Cafardo Mail Bag: The Blame Game Edition

Chip recaps another crazy edition of the Cafardo mailbag. This week, Red Sox Nation puts aside their desire to trade Youk to point fingers at those responsible for the club's slow start.

John Henry w/ Trophy

Two mailbags in a week!  I’m so excited.

Just a few thoughts.

  • The scouts that claim Jon Lester is throwing too many cutters are idiots.  According to pitch f/x, he’s throwing the fewest cutters in his career.  He’s throwing a lot more sinkers these days.  Additionally, his problem isn’t his cutter, it’s his change-up and curve.  As I mentioned earlier today, he’s nibbling on the corners, and the hitters aren’t biting.  This has contributed to his spike in walks, and decline in strikouts. 
  • Daniel Bard should not move back to the bullpen at this time.  Taking him out of the starter role makes little sense.  Why would you want to limit one of your best pitchers to one inning when he could be pitching six or seven.  The illogical thought processes some people have is simply baffling.
  • Will Middlebrooks is on fire in AAA.  He still has a lot of work to do in terms of learning plate discipline and taking a few extra walks.  Still, I love what I’m seeing out of him.
  • Yeah, Jose Iglesias.  Your glove work is beautiful, but I fear you’re Rey Ordonez redux at the plate.  Unless you’re glove can consistently save the Red Sox 20-30 runs, I don’t want you starting.
  • Matt Barnes.  Oh, how I have a major mancrush on you right now.  You battled Orioles super prospect Dylan Bundy last night in a prospect pitching duel for the ages.  Your nine strikeouts in five innings makes me all warm and tingly inside.  You complete me.  Please hurry to the majors.
  • Carl Crawford‘s elbow injury is worrying me a lot more than his wrist.  We need a healthy Crawford really badly right about now.  Oh, and in case you didn’t see this…he’s going to visit Dr. James Andrews, which is code for “Holy effing crap, we’re screwed.”
  • Dear Roy Oswalt:  Stop being a douchebag, and sign with the Red Sox already.
  • Dear Vicente from Columbia:  Keep writing into the Cafardo mailbag.  I really love how you continue to pester Nick Cafardo about Ryan Sweeney being Fred Lynn-like.  I couldn’t disagree more, but I love seeing Cafardo get all hot and bothered when you troll the hell out of him.
  • Rich Hill is not the answer to all of our problems, but his presence in Boston won’t hurt. 
  • I know Mike Aviles is hitting the cover off of the ball right now, but can anyone explain why he’s allowed to hit leadoff?  He doesn’t get on base well (career .315 OBP), and he’s not a particularly great baserunner.  I don’t really see the upside to hitting him out of that spot long-term.
  • The Red Sox starting pitching staff has allowed 27 home runs in 142 innings.  Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Mark Melancon have allowed 17 of them in 44-2/3 innings.  All I have to say is thank god for regression toward the mean.
  • When Scott Atchison is by far the most reliable arm in your bullpen, something has gone horribly wrong…and in this case, I think we all can agree this is the case.

Ok, enough of that.  On to the mailbag!

Why is hardly any blame for the team’s poor start is being directed toward the upper management and ownership? Ownership and upper management do the hiring, firing and most importantly, the signing of players and hiring staff members. So I don’t want to hear that it’s all Bobby Valentine’s fault or just the player’s fault. Thoughts?

Why are you asking the question if your mind is already made up?  Seems kind of silly.  No?

Yes, ownership and front office management handle personnel duties.  They hire, fire, make trades, sign free agents, etc.  They’re the ones that build the team that gets put on the field.  Surely, they deserve a large share of the blame.  Still, the players (in particular, the pitchers) are the ones that aren’t performing like they should be performing.  As such, they deserve a portion of the blame as well. 

As for Bobby Valentine, his bullpen management has been called into question by several people on more than a couple of situations during this young season.  While I admitted his management wasn’t at fault during Saturday’s collapse, he’s certainly made some very questionable calls that either cost the Red Sox games, or at least hurt their chances of mounting a comeback.  Again, he deserves part of the blame as well.

Alright, maybe blame is the wrong word on all parts.  We’re only 16 games into the season, and the Red Sox are only 3.5 back of the back in the AL East.  Last season, they started 2-10, only to go 81-41 over their next 122 games.  I’m not saying that we’re about to see a repeat of last year’s mid-season rampage, but I am saying the season is far from over.  Over the next four weeks, the Red Sox are playing the Twins, White Sox, A’s, Orioles, Royals, Indians, and Mariners.  They should be able to turn things around during that time.  If they can’t, then you’ll have something to complain about. 

Why platoon guys if they start hitting well?

Simple…because history tells us they’re platoon players.  Anyone can hit well over a short period of time, but eventually they’ll regress toward the mean.  Cody Ross might be hammering the ball right now, but his past performance tells us he’s pretty mediocre against right-handing pitching.  In contrast, Ryan Sweeney hits righties pretty well, but can’t hit left-handed pitching to save his soul.  A strict platoon might not be the best solution, but it certainly puts both players in a better position to succeed long-term, even if it hurts them in the short-term. 

Do you know of any local businessman/group who might have an interest in buying John Henry’s share of the Red Sox? Jonathan Kraft comes to mind. I just think that Henry is too involved with his many outside interests and his first priority is no longer the Red Sox. If Jonathan Kraft is half the owner his dad is, I think that would great for this team. Your thoughts?

Wait a second.  Let me get this straight.  You feel John Henry is involved with too many outside interests to make the Red Sox his first priority, but you think Jonathan Kraft, a man who is heavily involved with both the Patriots and the Revolution, will have more time to make the Red Sox his first priority?  Seriously, dude.  You’ve been reading way too much Shaughnessy, and it’s starting to rot your brain.

While we’re on the subject though, Henry appears to be very actively involved with the day-to-day operations with the Red Sox.  Yes, he owns the Liverpool Football Club.  Yes, he owns Roush Racing.  Yes, he spends a ton of time managing his multi-billion dollar hedge fund.  As an experienced, high-powered executive, it’s his job to let his people get into the weeds on low priority issues.  He shouldn’t have to get involved with every little issue the media tries to stir up.  If you’re hoping for someone more like George Steinbrenner, you’re following the wrong team.  Henry helped bring us two championships, and ponied up nearly $180M this season to field this club.  Get on board.

If Ben Cherington can solidify the bullpen, the season may not be lost, right?

Lost?  Well, probably not lost, but it’ll certainly be a huge challenge.  Keep in mind that the Red Sox had a pretty brutal bullpen in 2003 and they came within a Grady Little eff-up from making it to the World Series.  Also, that bullpen didn’t come together until September/October timeframe.  If the offense can be productive, and the starting pitching can pitch up to it’s talent level; the Red Sox will be fine.

Is Marlon Byrd going to be the answer to the Red Sox’ problems?

He’s definitely not Mr. Right, but he’s certainly Mr. Right Now–and that’s ok.  As a right-handed bat that can play all three outfield positions, he offers the Red Sox some flexibility once Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford return to action.  For starters, he makes Ryan Sweeney expendable.  If Sweeney can continue to produce at a high level (lord knows he won’t continue to hit this well), we might be able to package him in a deal to bring back some bullpen reinforcements or (depending on the package) a mid-to-back of the rotation starter.

Either way, Byrd should be a league average hitter and defender.  Right now, that sounds pretty good to me. 

What is up with John Maine? I read the Sox signed him to a minor league deal, but I have not heard anything since. There was mention of using him in the bullpen.

He’s still in extended spring training, but I wouldn’t expect too much out of him.  Additionally, he’s not on the 40-man roster, so someone will need to be DFA’d if he gets called to the majors.  Considering his past injury and performance issues, he’d really have to knock the Red Sox out to get a call-up.

I was wondering why the Redsox are waiting to bring up Aaron Cook from Pawtucket? Also, if this occurs, do you think Daniel Bard will be asked to close out games?

I’m not terribly impressed with Cook’s performance so far.  Yes, he’s getting groundballs, and his 1.33 ERA in 27 innings is superficially nice.  I get that.  Still, I can’t help but notice his woefully mediocre 8/9 K/BB ratio, and wonder if his performance is something of a mirage.  His FIP, a statistic that attempts to remove defense from a pitcher’s ERA, currently sits at 4.09.  That’s a pretty big variance.  As a groundball pitcher, much of his success will be dictated by the quality of the infield defense that fields behind him.  Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, and (for two of his starts) Pedro Ciracio were three of those fielders; all of whom are solid-to-plus defenders.  If you promoted Cook to Boston would he be just as fortunate?  With Kevin Youkilis and Mike Aviles patrolling the left side of the infield, my guess is probably not. 

I’m not saying Cook can’t succeed in Boston.  I’m only trying to temper expectations.  Cook has performed well, but he’s getting a lot of help.

Five home runs off Beckett, five home runs off Buchholz, and the common denominator was Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the catcher. He sets up his target poorly. He is way past the time he should go to the Mariners or Royals or down to the farm. What do you think time for a change at catcher?

Unless Salty is also pitching, I’m not really sure I see your point.  The pitcher, not the catcher, is the one mostly at fault.  Even if he put down the perfect target for Josh Beckett or Clay Buchholz, it doesn’t mean either pitcher will throw it directly to the target.  If anyone deserves the blame for the terrible location that caused both pitchers to give up five home runs each, it’s Beckett and Buchholz.

Categories: Aaron Cook Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford Clay Buchholz Cody Ross David Ortiz Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jon Lester Josh Beckett Kevin Youkilis Mark Melancon Matt Barnes Nick Cafardo Mail Bag Ryan Sweeney Scott Atchison

After being slapped with a restraining order for stealing Nick Cafardo's mail, I was forced into retirement for a brief period of time. As fun as it was to lounge around the community pool and play shuffleboard with noted internet columnist, Murray Chass, I quickly felt a yearning to write again. Now in my second tenure with Fire Brand, I have set lofty goals of achieving world domination, ending the plight of the hipsters, and becoming BFFs with Mike Trout. I am fluent in two languages (Sarcasm and English, in that order); have an intimate relationship with M&Ms; firmly believe that Lucille is the best character on Arrested Development; and spend my spare time trolling select members of the Boston media. You can follow me on Twitter @Chip_Buck.

8 Responses to “Cafardo Mail Bag: The Blame Game Edition” Subscribe

  1. Danny April 25, 2012 at 4:21 PM #

    These mailbags make me so happy. You suggest we should trade Ryan Sweeney, though – why on Earth would we want to trade the next Fred Lynn?!

    In all seriousness, though, my question is what might be a realistic expectation for when we can see Ryan Lavarnway move up to the major league club? I find myself rather excited for the Jarrod Saltalamacchia era to end.

    • ChipBuck April 25, 2012 at 6:09 PM #

      When I started doing the mailbag, I initially intended it to be a joke between Matt Kory of Over the Monster and I. We both marveled at the quality of some of the questions, and knew the bag needed to be redone in a semi-joking sort of way. I had no idea people would love (and request that I continue doing) my version.

      I don't want to trade Sweeney, but it's certainly an option. I would love to see Lavarnway up in the majors before too long, but I don't think Salty has been as bad as some make it out to be. Let's give him a little more time before passing judgment. Still, I'm hopeful Lava can step up his game defensively, so he can be a legit starter at catcher.

      • Danny April 25, 2012 at 9:20 PM #

        It's not so much that I dislike Saltalamacchia – he's got solid power and he's not the worst defensive catcher we've trotted out there – I just really like the way Lavarnway's hitting the ball in the minors right now. He does need to improve his defense, I agree, but we did survive with Victor Martinez behind the plate. I think if he can maintain this level of performance in the minors for another month or two, it might be time to make the switch. Just my thinking, though.

  2. Mr Punch April 26, 2012 at 1:08 PM #

    I don't think the thought processes around Bard are baffling at all – - a lot of fans, maybe most, thought all along that the Sox were butchering the reconstruction of their pitching staff. And they seem to have been right, although yes, it is probably too late to reverse course. Problem number one: no effective middle relief or closer; problem number two: a weak and unreliable starting rotation, including the "solid" 1-2-3 guys (one of whom has reached 100 IP only once, then got hurt). The obvious answer to the first was to move Bard to closer and keep Aceves, pretty much the only good middle reliever in baseball, where he was. The obvious answer to the second was to get a couple of actual starting pitchers, who could at least be counted on to eat some innings. It's hardly "baffling" that fans think the Sox should have done the obvious instead of trying tricky moves that failed.

    • ChipBuck April 26, 2012 at 2:35 PM #

      The baffling idea is that people think that pitching 70 innings is more valuable than pitching 160 innings, which is rarely the case. I don't doubt that people could legitimately question the construction of the pitching staff. That makes sense. To be fair, the relief corps was constructed well at the top prior to the season starting even with Bard in the rotation. Bailey is a proven closer, and Melancon has a history of being a groundball machine with a nasty hook that is more than capable of setting up. Bailey got hurt, and Melancon is mechanically out of whack. It happens. If Bailey and Melancon are healthy, Aceves isn't closing. It's that simple.

      Furthermore, the pitching wasn't really available for price the Red Sox were interested in paying. I can hardly blame them. The obtainable pitchers had unreasonable contract expectations. The tradeable commodities were nice, but the Red Sox matched up poorly in terms of prospects. I'm not sure what you were realistically expecting to happen in these cases.

    • Danny April 26, 2012 at 2:48 PM #

      Who do you recommend they pull out of their magic hat in free agency this offseason? CJ Wilson? Too expensive. Roy Oswalt? Didn't want to play here. It's all fine and good to say "They didn't do enough," but you don't acknowledge that they didn't have many great options.

      • ChipBuck April 26, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

        Agreed. Edwin Jackson's demands were pretty out of control as well until the 11th hour. The one that they could have had was Hiroki Kuroda, but word was that deal came together very quickly and unexpectedly.

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