Thursday, December 28

Wheeling and Dealing

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

1. It was a few strokes before four when the wheeler dealer rolled into town, poised, cocky and with an almost disdainful indifference to the fact that he was playing with the real lives of real people. He sat down across from Jose, and deigned not even to look at him, lest he portray any sign of weakness. With a shock of hair red as the fires of hell, he was the sort of dealmaker who demanded attention, even as one desperately tried to keep his focus elsewhere.

He surveyed Jose’s office for a moment, before spying a mélange of coreboard pie charts in the corner, and dismissing Jose’s work, his livelihood, with a contemptuous “What’s that?”

Then the time for positioning, for the subtle pre-deal maneuvering of a negotiator unfamiliar with “Getting to Yes” was over, and it was time to get down to business. Nonchalantly, almost carelessly, he tossed the merchandise onto Jose’s desk. THUD. There was Bruce Hurst. Here’s Rob Murphy. And over there, we’ve got Tim VanEgmmond. Fifty Sox cards acquired for $10, and each and everyone available to interested clients… for a price.

But Jose is no one’s fool, not some sucker to be rolled. And he would not be the mark for this particular P.T. Barnum. He immediately set about deriding the merchandise.

“Bob Stanley? Jose gets an ulcer just looking at him. And Luis Rivera? Never trust a shortstop with glasses.”

But then came a problem… and an opportunity. As the wheeler dealer flipped over a Mike Greenwell card, sending it crashing into the adjacent Ellis Burks card, there it was. Jose Melendez Leaf Card 1993. There was Jose, slim and sexy, his arm cocked and ready to unleash a fastball on an unsuspecting batter. On the opposite side, a defiant Jose sneered as he delivered a pitch before an image of the Old State House and One Exchange Place.

Jose tried to control his emotions, to keep his tells under lock and key, lest the slightest show of weakness drive up the price. But this was a Jose Melendez Red Sox card. Jose had a San Diego card, but not one of Jose in his Boston red and blues.

“Jose will give you a dollar for it,” he blurted out, already negotiating against himself like Tom Hicks on greenies.

“No,” replied the wheeler-dealer cagily, betraying nothing.

“You should just give it to him,” replied an advisor who went by the pseudonym Uncle Mark. “It’s his nom de blog.”
But no misuse of French by a trusted consigliore would dissuade the wheeler dealer, he remained resolute.

Then Jose had an idea.

“We’ll do business in the old style,” said Jose without emotion. “We will trade. Jose will go home tonight and retrieve a superior card from his private, vintage collection. Tomorrow he will bring it in and exchange it for the Melendez card. We can run the deal through one of your people. Perhaps the one you call ‘Mom.’”

“Uuuhhhhhhhh,” he was biding his time, using verbal clutter as a tool to thwart Jose, to give himself time to contemplate the deal before him. “Uh, no.”

He was tough; Jose would give him that.

“Then Jose has one final offer. He will trade you another card or give you a dollar. Choose.”

And then Jose saw it. The faintest glimmer of doubt. The slightest trembling of hand. He was going to blink.

“The dollar,” he said, hesitantly at first, but then enthusiastically, as if it had all been a feint designed to lure Jose into overpaying.

Jose coughed up the green, the wheeler dealer offered up the card and the transaction was complete. Jose had what he wanted, a symbol in paper of his past, of the man he had always wanted to be, and the wheeler dealer had what he wanted, a dollar he could taunt his six year old twin brother with.

Perhaps, we did get to yes, after all.

And Jose didn't even need to give up a Phil Plantier card to get it!

2. The best baseball story of 2006 was the news that Tigers phenom Joel Zumaya was sidelined for the ALCS due to an injury sustained while playing Guitar Hero on his PlayStation. Jose recently received this game for Christmas from his brother, and expects that soon enough, his efforts to recreate the Keith Foulke era by rocking out to “Mother” by Danzig will put him on the shelf. Still, this seemed like a good opportunity to recount some of the strangest injuries in Major League history. While a fuller list can be found here, Jose would like to highlight a few of his favorites from this list.
  • Jose Cardenal missed a game in 1974 because he couldn’t blink. (Note: Ironically, sore eyes from not blinking is also a Guitar Hero related injury).

  • In 1985 Vince Coleman got rolled up by the tarp machine and missed the World Series as a result.

  • Glenallen Hill fell out of bed and through a glass table while dreaming that spiders were attacking him. He then proceeded to crawl through the shards of glass. Presumably, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was way too scary for Hill.

But the funniest of all baseball injuries remains, of course, Derek Jeter dislocating his shoulder in a collision with Toronto catcher Ken Huckabee. That cracks Jose up every time!

While all of these are fun and funny, Jose would remind you that in each of these cases and every other one linked to in the above site, the true cause of injury is almost definitely the player being attacked by mistress, wife or girlfriend, which is also funny but not quite as much so. (Note: Jose in no way endorses domestic violence by or against professional athletes. He is only saying that if someone can’t blink, it is more likely that it is because his mistress did some weird Clockwork Orange type stuff to him, than due to some functional disease. Similarly, Guitar Hero is the perfect misdirection stunt, a story so hysterical, so neat, that it totally distracts us from the reality that Zumaya probably injured his wrist through chronic, compulsive masturbation.)

3. The latest speculation out of the Bronx is that the Yankees are looking to trade lefty Randy Johnson, sending him back to Arizona from whence he came. Should the Yankees trade the 6’10’’ Johnson after two expensive and underwhelming seasons at $16 million per, Johnson will go down as the biggest bust in New York, both literally and figuratively since King Kong on Broadway.

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