Friday, March 9

Working on a Change Up

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO SPRING TRAINING.

1. This has been a terrible spring training. No joke. Normally this is the point in the spring where Jose would be cracking jokes, lame tired jokes, but jokes nevertheless about doing typing drills, and writing simulated blogs. But not this year… unless you want to count what he just wrote. But you shouldn’t.

No, this year, Jose has done very, very little in the way of spring training work. He has yet to write on consecutive days, everything feels kind of flat and lifeless, and, let’s be honest, he came into camp this year in poor writing shape.

Jose is getting up there in years, everyone’s seen his basic material a few times round now, and he isn’t surprising too many people. Yeah, he’d like to do this for a few more years, what with the lure of $15.75 in book royalties per anum, but unless he comes up with something new, it’s not going to happen.

Basically, Jose is Curt Euro, but with no Major League Baseball chops, without millions of dollars, absent a place in Red Sox lore, and soon, with a less popular blog. On the upside, Jose is not fat. So he’s got that going for him.

So perhaps Jose should take a cue from Curt and develop something new this spring, the literary equivalent of the changeup Euro through 15 times in yesterday’s preseason outing. But what would be a change up for a blog that compares baseball to wrestling, comics, politics, philosophy, theology, television and feminine hygiene? Jose’s taste is pretty eclectic, so it’s going to take some real work to come up with something that is a true change from his current stuff. The way Jose sees it he has two choices. Either he can start comparing baseball to finger sandwiches (note: Jose likes his managers like he likes his cucumber sandwiches at high tea, not too crusty) or he can start loading up on NASCAR metaphors (note: watching Kyle Snyder pitch is like watching some bad driver, Jose’s not looking one up, at Daytona. It’s boring, he crashes and burns a lot and his fuel injectors are clogged or something).

See? There’s a lot of work to be done between now and opening day if Jose’s going to produce this year.

2. Bad News Brown died this week.

Bad news for him. Still, the man live a full life. He was an Olympic bronze medalist in judo in 1976, he was a headline wrestler in the WWF and Stampede wrestling in Calgary, he was probably the manager in the Bad News Bears, Jose doesn’t remember, and he devised the greatest wrestling put down since Classy Freddie Blassie, coined “pencil necked geek,” with his simple, elegant construction “beer-bellied sharecropper.” He died on March 6, 2007 at the age of 63, not bad for a wrestler, and Jose misses him.

But this is not a time to lament the death of the great man, but to celebrate his life. And Jose can think of no better celebration, no more fitting tribute, than the dissemination of the values he represented into professional baseball. Anyone can make jokes about how funny it would be if baseball was like wrestling and players were whacking each other with chairs constantly, but that’s not funny—getting hit with a steel chair hurts! Wouldn’t we do better to follow Bad News Brown’s shining example and hurt with words? (Note: Before hurting with chairs.) Before Jose would ever want to see one Major League player hit another with a chair, he would want to see them emulate Mr. Brown’s performance when he was feuding with Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Brown pointed out calmly, rationally, that the reason he had been unable to get a match with the then champion was that Miss Elizabeth, Savage’s manager, was doing “special favors” for WWF Commissioner Jack Tunney.

Who wouldn’t want to see that in baseball? Wouldn’t you enjoy seeing Alex Rodriguez suggest that the reason Derek Jeter get’s to play shortstop is that Jessica Alba was doing “special favors” for Joe Torre? Or perhaps watching Barry Bonds insist that Commissioner Bud Selig was out to get him because Hank Aaron’s wife Gloria had done him “special favors.”

Baseball needs this, America needs this. Where have you gone Bad News Brown? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Read KEYS you beer-bellied share cropper
or I'll come back down from heaven and give
you a ghetto blaster

3. The Ron Borges plagiarism story isn’t technically a baseball story, but it’s important and Jose wants to make sure to comment on it in his own, completely original words.

Forget two months without Ron Borges. When the Boston Globe's latest plagiarism scandal subsides, the lasting impact could be a major change in the way the paper’s sports-notes columnists — Borges for football, Peter May for basketball, Kevin Paul Dupont for hockey, and Nick Cafardo for baseball — do their business every week.

In case you missed it, Borges — a much-read, much-reviled football writer who also covers boxing — was suspended without pay for two months on March 5, after the Web site revealed that he’d recycled material from a Tacoma News Tribune item in his March 4 “Football Notes.” The official announcement of Borges’s suspension, which was posted on Monday evening, reported that Borges subscribes to “an online notes exchange used by NFL writers, who share information with one another in advance of Sunday notebook columns that run in many newspapers.”

Might Borges’s punishment have been harsher if editor Marty Baron didn’t have to worry about the low morale that’s gripped the paper amid the latest round of cutbacks? In an e-mail to the Phoenix, Baron says the answer is no. “We follow our procedures and policies regardless of what else is happening at the time,” he writes. “No factors other than those directly relevant to this matter entered into our decision.”

Of course, if there was any gamesmanship involved here, Baron could hardly be expected to acknowledge it. With the union already up in arms about buyouts and outsourcing, Borges may well have gotten a better deal than he deserved.

(Note: KEY 3 was prepared based in part on materials assembled from outside sources including, okay entirely, Adam Reilly’s piece in the Boston Phoenix. But the first sentence, where Jose says he is going to talk in his own words is completely original. Jose would have passed Seth Mnookin’s work off as his own, but Mnookin, mister big shot media critic, hasn’t bothered to write anything about it yet.)

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

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