Thursday, January 11

Jose Owes You

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

1. Today is Sam Melendez’s birthday. He is turning 27. He would be 29 if not for Ed King. Jose’s father was a Dukakis appointee and Ed King’s 1978 Democratic Gubernatorial primary victory put a dent in his family expansion plans. When Ed King died some months ago, Jose wrote a letter to his father, who lived in Kosovo at the time, suggesting that it might be time to have another baby. None is forthcoming. This is probably good news for Jose’s mother.

Sam is the youngest of the Melendez children after middle child Jose and older brother Jack, who, much like the 2007 Red Sox closer, does not technically exist. He was a fiction created by Jose’s father, after he read an article about how one should never make up older, missing siblings because it will feed into a child’s insecurities. Jose’s father saw this, noted it, and then decided that science, or possibly humor, demanded that he try it. Since then Jack became a cautionary tale of what happens to disobedient children. More recently, to continue the closer analogy, he has become a sort of rotating spot, to be filled by committee. The latest Jack was a 33 year old Kosovar Albanian named Isak, who is easily the best Jack to date. Among the advantages of having Isak fill the Jack role is that he is a Muslim. The Melendez family, which has both Jewish and Christian traditions, has long had a “feast but not fast” approach to holidays, celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Easter and Passover, while ignoring inconveniences like Yom Kippur or Lent. With a Muslim in the family, we can at long last try doing the evening feasts during Ramadan without the annoyance of fasting all day.

But back to Jose’s real brother. It is his birthday today and Jose has not gotten him a gift yet. With only a few hours to go until the party, this might seem like the right time for Jose to flip out like Andy Yount at a grave site, but no, he’s keeping his cool. Thankfully, the Melendez family has a long tradition of IOUs.

Don’t have a gift for an important occasion? No problem, simply present a coupon for “something cool” at a later date. Or don’t present a coupon and offer a firm, binding hand shake. The reason Jose raises this tradition is not only because he plans to pass off this KEY, oh so thoughtfully written, as a birthday present. No, it’s because he believes that this offers the solution to the Red Sox increasingly complex situation with free agent outfielder and shoulder surgery candidate DJ Dru.

Everyone knows Dru will come to the Sox eventually. Now that Dru has failed a physical, he is unlikely to be able to match the three years $33 million he left on the table in Los Angeles anywhere else, and the Red Sox seem unlikely to walk away from such a long coveted trophy. And yet the two sides seem unable to agree on a final deal that will get Dru his money, while protecting the Red Sox from his seemingly inevitable physical breakdown. So here’s the solution—I-O-U. It’s simple, Theo should show up at the next negotiating session with a card—you need to have a card—in a nice envelope with “DJ” written on the front, maybe in calligraphy if there’s a Chinese woman in the office. Inside there should be a card that reads “I owe you one contract. Theo.” If he doesn’t have time to get a good card an index card will do. However, if he does go the index card route, he should use the coupon style of IOU. “This coupon good for one contract. Must be redeemed by 1/11/08.” Then everyone can stop worrying and stop making such a big deal out of it and figure it out later. Now, if you’ll excuse him, Jose has to go find an index card and a Chinese woman.

2. Jose watched as much of President Bush’s speech last night as he could stand. (Note: Remarkably, it was even more painful than the Celtics game.) As he watched, he wondered if Bush really understands what strategy is. Strategy is not just doing the same thing but more so. It almost made Jose wonder if Bush has been taking strategic advice from George Steinbrenner. Whereas Steinbrenner spends $200 million, fails and then assumes the problem is that he didn’t spend enough money on overpriced veterans, Bush responds to four years of a failed war strategy by deciding… eventually… that what he needs to do is the same thing but with more troops.

Actually, Jose is reevaluating this comparison even as he writes it. Sure, Steinbrenner might respond to his problem by doing more of the same, but at least Steinbrenner would have pumped more money in right away, rather than waiting four years, and he would have fired some people for failing to get the job done.

That’s right; we’ve come to the point in American history where George Steinbrenner seems like a better presidential option than the guy in the Oval Office. May God have mercy on us all.

3. Have you noticed that weeks after his acquisition, Jose still hasn’t said a word on reliever Brendan Donnelly? Do you know why? It’s because he’s been doing research, deep, muckraking research. And do you know what he’s learned? Well, Jose doesn’t want to concern you, but he’ not totally convinced that Donnelley can pitch, that he’s ever pitched.

During the course of his investigation Jose unearthed evidence that Donnelly used to be a Congressman for Massachusetts’ 11th district. But guess what? THERE IS NO 11th DISTRICT. It gets worse. Donnelly, while a “Congressman” and candidate for Governor claimed to have played football at Boston University where there is… ready for it? NO FOOTBALL PROGRAM. What’s next? Is he going to claim that he was Ambassador to some magical fantasy country called Trinidad and Tobago?

This brings us to today. Sure Donnelly changed his first name from Brian to Brendan and put on some nerdy glasses and, but he’s not fooling anyone, not anymore. Jose sees no more reason to believe that he’s a pitcher than he does to believe that he was a Congressman or a 1-AA college football star. (Note: Oxymoron.)

So as sad as it may be, Jose has to say count on Jor-El Piniero, count on J.C. Romero, hell, even count on Jullienned Tavarez, but count on B. Donnelly? Fool Jose once, shame on you. Fool Jose, twice? See the wit and wisdom of George Steinbrenner… er… President Bush.

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

Monday, January 8

Rites of Passage, Lefts of Passage

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

1. In our society, as in every other, there are rites of passage, key points that mark major achievements or moments of transition in one’s life. Some are complex ceremonies marking specific accomplishments. A bar mitzvah marks the transition to adulthood as expressed in religious participation. First communion marks arrival at an age where one can choose salvation. Graduation marks the paying of tuition on time and not drinking oneself out of college. Other rites of passage are quieter, without formal pomp yet pregnant with a quiet importance: getting a driver’s license, signing a draft card, casting a first vote, attending a first Red Sox game. And yet there are other rites of passage that lack the ceremonial significance of a graduation and the silent dignity of pledging to kill and die for one’s country if called upon. It is a passage in this third category that Jose has made today. Yes, Jose’s soul is calm with solemnity, his chest expanded with pride… today Jose got his first subpoena.

Now, Jose does not want you, the little people, his faithful readers, to worry that he is going to think he’s better then you just because he has been subpoenaed and you have not. Sure, important government officials, after careful study, have determined that Jose may have information so critical, so important that it could take away a man’s freedom or his money, but that does not mean that Jose is any better than you. No, he is not better, just more important.

And so Jose will share something with you. Because most of you will never be important enough to be subpoenaed, Jose, from his experientially advanced positions will tell you what it’s like.

Being subpoenaed is a little like having a line drive hit directly at you. It is exciting, it makes one feel special and it is potentially dangerous, if one is not careful. Jose doesn’t know yet, but he expects the aftermath is comparable too. In both cases only two things can happen, either everything goes back to normal or one ends up facing serious bills for professional services. (note: legal or medical).

For those of you who are concerned about what Jose has gotten himself into, allow him to reassure you. Jose is not in any kind of trouble, yet he feels that it is best not to offer any specifics until the process is over. He will let you know this much, however. He has not been called in as a character witness against Karim Garcia from his bullpen brawl of some years back. He will not comment on whether it has anything to do with Ugueth Urbina’s machete incident.

2. Jose was originally going to fill this key with all kind of quipy headlines about Randy Johnson’s departure from New York. But then Jose thought better of it and realized that Jose’s readers are sophisticated, worldly sorts. The kind of folks who would get little pleasure from a series of one-liners like “Yanks No Longer Randy, Yet Still Unsatisfied” and other puns concerning states of sexual arousal and male genitalia and, as a last resort, tall jokes.

Instead, Jose will offer some keen analysis on what the Yankees get from this deal. Unfortunately it looks good for the pinstriped pea brains. First, it instantly makes their locker room less ugly. Second, in minor leaguer Alberto Gonzales they pick up a sitting Attorney General who has authorized the use of torture. You know, Steinbrenner has longed for the authority to waterboard for decades (note: how many times did he express a desire to strip Dave Winfield naked and point at his genitals?), and now he has it. A-Rod should be feeling very, very uncomfortable. Third, the Yankees pick up another quality relief arm in Jose Vizcaino and a promising your arm in Ross Ohlendorf. Finally, the acquisition of minor leaguer pitcher Steven Jackson gives the Yankees a prospect who, in addition to having a mean streak, a nasty three point shot, and gun charges pending against him, is also the owner of the role playing game company which produces Car Wars, which is a lot of fun if you are a nerd. Though on the downside, when all of the Yankees are in the clubhouse pregame rolling die to determine whether their turreted recoilless rifles have inflicted any damage on the Killer Kart opposite them during their autoduel at Double Drum in Waco Texas, Jose strongly suspects that everyone will gang up on A-Rod and spray his make-believe car with machine gun fire and flechettes.

Between the torture and the role playing games, it looks like a good trade for the Yankees and a bad trade for Alex Rodriguez.

3. Last week, the Red Sox signed former Mariner’s starter Jor-El Piniero to a $4 million, one-year deal, with the hope that he could be converted into a closer. There’s been a lot of skepticism about this move, but let Jose go on record as saying he loves this deal. Loves it!

Sure his ERA has gone up in every year since 2001. Yes, his K-Rate is way down, and his performance has never really recovered since he suffered an elbow injury. But, if you want to focus on all of these sabermetricy, moneyball, statistical stuff, you aren’t really getting the full picture. Let’s look at the facts:

FACT: The guy is Superman’s father
FACT: He will be the first Red Sox ever to be played in a film by Marlon Brando, though Brando has been rumored as a potential lead in “The El Guapo Story.” (Note: Much like Rich Garces, just because no one’s seen Brando for a while, it doesn’t mean he’s dead.)
FACT: As long as the sun doesn’t turn red, it’s a good bet that he’ll recover from his injuries.

So why shouldn’t the Sox take a chance on him. Would you take a chance on a pitcher named Peter Parker? Or Bruce Banner? Of course you would. In fact the Red Sox can sign any comic book character they want as a closer and Jose will be happy. Unless, it’s Matt Murdoch. Daredevil sucks.

It's like Jose's seeing double

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