I have been stoked about this one for a full week now. Last week, my predecessor on this beat (twitter handle chip_buck) went on a tweeted rant about this mailbag, and it lives up to its head scratch worthiness.

In full editorial honesty, I remain unsure if the joke is on the questioners, the answers, the questions chosen, or if I exist to answer the questions differently. Either way, I struggle to understand how one of the most prestigious papers in America – the home of Peter Gammons – runs this as serious journalism.

With that off my chest, here goes:

(Key Bold/Italics is Cafardo’s opening, Bold is question asked, italics is Cafardo’s answer, my response plain text)


FORT MYERS, Fla. – I can’t tell you how many e-mails I get from fans wondering if the Red Sox constructed their team in such a way that they can trade a few players off at the trading deadline and obtain prospects.

While that could be the byproduct of signing veteran complimentary players, one would hope that the Boston Red Sox, a big market team, would not have that solely in their mind when putting together a team.

It seems that nothing is ever the sole reason a player is signed. However, there is sense to the questions. Good players at movable contracts are very valuable in July annually. Therefore, if this mix does not work, it can be blown up easily. That is the secondary benefit of these deals.

Surely the team desires that this group wins the World Series, but they have to know that a World Series is never, statistically speaking, likely. Therefore, a team that makes sabermetric and financial sense that can also be broken down easily in the name of 2014, if and only if necessary, makes good business sense. That is not being small market. That is not being short sighted. That is not not trying to win.

Don’t we all want to believe that they constructed a team that can win?


Evidently, there’s not a lot of confidence that this group will.

Not that at all. Again, after last year, there is lower optimism in this season, but there is a heightened optimism for the Pedroia, Bogaerts, Bradley, Webster, Barnes, Middlebrooks teams of the near future.

Because the Red Sox overpaid on some for these players for shorter commitments, not sure many of them would be able to be moved. Certainly not Shane Victorino, who was given a three-year, $39-million deal. Who knows, you may all be right – maybe this team was put together so it can be sold off at the trading deadline.

You mean the man from Hawaii? Everyone loves him! This is a league that has seen Crawford and Vernon Wells traded in the last few years. Who’s contracts have ever been more unmovable than theirs? (The AL East thanks Los Angeles!)

Strange and sad, if it’s come to that for the Boston Red Sox.

Congrats on missing the point of the conversation!

Here’s the mailbag:

Do you think that the Sox’ strategy in signing the free agents, and trading for Hanrahan, that they signed this offseason was to stockpile talent for the July 31st trade deadline in order to acquire prospects? Sounds like a good plan to me.

George, Andover, Mass.

That could be George, but what a ridiculous strategy for a big market team if that’s the case. You build a team in the offseason so you can trade them? Who would take Victorino’s contract? Napoli could be dealt, I suppose if someone just wants a half-year fix. Gomes has a two-year, $10 million deal. He was overpaid. Hanrahan could be traded. But again, why would you build a team so you can trade them at midseason? I can see a smaller team doing something like for draft picks, but the Boston Red Sox?

Redundant. But seriously, this whole big market/small market discussion is a 90’s conversation, right? It’s nice to have the cash – I would not want to be the Kansas City Royals or Milwaukee Brewers – but that is not the be all/end all of winning anymore. Smart, measured, home grown teams with movable/versatile parts seems to be the new process far more than free agent splashes.

Everything I’m reading about Jackie Bradley, Jr., seems a bit like deja vu all over again. Any of those statements could have been made 60-plus years ago when Willie Mays came up. Can you compare Jackie Bradley to Willie Mays?

Maggie, Burlington, Vt. 

Is the future for Jackie Bradley? Book your 2030 trip for the unveiling of his statue! Pic credit to wallyg via flickr

Not quite ready to do that Maggie. Bradley has very good skills and like any young player, we’ll see how he adapts to the major leagues at some point. I still believe the Red Sox will send him back to the minors, but at least they’re thinking boldly about
keeping him.

Wait, Nick, you did not strongly condemn the comparison? Strongly? Like swat it harder than a Dikembe Mutombo finger wagging blocked shot? How did this question even slip through? You know what Jackie Bradley and Willie Mays have in common? They play center and they share similar epidermis pigmentation.

Listen, no one is more excited about Jackie Bradley than I am, but we are talking about a player who is ranked as roughly the 30-40th best minor leaguer in baseball today. Mays is, conservatively, one of the three best center fielders in history.

They do not even play the same style of game. No one thinks Bradley will club anywhere in the neighborhood of 660 MLB home runs.

So, recap. Be excited for Bradley, he is a good hitter, has advanced patience, takes great routes to the ball in center. Do not compare him to the first great African American ball player you can think of. He has not seen the inside of a AAA stadium yet. Be patient.


As someone who hasn’t followed much of spring training until this year, what are the things to watch out for if I’m trying to get an idea of how specific players are going to do on the season? I know this is a very uncertain science, but I’d be curious to hear what you consider as ‘good signs’ for a batter in spring training.

Alex, Cambridge, Mass.

I’ve been to about 29 of these in my career and I can tell with certainty that there’s no way to measure that. Sometimes pitchers who look like they’re in great shape and throw the ball well have bad years. Guys who are fat and throw poorly have good ones. Honestly, the only thing you watch for is a young player who is making a bid to stick – like a Jackie Bradley – or an older player who looks like he might be at the end of the line.

Fair enough. Nothing to see here.

How would you feel about Mark Cuban buying the Red Sox?

Eddie, Waterford

I like Mark Cuban. He’d be great. But I have no problem with the current owners. They brought two championships to Boston. They’ve gone through a drought recently, but they’ve committEd Huge resources to this team. Their baseball operations people
just haven’t made the right decisions lately. We’ll see if that begins to change this season.

I also have little to no problem with the owners. Moaning about them is best left to the Bostondirtdogs(.com). That said, does it not seem like the columnists vilify the ownership while the beat guys seem to adore them. Am I wrong here? Is there a good cop, bad cop thing they have going on?

And, again, why this off the wall, speculative, irrelevant question? Are there no interesting questions being asked? Are these purposeful trolls to get Nick going? Are the serious baseball fans over Nick?

I know that Hanrahan is the closer, but to me the prime candidate would be Tazawa. He has it all: low walk total, rich velocity, durability, and a nice repertoire of pitches. He would be lights out in the 9th.

Ethan, Medford, Mass.

If Hanrahan falters you could see something like that. Don’t forget, also, that Tazawa has options, and if the Red Sox find themselves in a roster pickle at the end of camp, don’t be surprised to see Tazawa start at Triple-A. He had a great second half last season. He’s highly regarded by the Red Sox, but I think they would go to Andrew Bailey first and then Tazawa.

All true. All sensible. Also, don’t forget, the ninth inning is not necessarily the highest leverage situation for a bullpen. If Tazawa continues his 2012 second half, I would love to have him available for one out first and third situations in the 7th.

Frankly, I am not sure Hanrahan is made for those situations as much as he is starting an inning. It would be an interesting study/experiment.

Who has been the biggest surprise of spring training so far? Also, what is the ideal outfield setup with Ellsbury and Bradley Jr., on the same team?

Joe, Syracuse, NY

In that scenario, Bradley moves to a corner. We saw what happened when Ellsbury moved to left a couple of years ago. He’s also the veteran and an excellent center fielder, so he would remain there. My guess is they’d use Bradley mostly in left with Jonny Gomes in a platoon, but they’d get him time in center and right as well.

OMG! The fluke injury where Beltre got to a spot on the field that ONLY Beltre could get to from the 3b position? That ends it? To some degree, if the reports from Keith Law and others are true, and the inconsistent fielding metrics on Ellsbury are also true, there would be some sense to having Ellbry bring his weaker arm to left.

While Bradley is no Roberto Clemente, I did see him last year throw a ball on one hop from the right centerfield fence to third base. So, he is not Johnny Damon either.

Nick, please do not let fluke injuries interfere with the process. Chances are that Bradley would play in left (assuming this conversation isn’t moot from the start), but let’s not base that on one injury a few years back.

Pedro Ciriaco can easily fill in at 2d, 3d, SS, and with some more practice, he can play outfield. He has proven that he is a real gamer and things seem to happen when he is in the lineup. Do you think ownership will value him enough to keep him ?

Dana, Los Angeles

I would think so. You’re already hearing John Farrell say they want to get a long look at Brock Holt. While Holt is a better hitter, he doesn’t create the excitement on the bases, nor do I think he plays shortstop as well as Ciriaco. Holt seems to be a second baseman, who can fill in at third and short, but Ciriaco can legitimately play shortstop and did a nice job at third base when Will Middlebrooks was injured. He was also “Bobby V’s guy” so who knows if that becomes a factor in the final decision.

He’s a gamer and creates excitement on the bases? Are these terms that are acceptable to evaluate a baseball player effectively in a post-Moneyball/Bill James world?

Let’s be honest, it is optimal to have Stephen Drew start 150 games at short. If he is injured, Iglesias or perhaps Bogaerts would likely be brought up. I am not sure that Ciriaco’s better glove at SS offsets what Brock Holt could do at the plate. If Holt could handle 2b, 3b, ss at an even adequate level, and have an OBP of roughly .350, he would likely provide more wins than Ciriaco.

That said, Ciriaco is an interesting, if limited, player. The fact that there is an interesting conversation over our backup infielder is encouraging. Options are good, and it is better than wondering who your fourth starter or staring first baseman will be.

We’ve heard several times that Felix Doubront reported to camp out of shape. For a professional athlete, what exactly is “out of shape”?

Brian, Whately, Mass.

In his case he had a bit of a belly and his arm strength wasn’t where it should have been. I suppose it’s different for everyone. Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey don’t look like they’re in great shape, but they don’t seem to look any different [sic] than they normally do.

“I suppose (???) it is different for everyone.” You have been to 29 of these, as you stated in this article, have told us not to read anything into Spring (except young people and old people), and yet you can only suppose here? Make an analysis. Say something. The first line was sufficient. You could have blasted him for it, or soothed the concerns of your readers. In the end, we are unsure of what is really being said other than, simply, I do not know…

Haven’t read much of anything about Ryan Dempster this spring. How has he looked and what is your expectation of what he can do for the team this year?

Michael, Salt Lake City

Dempster had a very good debut on Tuesday. He’s a professional pitcher, whose career has been saved with a good split-fingered fastball. Farrell said if he can get north of 180 innings out of him, he feels he’ll be effective.

He’s a profession pitcher? Was he semi-professional last year? I’ve been to those Independent League games before. I’m pretty sure that is the first league that is semi-professional. Was he pitching for the St. Paul Saints last year?

Or asked this way: what is Felix Doubrant? Is he too young to be a “professional” pitcher?

Also – whatever the definition of “professional” pitcher is, does it include a guy who needs his career to be “saved?”

And, while I am losing my mind, I may as well call out John Farrell. Is there any correlation between gross innings pitched and effectiveness? Is he saying that if you see him out there for 180 innings it will only be because he hasn’t been brutal? Is he saying his only value is as an “innings eater?” What does this line mean?

An unorthodox proposal: Have pitchers during the season follow the routine being used now at the beginning of spring training. Have multiple pitchers pitch just one or two innings. Any one pitcher would probably pitch every other day.

George, Boston

Unorthodox it is. Wouldn’t be shocked if it came to this, but it won’t because salaries would have to be reduced and the Players Association would cry bloody murder. Starting pitchers determine the pay scale. Colorado has started the 75-pitch limit for starters and it was fairly effective last season.

(A) Teams exist to win, not to appease the players union.

(B) Teams, player performance, and the collective bargaining agreement determine the pay scale.

(C) It is not unorthodox is Colorado began trending that direction.

(D) Stop being so lazy with incomplete/fragment thoughts and sentences in the same paragraph.

Curious as to what the Sox think of Jeremy Hazelbaker? Do they view him as a legit option as a RF or LF in a year or two? His minor league stats compare favorably with Ryan Kalish, but I just don’t here a lot of buzz on him.

Andy, Summerville, SC

You’re right, not a lot of buzz, but he sneaks up on you. He might be a guy who emerges. There’s no hype on him at all, which can be a good thing. From what the organizational folks tell me, he’s a solid player, but he would have to start doing “special” type things on the field – mostly offensively – to crack what they perceive as their top echelon outfielders.

Generally buzz and hype are byproducts of skill. For example, I have never been hyped as a baseball player, because I am highly unlikely to play well at a major league level. Xander Boegarts is hyped and buzzed about because he is likely to produce at an All-
Star level within the next five years. Andy, make your own conclusion here.

Honestly. Hazelbaker is likely behind Gomes, Ellsbury, Victorino, Carp, Nava, Sweeney, Bradley, Brentz, perhaps even Ciraco,Holt, and if late enough in the season, Kalish for playing time in the Boston OF. If we get to Hazelbaker, it is a lost season anyway.

I keep hearing that there is no protection for Ortiz in the Sox lineup. I don’t know where that is coming from because I think that Napoli provides great protection for Ortiz.

John, Lexington, Mass.

Napoli is not a cleanup hitter. He can be pitched to. He has holes. So if he’s hitting behind Ortiz, any pitcher would rather take their chances with Napoli than pitch to Ortiz. Napoli will hit some home runs. No, I’m in the camp that this lineup has very little protection for Ortiz unless Middlebrooks emerges as a major offensive force.

Isn’t the concept to have Pedroia 3 and Ortiz 4 this season? Also, take a look at the “protection” that Giancarlo Stanton had after him in the Marlins lineup last year, then look at Giancarlo Stanton’s numbers from last year, then ask yourself if lineup protection exists.

Also, Napoli has a history of impressive walk rates and has had some exciting slugging percentages. If Ortiz walks, then Napoli walks, well, turning linups over by avoiding outs is what most reliably produces strong run totals anyway.

Am I alone thinking the Red Sox would like to move Stephen Drew at the trade deadline? The best case is that Iglesias does show enough bat that he is a multiyear solution, and they can flip Drew for a B prospect.

Paul, Chatham, NJ

Drew is cheap insurance. They can flip him if Iggy shows the bat, or keep him if Iggy has none. I suppose so. Again, I can’t believe they would build their team hoping they can flip guys at midseason. Holy crow.

Do you think he meant Holy crow at the end there? Is there an editor for this stuff? How do so many sentence fragments, misspellings, and poor logic make their way through?

We get your freaking out, but, again your readers are just thinking ahead, and be honest, this team is built to make an honest effort at winning the division with an awareness that there are flaws. If the flaws outweigh the strengths in practice, the club is aware that they signed movable deals in order to not be tied to a bad team for the long term. Can you really not see this, Nick?

Join us next week when we discover which new dead horse Nick chooses to beat into the ground!