Monday, April 2

Thank God for Opening Day

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

Thank God for Opening Day.

Really. Thank God for Opening Day. Most years Jose is merely glad to see Opening Day; he is just happy that the winter is over and his nightly entertainment has emerged bear-like from hibernation. In those years, he is far more like the hunter on the first day of deer season than the smack addict flush with cash from a liquor store robbery and dying for a fix. He wants baseball, he craves it, but he does not need it to avoid dissent into oblivion.

But not this year. No, this year he needs the saccharine poison of baseball season to drip hurriedly into his veins. This year, it is to him what confession is to the sinner, what nitroglycerin is to the cardiac patient, what Guitar Hero is to Joel Zumaya. It is his salvation, his light.

These have been dark days in Melendezville, dark days indeed. Jose will not delve into the details of his personal life, save to say that the inadvertent destruction of family heirlooms is pretty much the least troubling thing going on in his life. Also, he got a pretty good haircut, for a change. How bad is it? Remember when the Yankees swept the Sox five straight? Well, it’s like that, except, Jose can’t turn just turn off the TV, scream “F*ck Rudy Seanez” and move on with his life. On the plus side, at least Jose’s travails do not make New Yorkers happy. Look, Jose is not saying things are “Grady Little is your manager and your starter is looking a little tired” bad, maybe more like “Jose Offerman is your second baseman and he has to field a routine grounder” bad, deeply troubling and upsetting, but probably not going to leave one catatonic.

And so we come to today, to Opening Day. And thank God. Thank God because Opening Day is hope and rebirth and life. Jose does not want to get all Curt Euro on you, he’s not even really a Christian per se, but have you ever thought about how much Opening Day, especially after a season like last year, is like Jesus? Think about it. The 2006 Red Sox season died horribly, painfully, torturously, and yet today the Red Sox will be resurrected.

“They are risen,” Red Sox fans will cry out. And regardless of the outcome, independent of what happens when Julio Lugo digs in this evening, the lone fact that the Red Sox are playing again, a short six months after their agonizing death will be nothing short of proof of God’s love. God gives us baseball, He gives us Opening Day because he loves us. It is exactly that simple. It is the same story as that of Jesus, the miracles, the lessons, the prophecy and the excruciating execution. (Note: Yes, that is a pun about bad defense and difficulties pulling off a hit and run.) The only difference is that Jesus only came back to life once, whereas the Red Sox are resurrected pretty much annually. Point Red Sox.

Okay, so maybe it’s silly and completely sacrilegious to compare Opening Day to Christ’s resurrection, every bit as silly as it is to offer the caramel coated platitudes about spring and rebirth and “Everyone’s even in the standings today.” But there is something profoundly true about it too. Because as bad as yesterday may have been, today will be, it must be, better, because today there will be baseball. Also, Jose’s going to a barbeque, which is always nice.

2. And now, a sneak peak at the back page of tomorrow’s New York post.


Kansas City, Mo—Red Sox slugger David Ortiz shocked reporters yesterday by confession to a string of killings and vowing more to come. In response to a question about what he planned to do in the coming year, the Dominican slugger respond “What I always do. Kill…”

As stunning as the admission by the seemingly genial designated hitter was, the response has been even more remarkable. Blinded by parochialism, authorities in Boston have, thus far, declined to investigate or even bring Ortiz in for questioning. The Red Sox organization has been similarly negligent, building a wall of silence around Ortiz. Even as the comments were issued, the Red Sox public relations staff seemed prepared with carefully crafted denials, suggesting that they may have known about the crimes well in advance of Ortiz’s stunning statement.

“I’m pretty sure he was talking about hitting baseballs,” stonewalled Sox general manager and unindicted coconspirator Theo Epstein. “You left out the part where he said ‘the ball.’ It was ‘kill the ball.’”

“The only thing he killed was Yankees pitching for the last four years,” added former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar, who was not even on site or asked for comment.

Yankees President George Steinbrenner declined to join in the campaign of denial, issuing an immediate statement. “The Yankees organization, as the classiest in baseball, calls on the Red Sox to immediately suspend David Ortiz and urge him to turn himself into authorities. Felons have no place in our national pastime.”

3. As part of the full court press accompanying Opening Day, Boston Herald Business reporter Scott Van Voorhis did one of those stories that everyone loves where he asked local business leaders to offer managerial advice to sox skipper Terry Eurona.

Jose assumed that this was going to be another one of those stupid media features where they assume that just because someone has millions of dollars, has fired tens of thousands of people and has a Harvard educated hooker err... second wife, on his arm, he knows more about baseball than you or Jose. But it wasn’t about Jack Welch at all.

Instead Van Voorhis asked a variety of executives and managers, some of whom even have sporting experience, to offer advice, and you know what they said? Crack the whip, treated everyone the same, better to have nine Mosey Nixon’s than nine Manny Ramirez’s? No, they advocated for kid gloves, a consultative approach and letting the stars do what they do best.

One commentator, developer John Drew, counseled Tito to “handle them all gingerly.” Which sort of sounded, like good advice, but then Jose noticed something. John Drew? That’s remarkably close to the name of Sox outfielder David Jonathan Drew, aka DJ Dru, isn’t it? Jose senses infiltration. So basically what you have in this article, is DJ Dru, in the clever alias of real estate developer John Drew, who Jose assumes, looks just like DJ but wears glasses, advising Tito to give stars all sorts of leeway. And who is in that group of stars? None other than DJ Dru himself.

What’s next? Will Sloan School of Management Professor Manuel R. Amirez appear in the paper advising Eurona to “let players knock off a few days before the All-Star Break, It’s just good business?” Perhaps Green Monster Games President and Founder Curt Euro will counsel Tito to “Let your number one starter stay in until he thinks it’s time to come out?” Maybe CEO of ACME Inc. Wile. E. Mopena, will suggest a new model of exploding bat. (Note: Yes, Jose knows everyone has done Wile E. Coyote jokes for Wily Mo.)
Professor Manuel R. Amirez responds to
charges that his Keynesian beliefs are outdated.

Let’s get serious here. If you want to take a business perspective, don’t ask these squishy soft “modern” business types with their six sigma and their lean manufacturing and their bathroom breaks. No, let’s ask someone who knows how to get the most out of their workers like Henry Clay Frick or Kathie Lee Gifford. What players today need is lower pay, fewer benefits and more hours at the office. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always a skilled 8 year-old who will do the job for half as much.

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

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