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.

Monday, March 5

No News Is Good News

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

1. Amazing. We are now five days into the start of spring training competition and Jose has nothing he want to write about. Usually it takes him a good week or two to get sick of the spring training story lines, but not this year. Nope, this year he was tired of them as soon as they started. Ennui, thy name is spring training.

Jose supposes this is a function of getting older. The same story lines cycle year after year. The names change, but the narratives are timeless. They fall into a few basic categories.

  • The phenom: Some highly touted player has come over by trade, free agency or through the farm system, and everyone is a titter about what he might do. This year it’s Mr. Matsu, last year it was Josh Beckett. Earlier than them it was Pedro, Nomar and probably Harry Hooper if you go back far enough.

  • The distraction: We know this one better than any of them. A player says something, or does something that suggests less than total happiness with the team or his role on it, and everyone in the press takes turns lacing into him. This year it’s Manny. The year before, it was Manny. The year before that it was Manny. The year before that it was M. Ramirez.

    Of course Roger Clemens wearing his headphones while Butch Hobson tried to talk to them was way, way worse.

  • Camp tranquility: This is the one reporters hate, the training camp where everything is peachy keen, no one is demanding a trade, complaining about playing time or going to jail. Jose, on the other hand, loves it, because it makes him think of the Sea of Tranquility on the moon, and he loves space stuff.

  • The surprise: Someone comes out of nowhere to have monstrous spring training. Dave McCarty hits a million home runs, Cesar Crespo hits at all, Pat Lennon looks big and menacing, Conner Henry lights it up, that sort of thing. But you know what? They never pan out, ever. Yay Alberto Castillo has an OPS of 1.600 so far, but do you think he’d half any where close to half of that if he got to play in the regular season? Well, his career .OPS is under .600.
    Still, we can dream.

  • The injury: Nomar’s ankle, Jeff Frye’s knee. You know the story, the lineup is set and then someone has to go and blow out an important body part. Jose hates this story line. Still, if we have to go through this story this season, please let it my Doug Mirabelli’s arteries.

  • The weird injury: A cousin of the injury, this category can be just as devastating to a team yet at least offers some comedic value. Famous examples, include Yankee killer Vaughn “Eshel-K” Eshelman lighting his hotel room (note: and hands) on fire while warming a baby bottle, Wade Boggs “falling from a moving car” and Darren Bragg being eaten by Rich Garces. Jose’s best bet for this year’s weird injury involves Eric Hinske and Polonium-210.

So those are the possible story lines. Take any Red Sox story in the paper and it will fit quite neatly into one of those narratives, which is why spring training is boring.

2. Okay Jose was wrong. He’s man enough to admit it. No, not about everyone hating Bob Stanley, but about there being no interesting story lines in spring training this year. There is one: Who will close?

With Jonathan Paplebon returning to the rotation, the closer spot is wide open, leading some to suggest that the Red Sox may well return to the “closer by committee” approach that was regarded as a disaster in 2003. And while it certainly didn’t go well, Jose would argue that the 2003 relief debacle was not really an indictment of the closer by committee concept, but rather evidence of poor process management. Come on, even the most dimwitted of bureaucrats knows that for a committee to work, you need a carefully constructed set of governance bylaws. Why couldn’t Grady see that?

So with that it mind, Jose has taken the liberty of drafting some bylaws that will establish a process to build consensus to reach conclusions on choosing a baseball pitcher for the purpose of concluding a given baseball contest.

1. Bullpen Coach Gary Tuck shall serve as Chairman of what shell henceforth be known as the Boston Latitudinal Organization With Senior Authority Verifying Endgame Situations, or BLOW SAVES for short.
1A. In the event the bullpen coach is incapacitated (note: or drunk), pitching coach John Farrell shall serves as Chairman Pro Tempore.

2. Each member of the “bullpen” so-called shall receive one vote towards the making of decisions.
2A. Left-handed pitchers, pitching an average of less than 1.0 innings per appearance, “LOOGY’s” so-called, shall receive only one-half of the vote.
2B. The Chairman shall receive one vote
2C. Any “reliever pitcher” so-called making a spot start shall lose the franchise for a period of five games.
2D. The bullpen catcher shall receive one vote, provided it is not Doug Mirabelli, who is too stupid to vote. Doug Mirabelli shall receive negative five votes.

3. With one out in the top half of the fourth inning, the chairman shall distribute an agenda for the day’s committee meeting to all members.
3A. Members shall have until there are two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to submit agenda changes.

4. During the seventh inning stretch, the Chair shall call the committee to order, and, after a vote on the minutes of the previous meeting, which must be adopted by a three-fourths vote on a call of the roll, accept nominations for closer
4A. Any member of the bullpen may be nominated for closer for the day.
4A(i). Except Julian Tavarez
4A(ii). Ever.
4B. To be under consideration, said nominee must receive a second.
4B(i). Anyone calling out “third” will be shot.
4C. After nominations are completed, the chair shall hold a vote by a call of the role
4D. The closer shall be which ever candidate can garner a two-thirds majority of votes.
4E. In the event that no pitcher has received the requisite two-thirds, there shall be a second ballot.
4E(i). Balloting shall continue until one pitcher receives the two-thirds majority or Tito Eurona gets pissed and put Jonathan Paplebon back in the bullpen.

See. Structure. Order. Process. And it should all be clean and straightforward. Unless someone files a motion to reconsider. Then it gets messy.

3.Carl Pavano made a spring training start for the Yankees yesterday, and the Boston Globe gave it an honest to God three-fourths of a column inch. Why would they do that?

Isn’t it time that we stop pretending that Carl Pavano pitching is actually baseball news and put it in the appropriate category. Basically, it’s like a kid with cancer or a 95 year old man coming out to throw the first pitch. Sure, it’s nice that they get to go out there, but their bodies can’t handle the rigors of the game, and there’s no way they’re ever going to pitch in a major league game. You don’t see those stories in the paper, and thus Pavano shouldn’t be there either. They should just let the man through his one pitch from the front of the mound, have Jorge Posada come shake his hand and then have an usher escort him to a seat in section 26 row L.

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