Friday, December 5

End of an Age

NOTE: In the coming weeks, Jose is going to experiment with a change in format, here at the KEYS. Rather than writing long tripartite diatribes every six weeks, he is going to toy with a more traditional blog style of writing short, one-partite diatribes more regularly. We will see how it goes.

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

1. The second great age of rococo is over.

The playfulness and lightheartedness evident in centerfield for the last three years has ended with the trade of Rococo Crisp to the Kansas City Royals for Ramon Ramirez.

Some critics appear thrilled by the end of the era. Noted baseball enthusiast and architect Jacques-Fran├žois Blonde, for instance, heralded the trade as an escape from a "ridiculous jumble of shells, dragons, reeds, palm-trees and plants."

Of course, they are not thinking about what comes next. If history is any guide, the end of a rococo period is followed by the “empire” or neoclassical period. And you know what neoclassical means, right? Greeks and Italians. Of course, Empire means Sith. So expect either Rocco (note: not rococo) Baldelli to be roaming centerfield for the Sox at some point next year or possibly someone named Darth.

2. Back in college, Jose had a few guys he hung out with pretty regularly. A few of them he saw almost every day. They’d shoot the shit, drink some beers and watch some sports. Then graduation came, they moved away and Jose never saw them again, except on facebook, which doesn’t count.

For many of them, once they were gone, as soon as they were gone, Jose realized that he barely knew them at all. That’s how Jose feels about Rococo Crisp. Jose watched the guy most days for three years, and now that he’s gone, Jose feels like he knows almost nothing about him as a player. Is he the guy you can’t sneak a fastball by, or is he the king of groundouts to second? Is he the best centerfielder Jose has ever seen at Fenway or the guy who seemed to be in defensive decline?

Some players, even mediocre ones spend three years here and Jose knows a lot about them--Jose Melendez, for instance. But a serious example would be Bill Mueller. Bill Mueller was here for the exact same amount of time, won the exact same number of World Series and lost the exact same number of ALCSs as Rococo yet Jose feels like he knows him so much better. He knows exactly what kind of a baseball player Bill Mueller was, and he even thinks he has a pretty good grasp on what kind of person he is—a religious fanatic.

Years from now, someone will mention Bill Mueller and Jose will think about his clutch hits, and that he was a “professional hitter.” Yet when someone mentions Rococo Crisp, Jose will, think “Yeah he seemed like a good guy and a decent player, wonder what happened to him?”

And maybe this is a function of the post 2004 ethos. Even the most useless guy on the 2004 team, say Doug Mirabelli gets to be “one of the 25.” On the 2007 team, another dramatic comeback, another World Series, contributing players will be, if not forgotten, at least not cherished. But that’s not how Jose wants it to be. He wants to remember the Rococo era. In fact, he’s going to go buy a painting with shells, dragons, reeds, palm-trees and plants right now.

3. Wow. Dustin Pedroia won the MVP. Really?

Little Dustin Pedroia? Trusty Dusty? This must now move him into the all time elite Dustys along with American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Dusty Springfield. Dusty Baker need not apply. But MVP? We’re talking about the most valuable player MVP? Dusty had a great season and all, but Jose never really saw it coming from the little guy. The last Red Sox MVP outweighed him by approximately 300 lbs.

Maybe this is a different MVP. Could he have been awarded the Midget Veracity Prize for being the most honest little person in baseball? What about the Most Verbal Player, because he can’t shut the hell up? Most Venal Player maybe? No, that’s got to be A.J. Pierzynski. Everyone hates that guy.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that the little second baseman with the”big ol’ swing” was actually the best, the most valuable, the most outstanding player in the American League in 2008. Or maybe it was Albert Belle, he should have won the MVP in 1995 over Mo. He was definitely the league’s most venal player that year.

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