Saturday, March 5
1. Congratulations to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Horrigan. After only two days of spring training games, Horrigan has already written the likely winner of the "Worst Lead of the Year" award at the Baseball Writers Association dinner.
Horrigan wrote "Traditionally, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change during his Red Sox career with the patience and enthusiasm of ultra-conservative strategist Karl Rove being asked to time in Al Franken’s liberal rants on Air America Radio." That’s just awful. Terrible. In fairness, Horrigan’s frightening workload, taken on so Tony Castrati can take three week in-season vacations, probably leaves him vulnerable to burnout, but still… that is among the worst leads Jose has ever read.
But what’s that you say Jeff? "Jose it’s easy to talk, but you couldn’t do better." Well, tell you what. Remember the movie Roxanne where Steve Martin has to come up with 20 insults for his large proboscis better than "Big Nose?" (Note: It must be wonderful to wake up and smell the coffee brewing… in Brazil.) Jose will do that right here, right now. Ummm…but not with nose insults. Jose doesn’t know what your nose looks like. He’ll do it with leads.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Carl Everett at the Museum of Natural History."
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Rush Limbaugh at a weight watchers meeting.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Curt Euro playing the "quiet game."
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Jason Giambi at a grand jury hearing.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of David Wells during prohibition.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Bill Clinton at marriage counseling.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of George W. Bush in the Alabama National Guard.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of a-Rod stepping in against Brandon Arroyo.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Peyton Manning in a playoff game.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of a Yankees fan at Game 7.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Woody Allen at a Christian Coalition meeting.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Mark Blount in a non-contract year.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of the NHL Players Association at the bargaining table.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Jeremy Jacobs when the check arrives.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Barry Bonds at a drug test.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of anyone with tickets to opening day in Tampa.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Kevin Millar at a wine tasting.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Euro Bellhorn in a conversation.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of Harvard, BC or Northeastern drawing BU in round one of the Beanpot.
During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has welcomed change with the patience and enthusiasm of John Kerry at anything.
That’s 20. Count ‘em. Twenty.
2. In the most shocking revelation of Steroidgate thus far, Barry Bonds told reporters yesterday "We’re entertainers. Let us entertain." The closest parallel to that statement Jose can find is when Vince McMahon told the state of New Jersey that pro wrestling was more a form of entertainment than an athletic competition. McMahon broke with the long tradition of insisting wrestling is real, in order to avoid regulation by the New Jersey State Athletic Commission. The admission let to a terrific photo op of then Governor Chrisite Todd Whitman and the Undertaker, and perhaps to Whitman receiving a title belt as the World Champion Tax Cutter. Presumably, she defeated tax themed wrestler Irwin R. Schyster for the title.
Jose’s point is that steroids sort of do make baseball like wrestling. If it becomes about the show, about long, chemically assisted home runs rather than two squads of men competing with their own bodies, then basically it is sports entertainment, an enterprise devoted more towards entertainment than actual athletic competition. (Note: Even though there is not a steroid problem there, as best he knows, Jose could argue that the NBA, with its T-Shirt contests cheerleaders and boom-boom music during play is already sports entertainment.)
3. Finally, Curt Euro has been invited to testify before Congress on the steroid scandal. While Curt has not officially decided to testify, Jose suspects that he has already made up his mind. Is there really a chance that he would turn down the opportunity to sit down in front of a microphone and speak to the nation in front of dozens of TV cameras? After all, during his Red Sox career, Curt Euro has welcomed any opportunity to speak into a microphone with the patience and enthusiasm of Kevin Millar at a KFC.
I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.
Friday, March 4
1. Do today’s two games even warrant KEYS? After all the Red Sox are not playing a major league opponent, a pseudo major league opponent like the lineup the Twins trotted out last night, or even a minor league opponent. Instead, they are playing two colleges – Northeastern and Boston College. As best Jose can tell, the right to get crushed by the Red Sox at the beginning of spring training is a consolation prize for losing the Beanpot. Why else would it be that the Sox play BC or Northeastern almost every year and never Jose’s BU Terriers? Besides, even the World Champion Red Sox could never beat the BU baseball team. Never.
So to answer Jose’s rhetorical question…Jose will probably make like the Red Sox, play one game, sit the next.
2. Jose was not impressed with his fellow hapa haole Denney Tomori. Suffice it to say, Tomori looked more hittable than any pitcher Jose has ever seen on any level. Slow fastballs, equally slow change ups, dull curves…yikes. Jose suspects Tomori will give up more hits this spring than most kickball pitchers.
On the upside, Jose now knows why Tomori calls the big breakfast at his Denny’s restaurants the “Grand Slam”… he’s probably given up more than a few of them in his day.
3. Sox Skipper Terry Eurona has entered spring training this year without the enormous plug of tobacco in his cheek that was as much a part of his image as his red sweatshirt or balding head. Eurona’s decision has earned him plaudits from his family, friends and doctors…but not from Jose. Damn it Tito, we won a World Series with you recklessly endangering your health, calming your nerves with the soothing combination of tobacco and fiberglass, and you want to change things?
Will you be calm enough to make a big decision in the clutch? Without nicotine soothing your jangled nerves would you have been able to give Dave Roberts the steal sign in Game 4? Would you have had the presence of mind not to pinch run for Ortiz in extra innings? Maybe…but Jose wonders.
If you absolutely insist on quitting chew, can you at least get something to calm you down? Not valium. Jose thinks we all saw what valium can do to a manager in the Grady era. (Note: Jose: Can’t prove Grady was on valium, but he must have been on something. Right? No one is naturally that slow.) The next time you take to the dugout, you’d damn well better have some Tension Tamer tea, or aroma therapy or some other God damn new age boondoggle…or Jack Daniels…we all know Jack Daniels works.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.
Thursday, March 3
It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.
1. Well it’s about time. After months of writing KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE, KEYS TO THE UKRANIAN ELECTION, KEYS TO WHATEVER THE HELL ELSE JOSE COULD THINK OF and KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING, Jose can once again say “It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME. You will notice a few changes between now and the last time you read a new KEYS TO THE GAME. The most obvious change is that today’s KEYS is not about the Worlds Series, so you may find that it lacks some of the gravitas, some of the weight and heft that you had become accustomed to.
But there are far more changes. Big changes. Scary changes. Not Schiraldi on the mound scary, but scary nonetheless. Frankly, Jose has to keep up with the times. Over the offseason the suits told him that the KEYS demographic has trended a little bit old, that the KEYS aren’t attracting the sort of readers who have disposable income and are willing to spend it. Still worse, the KEYS are failing to hook the next generation of fans. So change Jose must, and change Jose shall.
The first major change will be that the KEYS will be at a faster clip and will be set to the latest in “popular” music. As you may have noticed, the KEYS don’t come with an audio track. However, if you read the KEYS book along with the Clash Album London Calling, it synchs up exactly. What will this year’s KEYS sync up with? Start buying CDs and trying to figure it out. (Note: This message brought to you by the American Recording Industry.)
Another change will be the introduction of a lovable character to explain the game of baseball to children. Fox has Scooter the hyperactive baseball; Jose offers Plunger, the happy-go-lucky syringe. It’s something a little bit hipper, more contemporary and reflective of todays game. Let’s take a sneak peak.
“Hi kids this is your pal Plunger!!! Today’s word is Steroids. Sometimes when a player is too small and weak to hit home runs, he sticks a needle in his arm or *ss and injects himself with a special healthy medicine that makes him bigger, stronger and faster, without all of the practice and eating your vegetables. So the next time your mommy tells you to eat your vegetables so you can grow up to be big and strong, tell her ‘Shove it b*tch. Just bring me some steroids.’”
And these are just a few of the exciting changes you have to look forward to in the new and improved KEYS TO THE GAME 2005.
2. And would any first game be complete without Tony Castrati writing on yet another subject he knows nothing about? (Note: No.)
What TC says: “Baseball and politics will converge today at the White House, and you know what that means: lots of people who don't know what they're talking about.”
What TC means: Not unlike the Red Sox press room on any given day.
What TC says: But this is America, of course, so the cameras will be clicking and the pens scribbling when Damon meets Dubya on the South Lawn.”
What TC means: Like when the Patriots were at the White House last year. Remember that. No one does? Really?
What TC says: “Professional sports and politics? Now there's a scary combination. “
What TC means: Like that Bill Bradley guy. What business did some dumbass basketball player have being a Senator. That’s crazy. (Note From Jose: Though in fairness, Tom Osborne, the despicable former Nebraska coach who stood behind every felon on his team as they brutalized women is in Congress.)
What TC says: “Two years ago, with America having begun fighting in Iraq, Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin placed a bumper sticker above his locker that described the international peace insignia as ``the footprint of the American chicken.''
What TC means: Umm…sorry Mike, I don’t think chickens have circles around their feet. I do think the three toes is right though.
What TC says: “With all due respect to Timlin, who really cares about his political views?”
What TC means: I do apparently, since no one in the general public even knew his views until I wrote this.
What TC says: “Why are professional athletes (or other celebrities) asked to share their opinions on matters in which they have no more say than anyone else?”
What TC means: Oh wait they’re celebrities. The most wonderful, special people in the world.
What TC says: Tell you what: If Kevin Millar wants to run for office, let's find out where he stands.”
What TC means: Dear God, did I just suggest that Kevin Millar run for office. What have I done? I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”
What TC says: “After all, we don't ask the homeless for political guidance, do we?”
What TC means: I hate the poor.
What TC says: “If this all sounds like an indictment of professional athletes, it is not. Prior to the start of the Super Bowl, former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush (the elder) were asked their opinions on the Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, a harmless but worthless question. Their responses had as much value as any athlete's insights on the last presidential election, which begs the question: Why do we ask them such ridiculous things at all?”
What TC means: We ask because we have to fill column inches, and we got nothing else. NOTHING!!!
3. Many people paying big bucks to attend the first of the 47 preseason contests will be disappointed to hear that Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Mosey Nixon and David Ortiz are not scheduled to play. But don’t fret! Do not despair. You will get to see Kris Wilson, Jeremy Gonzales, a Japanese guy named Denney (note: how did a Japanese guy end up with that name?) and some guy named Billy McMillon who Jose has never heard of, but is one vowel away from having a great name for an evil rich guy wrestler (Note: Billy McMillion.)
Spring Training Baseball: You might as well watch. It’s your only choice!!!
I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.
Tuesday, March 1
1. San Diego Padres GM Kevin Towers said that he "felt like he knew" that 1996 National League MVP Ken Caminiti was using steroids. Sox President Leisure Suit Larry Lucchino, who was then with the Padres, apparently felt like he did not know. Lucchino today plead ignorance of Caminiti’s steroid use. It is an odd situation for a man who seems to know everything that lingers beneath the surface of the days events.
It’s a funny turn of phrase, "I felt like I knew." It’s not an acceptance of responsibility; it is only an acknowledgment of a feeling. At the same time, it is not a rejection of responsibility either, it hints that there was an obligation unfulfilled, that one could have and perhaps should have done something. It is surely a rejection of logic and reason. "I felt" was probably never uttered by the Enlightenment thinkers. It is the classic non-denial, denial. Towers could not prove that he knew, or reason that he knew, he could only feel like he knew.
Jose would like to use this technique. Rather than doing a special predictions KEYS, perhaps Jose will instead write, next November a KEYS on the things that he felt like he knew at the end of spring training. Jose can write:
"Jose felt like he knew that Wade Ohne Umlaut will win 16 games and have an ERA of 3.20."
"Jose felt like he knew that the Yankees would win only 88 games."
"Jose felt like he knew that A-Rod will be accused of tax fraud in July."
"Jose felt like he knew that Carlos Quintana would make a shocking return to spell Kevin Millar at first, and make a Jeff Stone style key hit down the stretch before being left off the playoff roster."
Will these things happen? Won’t they happen? Who knows.? Just remember, if they don’t happen Jose never said they would. Jose would never risk a jinx (note: not that he believes in such things) nor would he put himself out front like that. He is only saying what he felt like he knew.
2. Jason Vartiek’s younger brother Justin, the real JV in the Varitek family, was at Red Sox camp yesterday. (Note: JV stands for junior varsity. Get it?) Jose was relieved to hear that Justin was not trying out for the Red Sox. Jose has watched enough pro wrestling to know that no good can come from two brothers competing together. One performs better than the other, jealously grows, parents play favorites and the next thing you know Christian is cracking a chair over Edge’s head or Pedro is slashing the tendon on Ramon’s elbow. The last thing Jose wants to see is Jason grappling with A-Rod next April and Justin coming out of the dugout with a bat…and breaking it across Jason’s back. Only years later, when the Sox are trying to perk up sagging TV ratings and Doug Mirabelli’s contract is long since expired, will we learn that Kelly Shoppach actually put Justin up to it in order to crack the Sox roster.
The unexpected, nonsensical twist. That is what we learn from pro wrestling.
3. Finally, there has been some concern that Manny Ramirez might be jinxed by appearing on the cover of EA Sports’ MVP baseball game. Cover boys for other EA games, such as Michael Vick, Marshall Faulk and Eddie George have all gone on to face serious injuries. Jose is not particularly worried about Manny, karma doesn’t really seem to affect him, but he is worried about himself.
You see, Jose appeared on the cover of the SoSH Game Threads 2005 video game, and Jose, while not believing in karma, does worry about it. (Note: The game is going to be great. You can chose to be kevlog with a whole array of fireworks at your disposal, ManillaSoxFan and pound away with insane optimism or even SexyBanana and start long losing streaks with inopportune posting. There’s also a franchise mode where you can start your own SoSH knock off thread and have the same three people post again and again. Unfortunately, Cabrera Era is not included because he is not a member of the Posters Association since he was a scab during the last work stoppage.) It’s not that Jose worries that he will get injured; he does not. What he worries about is that the first time he misses a game with a resurgent elbow infection or a jammed finger the "EA cover jinx" talk will begin. Jose just doesn’t have a whole lot of interest in writing out the season under that kind of scrutiny.
I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.
Monday, February 28
1. Apparently, Sox right fielder Mosey Nixon will not start in the season opener against Randy Johnson on April 4th. Manager Terry Eurona, reportedly told Nixon, who has struggled against lefties in the past, "Get ready for the fifth." Chris "12 Inches of" Snow reported that this comment was a reference to April 5th, the second game of the season." Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Jose has liked 12I Snow’s work thus far, but this, frankly, is just shoddy reporting. In fact, it wasn’t even reporting, it was assumption, which is really bad. Hasn’t he ever heard the old saying? "When you assume, you make and ass of Yumi." Does Snow really want to make an ass of some poor Japanese girl? Jose hopes not. That was Shaughnessy’s first step towards the dark side, if Jose remembers correctly. (Note: He does not.)
You see, Eurona was not urging Mosey to prepare for the second game of the season. No, no!!! Rather, he was warning Nixon to be ready for the fifth inning of the first game. After all, the Sox will knock Johnson out in the fourth, so there won’t much of a reason to keep Nixon on the bench.
2. Today appears to be Tim Wakefield day at spring training. Both the Globe and Herald featured articles about the aging knuckleballer, who just happens to be Jose’s all-time favorite Red Sox. (Note: Does the Red Sox PR machine offer up one player a day to all papers for feature stories? It sure seems that way. It is statistically improbable that both Boston dailies would profile identical players on four straight days at random, though not quite as statistically improbable as the Yankees blowing a 3-0 series lead.)
Jose would recommend the Globe piece as it is in English, not Castratese. But for those of you who only have access to the Herald (note: presumably this is only the people who run the actual presses at the Herald) Jose offers the following translation.
Tony Castrati: Yearning for the Good Old Days
What TC says: Even here, on the blessed training ground of the reigning world champions, there is a cost of doing business."
What TC means: The cost is more than $120 million.
What TC says: "The Red Sox make decisions that are hard and shrewd and devoid of all emotion, and they are more interested in handing out championship rings than gold watches."
What TC means: The Red Sox are technically sociopaths. Also, gold watches are more expensive than championship rings.
What TC says: "The only men in front of [Wakefield] will be Cy Young and Roger Clemens, one man for whom pitching's most prestigious award is named and another who has won that honor a record seven times.
What TC means: This line is so unbelievably obvious that both Chris Snow and I thought of it at the exact same time.
What TC says: "Wakefield now is in what has become familiar territory for those who wear the Red Sox uniform."
What TC means: Wakefield is in Fort Myers where spring training has been since before he joined the team.
What TC says: There currently seems little chance of him securing a new deal before November. A surprise? Hardly. A year ago at this time, the Red Sox entered spring training with Nomar Garciaparra, Martinez, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek entering the final year of their contracts, and the Sox signed none of them before Opening Day."
What TC means: The Red Sox signed no one and it ruined last season. Instead of going to the World Series they bowed to the Yankees in four, at least I assume so, as I stopped watching after the 19-8 game three drubbing.
What TC says: "The new-age ownership and management of the Red Sox"
What TC says: Did you know they play Yanni in the Executive Offices? It’s true.
What TC says: "And when they depart, the Sox pop someone else into the jersey as if they were changing bulbs on a strand of Christmas lights."
What TC means: "February’s a good time for a Christmas metaphor right? That resonates doesn’t it? What I worry about is that the Red Sox are like those Christmas lights where they are all on one circuit, so if David Wells burns out, the entire team will suddenly be unable to play.
What TC says: "Until recently, of course, it never used to work that way here."
What TC means: Ahh… those were the days. No Monster seats, no decent concessions and no World Championships.
What TC says: "Producing more spin-off ventures than `All in the Family.'"
What TC means: Maybe the Sox should sign a 12 year old Asian girl to the team. That seemed to work in Archie’s Place.
What TC says: "Still, it is difficult to think that we have not lost at least a little bit of something here."
What TC means: And still most people think we have won a little bit of something. Perplexing.
3. Sox starter Wade Ohne Umlaut is up to throwing the ball 200 feet (note: that’s almost 67 yards) as he struggles to return from a frayed rotator cuff. While Red Sox officials are reportedly enthusiastic about his progress and are hopeful he will be ready to play by May, Jose remains unconvinced. After all, any pro should be able to throw that distance; the challenge is doing it under a heavy pass rush.
I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.
Sunday, February 27
1. Jose has just come to an unsettling realization. Pedro Martinez really isn’t coming to Fort Myers this year. Of course, Jose knew this was going to happen. After all, he characterized Pedro’s departure as being like a "good breakup," like the end of a long and fulfilling relationship between two people who are just headed in different directions. Still, he never fully accepted the idea that once we got 10 days into spring training Pedro still wouldn’t be there. Jose didn’t really notice Pedro’s absence for the first nine days since he didn’t usually arrive until the 10th day, or so it seemed, anyway. But that tenth day? Well, let’s put it this way, one isn’t really the loneliest number 10 is. Sure one is alone, but it knows it. One looks around and there’s nothing even nearby. But 10? Ten gets tricked. Ten gets suckered in. In a 10, the one thinks it has some companionship, some friendship, but sooner or later it’s going to look over and realize it’s hanging out with a total zero. (Note: Actually today is the eleventh day of spring training, Jose thinks, so this is all irrelevant anyway. Actually, even if it was the tenth day it would be irrelevant. Ten is the loneliest number? What does that have to do with anything? Oh yes….THERE’S NO NEWS TO DISCUSS!!!!)
You’d think it would have hit Jose when he saw the pictures of Pedro in a Mets uniform throwing off a mound. But it didn’t quite. It felt more like the first time you see that old girlfriend with another guy. Yeah, it’s a little weird, but you don’t know exactly what the deal is and for all you know this will be their first and last date. Today is more like when she tells you that she’s moving in with him. Sure, you want her to be happy, and you don’t want to be with her, but it’s still a little jarring, okay, really jarring, to realize that the new normal is for her to be living with some other guy.
So there you have it. Jose is jarred. He is rattled and disoriented. He realizes that he won’t be counting off five games from opening day to calculate Pedro’s first start at Fenway, and five days after that to calculate his second start and so on. (Note: In 2001, Jose made an error in his counting and ended up seeing like eight straight Paxton Crawford starts. Okay, that’s not quite true. Paxton Crawford probably never made eight straight starts.)
He realizes that the greatest pitcher of his lifetime is gone, and the Red Sox may not have another pitcher that good in Jose’s lifetime. It is sad, it is disappointing, but it is also the right decision.
2. While Pedro is not in camp, David Wells most certainly is, and at a much better price per pound! And the reporters seem happy enough. Jose is pretty sure that he read the thirty-fifth profile of Wells of the Spring this morning.
Yesterday, Wells brought his son Brandon to camp with him. Jose thinks this is terrific. Not only is Wells showing his love for his family, he’s also showing tremendous devotion to and affection for his teammates. It is just wonderful that he would name his first born son after his teammate Bronson Arroyo.
(Note: Hmmm…should Jose explain this joke. It seems pretty self-explanatory, but when historians look back on this generations from now are they going to understand it? Are they going to say "Wait…the kid’s name is Brandon…Jose must have mistyped the name of the pitcher. It must really be Brandon Arroyo." Nah…only a complete chump would think Arroyo’s first name was Brandon. The joke remains unexplained.)
3. Jose was a little disappointed by Gordon Edes’ bit in his baseball notes column today entitled "Jewry seems to make teams sparkle." Jose got himself all geared up for a story on the tremendous positive impact of having a Jew or two on a Major League team. He was expecting a detailed breakdown on how the Sox won the Worlds Series by fielding the most Jewish team in their history. (Note: Eight percent!!!) But it turns out that the article was about "Jewelry" not "Jewry." What a downer. Now, Jose needs to review those headlines about "Red Sox World Champs" to make sure they didn’t actually read "Red Sox Ward Champs." Wouldn’t we all be embarrassed if after all of the hoopla and parades it turned out that the Sox were only the champion of Boston’s Ward Five?
I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.