Friday, March 11

3/11/05 - Or 1.5/8/03 When converted to the Canadian Calander

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

1. Jose spent the last two days at a conference in Baltimore (motto: it’s like a baby Philadelphia) on the working poor. As you might imagine, there is not too much to laugh about when discussing the plight of people working full time for just over $10,000 per year, but there was one moment of levity. A policy analyst from New York had scored a huge victory in getting New York Times columnist Bob Hebert to write about his initiative. A few days later, the analyst received a phone call. (Note: All names of people and organizations have been changed to protect the…okay, okay, they were changed because Jose forgot them. Are you happy now?)

Producer: Hello. Is this Joe Smith of the Working Families Project?

Smith: Yes.

Producer: The Working Families Project that was mentioned in the Times the other day?

Smith: Yes.

Producer: I’m a producer at the Bravo cable network.

Smith: Really? I’m so glad to see media taking an interest in this issue.
Are you doing a documentary or a show on the working poor?

Producer: Yes. I’m a producer with a show you might have heard of, it’s called Queer
Eye for the Straight Guy, and we were hoping you could put us in touch with
some of these working poor people who might like to have a makeover.

This presented a dilemma for Smith. On the one hand, it was horribly offensive that this gay equivalent of a minstrel show sought to suggest that all poor people needed was a makeover. On the other hand, who was Smith to make the decision for his constituents? After all, if the working poor are anything like most Americans, what they want most in the world is to be on TV. (Note: Jose truly believes that the American dream is no longer the house with the white picket fence and two cars in the garage. Instead, it is to be on TV. Did you know that according to labor economists, by the year 2037 every American will have been on a reality show? We’re going to have to open up further immigration just to supply us with new television characters.) Smith did the only thing he could, he gave the producer the name of an organization that provides direct services to the working poor and would let the working poor make up their own minds.

Jose can only assume that they declined, and that’s why the producers of Queer Eye decided to go with Kevin Millar instead. Millar may not technically be “poor” or even technically “working” but he certainly looks the part, and that, as makeover shows teach us, is what truly counts.

2. Manager Terry Eurona’s comments that Balki Arroyo would strengthen the Sox bullpen has led some to believe that when all six starters are healthy Arroyo will be the odd man out. Jose can guarantee you that this is not the case. At worst, Arroyo will be the even man out, the sixth starter, and therefore a reliever. As you may have noticed, six is an even number. In order for Arroyo to be the odd man out, he would either have to be the fifth man on a four man rotation – not too likely -- or the seventh man in a five man rotation, and that seventh spot seems to be well secured by Buddhist monk John Ha-lama. Therefore Arroyo is the even man out and Ha-lama is the odd man out. Jose hates in when reporters or so imprecise with the English language.

3. Will the Red Sox medical staff please take a look at David Ortiz – and fast. Ortiz was among the six Red Sox asked to pee in the cup as part of the first round of steroid testing. While Ortiz expressed no concern that he would test positive for steroids, he did say that “All they are going to find is a lot of rice and beans.”

David… Big Papi… muchacho, it is NOT normal to have rice and beans in your urine. Please get that checked out immediately before you find a steak in there.

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

Monday, March 7

3/7/05 A Marginally Less Meaningless Game

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

1. The mainstream media would like you to believe that tonight is the rekindling of the ancient rivalry, that swords will clash, cannon will sound and the battle will be rejoined. Indeed, the very Earth will tremble beneath the terrible conflict. Nope…not today, maybe tomorrow.

This game, which would be largely meaningless under any circumstances, has been rendered even more largely meaningless by the Yankees cowardly decision to send most of their stars to another game. Thus, the only major event occurring tonight is that Tony Castrati will write the first chapter his new book about the 2005 Red Sox and Yankees. The book, a sequel to A Tale of Two Cities, his story of the 2004 rivalry, will be called David Copperfield. While the name may not make any sense now, except for the fact that it is also a rip off of a Charles Dickens classic, it will make far more sense when the Yankees sign the magician mid-year in an effort to restore “mystique” and “aura” to the deteriorating franchise. Sadly for New Yorkers, even the great illusionist cannot make Jason Giambi disappear.

2. Last week the People’s Republic of China again vowed never to allow Taiwanese independence. How opposed are Chinese party leaders to the freedom of Taiwan? So opposed that they have vowed to invade if Taiwanese pitcher Chien-Ming Wang (note: tonight’s Yankee starter) ever files for free agency. Set’s a bad precedent they say.

When reached for comment Chinese officials said, “We have always opposed the imperialist free agency system. We will conduct our own internal affairs according to the patriotic reserve clause and will keep Taiwan forever or until such time as we are prepared to trade it…possibly to Japan for Kyushu and an island to be named later.”

3. Has anyone else noticed that this spring training has been a little weird? So far we’ve had a no hitter and a triple play -- not exactly every day events. As any extremely, extremely superstitious person knows, these sorts of things happen in threes, so what is the next improbable event to occur during spring training?

Jose was going to write alien abduction, but apparently, those happen all the time in Florida, and he’s pretty sure that Manny spends a lot of time in outer space already. Then he was going to suggest that it might be a Bigfoot sighting, but apparently the giant pseudo-ape doesn’t like the Florida heat. So what are we left with? As best Jose can tell the third improbable event will be either Curt Euro answering a question “no comment,” Kevin Millar going in to a bar and ordering an O’Douls or Denney Tomori pitching a perfect inning. Jose’s putting his money on the near beer.

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

Sunday, March 6

3/6/05 - Another Meanginless Game

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

1. Apparently, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz offered to make a recruiting call to pitcher Brad Radke, his former Twins teammate, during the off season. Ortiz offered to do so despite the fact that he hadn’t ever really spoken with Radke when they were teammates. So in effect, Ortiz agreed to cold call Radke.

Jose knows a thing or two about cold calling. His second job out of college was as a "fundraising associate" on a Massachusetts congressional campaign, and his job consisted of calling people off of a fundraising list for eight hours every day and saying "Hello are you available to take a call from Elvis Costello." (Note: Okay, so Elvis Costello wasn’t actually the candidate Jose worked for, but it is a hint as to who he did work for.) About one out of every ten people would agree to take the call. Most of the other nine would just pretend to be unavailable. Very, very few would actually say no. So of course, we called them again, and again, and again. If we can’t win ‘em over, we can at least wear ‘em down was our motto. And what was amazing is that rather than say no, dozens and dozens of people would agree to write checks on the sixth, seventh or even tenth call.

So Jose imagines that Big Papi’s effort went like this.

Ortiz: Hello. Mr. Radke? This is David Ortiz. Can you take a call from Theo Epstein?

Radke: Umm…no.

Ortiz: Thank you for your time.

See, that’s why Brad Radke is not a Red Sox right now. Ortiz probably only made that call once rather than every day for ten days or until Radke broke into a sobbing mess desperate to make the calls stop. (Note: Apparently Ortiz never made the call. It is very hard to recruit someone if you don’t call them.)

2. Last night, Jose tuned in to what he just assumed was an intrasquad game because everyone was wearing the same uniforms and noticed that the Red Sox appeared to have acquired Sean Casey and Adam Dunn. Fantastic!!! Of course, it turns out we were just playing the Reds but everyone showed up wearing the same outfit. In all Jose’s years of watching baseball, he has never seen such an embarrassing fashion faux pas.

3. Jose spent about 90 minutes last night waiting outside of a club called Ned Devine’s in Fanueil Hall, because he is an idiot. When he got in, he was angered to find that the club was not even close to capacity. In other words, Jose had been kept waiting simply to generate hype for the club, because they were trying to make it look like the place was far more popular than it actually is. Passersby see the long line and assume that if people are waiting to get in, it must be fantastic. Aside from just wanting to rip this establishment and urge his readers not to go there (note: their cover band also played the worst cover of Cheap Trick’s "I want you to want me" Jose has ever heard.) Jose thought there might be a lesson in this for some of baseball’s less popular teams. The Royals, Brewers, D-Rays and others should strongly consider making it harder to get tickets. Why not save money on ticket vendors and just have one fellow at the box office, let the line grow, let people know that folks are lined up out the door for a chance to see D-Rays baseball. Negotiate a deal with Ticketmaster to have the phone busy the first 30 times people call in, and then when Ticketmaster does answer, tack on a $10 "answering fee." These small market teams like to cry poor, but sometimes Jose thinks they just aren’t creative enough.

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