor, innuendo and name calling that serve as news at this time of year. Well, as our Secretary of Defense might say, you blog with the material you have, not the material you wish you had, so let’s dive right in.
1. Did anyone notice that the Boston Globe City Weekly section premiered a new feature this week that features snippets from some of Boston’s premiere blogs? And get this, in the first installment, the historic North End’s own Jose Melendez was NOT featured. So here we are, five days into spring training and Jose is already in Oil Can Boyd mode. The piece featured a guy from Brookline, a proud father from the South End, a theater buff from Jamaica Plain and…get ready for it…A GUY FROM IDAHO, but no Jose Melendez. Hell, they even had a guy talking about watching the repeat of Game 7 of the ALCS on NESN, and still, no Jose.
Who picks these things? Jose thinks that the reporters just have it in for him because he’s not a good interview. Or maybe it’s fan balloting; they only go for the big names not who’s having the best year. Either way, Jose is outraged and is seriously considering going an Oil Can-style bender in protest.
2. An open letter to Alex Rodriguez.
Hi. It’s Jose. Jose Melendez. No not the DJ, the blogger. I know you’re going through some tough times right now, you know discovering that all the money in the world can’t buy you friends, but Jose is here to promise you that it will get better. Okay, that’s a lie, it won’t get better, but chin up anyway, or not. At least you’ll always have your beautiful money that you love so much. Still, it’s got to be hard being alone and friendless. It’s one thing that the Red Sox don’t like you, that’s to be expected. After all, you’re the enemy, so Jose isn’t surprised that that doesn’t bother you so much. But your Yankee teammates don’t seem to like you that much either. That’s got to hurt just a little bit, doesn’t it? Everyone tells us Derek Jeter is the greatest human being since Jesus Christ, so if he doesn’t like you, that must say something about you. Heck even Dan Shaughnessy doesn’t like you anymore, and just a little over a year ago he was talking about how great you were because, unlike Nomar, you wanted to visit the Harvard campus. I guess the moral is that you’re an easy guy to like, until someone gets to know you.
So you rolled into Yankee camp yesterday and had a really good press conference, as best Jose can tell from reading the Globe, addressing all of the big issues of the day. And while you said you only got a yellow belt in karate, you must have had a black in ju jitsu the way you side stepped those questions. The fact that your teammates won’t back you up is evidence of what a "classy organization" the Yankees are? Hi-ya. Whenever anyone uses the word classy to describe the Yankees, Jose has the same reaction as when Donald Trump uses the word "classy."
"Oh, you must think classy means grotesquely expensive, horribly tacky and an affront to decent people everywhere."
But Jose is a little worried about you. You said the slap was "a brilliant play. We almost got away with it." Alex, you need to watch the game tape again. Aside from the fact that you sounded like a Scooby Doo villain in that statement, you just got it wrong. It was not a brilliant play. The result of your brilliance was that Jeter was left at first rather than advancing to second. If that is your idea of brilliance, Jose hopes you have a brilliant season.
You also said "I think over time, when I look at my career after 20 years, Game 6, the slap, will all be very trivial compared to what I accomplished." You think it will be trivial? You think it will be forgotten? Forgotten like the reign of Napoleon or World War II perhaps, but surely not forgotten like the Fox program "Women in Prison," or Marvel Comics’ "New Universe."
Alex you aspired to be Cal Ripken or Ernie Banks or Honus Wagner. You have their stats; in many ways you are their superior, but you are not one of them. When you make a foursome for some charity golf tournament in the baseball afterlife, you’re going to look over and find yourself in a cart with Fred Merkel, Fred Snodgrass and Bill Buckner. Mitch Williams can caddie.
But Jose will give you credit for one thing. You ended your press conference taking responsibility for the unprecedented Yankee collapse. "Blame it on me," you said. "If there’s one guy to blame, blame it right here." Very well. You, Alex Rodriguez, the best player in baseball, are the reason the Yankees lost last year. You are single handedly responsible for the biggest choke in baseball history. Forget about, Kevin Brown, Mariano Rivera and Paul Quanrtill; it is all your fault. And you know what? It is all going to happen again.
Doesn’t it feel good to take responsibility?
Your pal (Note: Not really, remember, you don’t have any friends),
3. Last night, Jose saw reliever Matt "Seacow" Mantei on Fox 25 announcing his hope to get injured this season. Apparently, after stating his desire to remain healthy the previous few seasons and then getting injured, Seacow thought some reverse karma was in order. Jose can’t be totally sure, his Korean is spotty at best, but he could have sworn that he overheard B.K. Kim expressing hope that he could get his fastball up to 65 in that same segment.
I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.