'Jarrod Saltalamacchia' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Oh, no he didn’t!  He don’t know Nick!  He don’t know Nick!  Shut up!  Shut up!  You know he looks good.  You just jealous!

Oh, I’m sorry.  I was just channeling my “Jerry Springer white trash” persona for a second.  Why would I do taht, you ask?  Well, in today’s Cafardo mailbag, something very strange happens.  Apparently, there are a few readers that are less than impressed with Nick’s sassy answers to some of the questions.  (Thank god they don’t read my responses.  In some cases, they’d be really pissed.)  Even better than the reader snapback is that Nick channels his inner “Dee, the sarcastic sister from What’s Happening,” and responds in kind with answers dripping with so much sarcasm and disdain, it’s almost obscene.  It’s truly a delight to read.

Without further adieu, let’s get on with the mailbag!

Thanks for keeping us in the loop with inside perspective. Did the Red Sox decision-makers totally disregard past performance? Given the minor league history of Daniel Bard as a starting pitcher, please give the rationale on his chances of success as a major league starter. Am I mistaken that Bard’s baseball career was in jeopardy as a starter due to extreme wildness? Who exactly were the proponents of his change to starter status with the current club?

Bard’s previous history shouldn’t have been factored into the decision making process at all.  Yes, Bard struggled to the tune of 78 walks in 75 innings while pitching at two different levels of A-ball.  That was back in 2007.  In the years since, he’d developed into a completely different pitcher capable of completely dominating hitterss.  Whiel this transition occurred after his move to the bullpen, there wasn’t any reason to think he’d revert back to his wild ways.

Based on everything I’ve read, this move was made by the front office, early in the offseason.  They made the move in hopes of maximizing the value Bard could provide.  At the time, it was absolutely the correct move.  I’d rather have six solid innings out of a starter than one inning out of a reliever any day of the week.  It hasn’t worked out as well as we hoped, but all isn’t lost.  His baseball career is not in jeopardy.  His issues appear to be mechanical, not mental.  Allowing him some time in AAA to get back on track might be exactly what he needs to become an effective Major League starter.

The Sox have an excess of lefthanded-hitting outfielders and a righthanded hitting outfielder, Juan Carlos Linares, hitting the cover off the ball in the minors over the last few seasons. Darnell McDonald has proven he can’t hit major league pitching and Linares could give them same balance in the lineup. Kids like Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks have given this team a big shot in the arm and Linares could help do the same. Why aren’t they giving him a look especially with all the injuries they’ve had?

Hooray!!!  More Linares Kool-Aid!  While Linares is hitting the cover off of the ball (.344/.422/.586) this season, he’s doing so as a 27-year old in AA.  Honestly, if he’s not hitting the cover off of the ball in AA at this point, it’s pretty freaking sad.  Also, where is this idea that he’s been an offensive juggernaut for the “last few seasons.”   It’s simply not true.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at his baseball reference page.  He’d racked up 128 plate appearances prior to this season.  That’s hardly enough to get excited about.

Lastly, can we please stop calling Daniel Nava a kid?  He’s 29 years old, and he’s older than Dustin Pedoria, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Jarrod Saltalamachhia, Ryan Sweeney, Jon Lester, Franklin Morales, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Mark Melancon, Junichi Tazawa, and Clayton Mortensen.  Go ahead though, you guys.  Keep calling him a kid.

Given the way Jarrod Saltalamacchia is performing — do you see the Sox possibly looking at Lavarnway as trade bait now?

I don’t know if they’d necessarily dangle Ryan Lavarnway as trade bait, but Ben Cherington and company will certainly entertain offers that include him.  And why not?  Salty is hitting like a man possessed over his last 36 games, producing a sensational .319/.359/.655 line with 20 extra base hits during that stretch.  Will he continue to hit at this level?  Doubtful, but it appears he’s going to be a pretty solid offensive catcher over the next few years.  Plus, Kelly Shoppach is playing very well on both sides of the coin.  Unless one of them gets hurt, I don’t see an easy path for Lavarnway to reach the majors this season.

What do you think of Kevin Youkilis to the Reds, Matt Garza to the Sox and prospects from both teams to the Cubs?

I can envision scenarios where Youk goes to the Reds, but Garza seems like a pipe dream.  It never ceases to amaze me who Red Sox Nation (and the Yankee Universe for that matter) get fixated obtaining a certain pitcher or two as if it’s destiny they get traded to Boston.  Felix Hernandez and Garza seem to be those guys.

Furthermore, I don’t see the Red Sox trading away too many prospects considering how thin they are at the upper levels of the system.  Things are looking bright in low-A Greenville and high-A Salem, but the potentail drops off considerably once you start looking at AA Portland.  Unless a premium player comes by at the right price (and Garza is not that player), I think the front office will hold onto their highest leverage chips in hopes of strengthening the club’s future outlook.

Why is Scott Atchison so effective? He doesn’t have blazing speed nor mystifying breaking stuff. It is such an amazing story.

Right now, he’s doing a great job throwing strikes, inducing ground balls, and keeping the ball in the yard.  I can see him continuing to do two out of those three things all season.  Eventually though, he’s going to give up a few long balls.  It’s inevitable for pitchers that live around the strikezone as much as he does; even groundball heavy guys like Atchison.  I think he’ll be effective the rest of the way, but expect his ERA to climb into the 3s before the end of the season.

Even though the All-star game is a popularity contest, is there any chance that Mike Aviles and Scott Atchison get the credit that they deserve?

No to both.  Aviles has played well above expectation, but he creates far too many outs to be considered among the best players in the game.  It’s that simple.  As for Atchison…he’s been very good, but he hasn’t be used in high leverage situations.  If he were producing these numbers while pitching in a lot of high pressure situations, you’d have an argument.

In another example of who’s running the asylum: When Pedroia said he was playing Tuesday, he was asked if the Sox had given him the green light to play.  His response was: “They don’t tell me anything, man. I play Tuesday. I’ll see you guys there.” Even with his status, after the way his rebuke of Valentine was taken earlier this season, can’t he see that he comes off entitled and above reproach? Who is in charge over there?

While his statement came across as a bit brazen and ill-considered, I don’t have any problem with it.  Too frequently, we complain about injured players not taking the field.  J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Carl Crawford are great examples of players we’ve highly critical of for being hurt.  I kinda like the fact Pedroia took charge, and showed enthusiasm about getting back onto the field.  That said, if management told him he wasn’t going to play, he wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter.  It’s that simple.

I notice that when Lavarnway doesn’t catch (I know he can’t catch all the time) at Pawtucket, he rarely is at DH. Why don’t they DH him more often to give him more at bats, considering he is one of the organization’s top prospects?

Catching is pretty mentally and physically draining, and he needs a few days off here and there.  Also, Lavarway has already shown he can hit AAA pitching.  Getting a few additional plate appearances by DHing more frequently is helpful, but unnecessary at this point.

Once everyone gets back healthy, do you replace Daniel Nava (if he is still playing at a high level) for Carl Crawford?

Is this a serious question?  Of course you replace Nava with Crawford when he returns.  Crawford is a perennial All-Star who’s only 30 years old that’s making $20M per season.  While his tenure in Boston has been less than favorable to date, there’s no reason to throw in the towel just yet; especially with five-plus years remaining on his deal.  This isn’t like the Mike Trout/Vernon Wells situation out in Los Angeles of Anaheim.  Nava isn’t a super prospect.  In fact, he’s not even a prospect at all.  He’s a 29 year old organizational soldier with the upside of a fourth outfielder.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to be realistic about player evaluations and potential.

I would like to add that Nava has been a huge surprise and a fantastic story this season.  Honestly, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.  I’ve had a few encounters with him on Twitter over the past several months, and he’s shown to be open, affable, and genuinely kind.  I hope he has a chance to remain on remain on the Red Sox’s 25-man roster all season, but it seems unlikely with the glut of outfielders about to return.  If not the Red Sox, there are plenty of other teams that could use a guy like him on their roster.

I realize that the bullpen has developed into a strength, but why have they not brought Mark Melancon back up. He has been lights-out in Pawtucket.

This is an excellent question, and it’s one that I’ve been asked frequently.  The “issue” (and I just that in the loosest way possible) is they already have a fully-functioning seven man bullpen.  The better question is this:  Who do you demote or designate for assignment in order to promote Melancon?  The most obvious choice is Vicente Padilla, but his versatility makes him a tough candidate to drop.  To be fair, Melancon isn’t the only reliever that’s languishing in Pawtucket.  Clayton Mortensen and Junichi Tazawa are also stuck there despite pitching well,

Making matters even more complex is the looming return of Andrew Bailey.  He’ll most certainly be added back to the major league roster once he finishes his minor league rehab assignment.  When that happens, someone deserving may end up being demoted, traded, or DFA’d.

Nick, why do you answer silly questions, .ike why doesn’t Middlebrooks play second? Hello? Try this — if he continues to progress at a quick rate, where do you see Xander Bogaerts fitting in with the big club? Infield will be covered by the time he arrives.

BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  That was so amazing, I wish I’d sent this in myself.  Still, I love Nick’s response even better.

“I like to. I’m answering this one.”

Well played, Cafardo.  Well played.

On to the second part of the question.  Based on everything I’ve read, Bogaerts is expected to “out grow” shortstop at some point in the relatively near future.  With first (Adrian Gonzalez), second (Dustin Pedroia), and third (likely Will Middlebrooks) already covered for the foreseeable future, it looks like Bogaerts is destined for the outfield.

Funny thing is that the outfield is starting to look potentially crowded as well.  Crawford is under contract through 2017, and Ellsbury could end up re-signing to a long-term deal after the 2013 season.  Outside of those two, Ryan Kalish, Bryce Brentz, Jackie Bradley, and Brandon Jacobs are all looking like legitimate candidates to fill a major league outfield spot.  If anything, it looks like Bogaerts has some serious competition.

Why do you feel the need to give smart-aleck answers? Like the one about Middlebrooks playing second. You answer because he’s a third baseman. Or your remark to a question about Ortiz bunting. In any profession including pro baseball you need to be versatile, continue learning and improving yourself to remain competitive. I see nothing wrong with Ortiz learning to bunt (which he could have mastered years ago) or Middlebrooks giving short or second a try. These guys are athletically gifted and paid very well to boot. Heck, Adrian Gonzalez is holding his own in right. Dial that pitching machine up to 90 and have Ortiz bunt 50 times every day. If he starts putting bunts down third imagine what his average would be. Middlebrooks could spend time at short or second before every game. so enough with the smart-aleck answers and stop giving the guys a pass.

Holy crap!  What is going on here?  Why are people attacking Nick?  I don’t understand!  Still, let’s see how Nick responded…

“OK Jeff, I’ll get the bunting machine ready for Ortiz. That’s what I want my biggest slugger to do, bunt. I’m sure the opposition would love it. As I answered in a previous question, Middlebrooks did take grounders at short and second as an emergency when Pedroia got hurt. Hope that satisfies you.”

What has gotten into Nick?  He’s being a smartass now?  That’s my job!  I’m the one who’s supposed to sarcastically make fun of the people sending in questions!  I’m supposed to be the one that makes them feel stupid!  This is completely unacceptable!  Stop stealing my schitck, Nick!

Other than swinging the bat, what is Saltalamacchia really doing that well? With five errors, Salty leads the AL and is just one back of the overall MLB leader. He stands alone in MLB play with a catcher’s ERA of 4.97. No other qualifying catcher is close. His caught stealing percentage at 14.3 is also almost the worst in the combined big leagues. No way he can make up for the runs he costs us behind the plate with his bat. That’s why I say trade him while he’s hot. Some teams need that offense a lot more than we do and might overlook the shortcomings. Salty is a good kid with his heart in the right place, but I’d like to see Lavarnway given the chance.

Alright.  It’s time for me to take the Cafardo mailbag, and restore the douchiness to it’s rightful place.  Errors?  CERA?  Sweet Jesus, that’s bad.  Those might be two of the worst metrics every created.  How anyone quote CERA with a straight face and not take into account the obvious flaws involved is beyond me.  The catcher has no control over the defense behind the pitcher.  He force the pitcher to throw the pitch he wants in the location he wants it.  He can’t force the pitcher to deliver a pitcher faster so he can throw out a base runner.

I’m not saying the catcher has no impact over a pitcher’s performance.  He does.  Unfortunately, CERA is the furthest thing away from a reliable metric as you’ll find.  Please, for the love of god, stop using it.