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Nick Cafardo | Red Sox Mailbag

Ask Nick: What exactly did Red Sox players do wrong?

David Ortiz and the Red Sox finished 71-91 this season.AP

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s rather stunning, if not amusing, how A.J. Pierzynski has gone from Red Sox pariah to Cardinals good guy.

In the National League Championship Series, Pierzynski has already helped Adam Wainwright with a flaw in his delivery, has schooled the Cardinals’ hitters on Jake Peavy, and inspired Kolten Wong to hit a walk-off home run in Game 2 by kidding with him to use his “base hit” swing before he came up in the bottom of the ninth Sunday night.

Pierzynski even started Game 3, catching John Lackey after St. Louis lost Yadier Molina to an injury. He got booed by Giants fans, who also don’t like him after he played there in 2004.


“He cares so much about all of us. He wants us to succeed,” Wong said.

Guess Pierzynski isn’t using his cell phone too much in the Cardinal clubhouse.

From the It’s a Small World file: Bob Schaefer, a Washington Nationals special assistant to the GM, used to officiate Giants bench coach Ron Wotus’s high school basketball games in Colchester, Conn.

Hotel rooms in San Francisco are going for about an average of $700 per night because it’s a big convention week and the baseball playoffs are here. I asked one Marriott property if they were sticking to it and they said yes. Who pays that?

When does management stop blaming hitting coaches for multi-millionaire players not hitting? Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann didn’t hit well for the Yankees because Kevin Long messed them up? Long is on the wish list of a few Red Sox veteran hitters, who think he’s one of the best hitting coaches in baseball.

Here’s the mailbag:

Commentators have lamented about the poor performance of the Red Sox, have indicated who played well and who didn’t, and have advised about who should stay and who should go. Not one has analyzed what exactly players were doing, technically, that led to poor performance. Want to take a crack at it?


George, Boston

Based on things I’ve heard from scouts from other teams:

Jackie Bradley: The consensus among scouts watching him is that he has a long swing. He has to tighten it and make it more compact so his hands react quicker through the hitting zone.

Will Middlebrooks: There are varying opinions from the experts. You hear the long swing theory a lot. He gets tied up inside on fastballs of more than 92 mph in velocity, because his hands aren’t in a good position when he starts his swing.

Xander Bogaerts: His problem was more pitch recognition. What looked like a fastball coming out of the pitchers hand wound up being a change-up that he’d get fooled on. Seems like he started to get it the last month or so.

David Ortiz: He lost about 30 points, according to the metrics on hitting into shifts. He wasn’t able to go the other way, mostly because pitchers came inside on him.

Dustin Pedroia: His problem was the hand/wrist injury.

Mike Napoli: Had an assortment of injuries that prevented him from getting his timing down and generating power.

Allen Craig: One theory espoused by David Ross is that in the American League they pitch you inside more than the National League.

It seems the Red Sox wait too long to pull the trigger on trades while other teams swoop in and get the guy we want. Am I off on this?


Paul, Maine

Can’t think of a situation where that happened. They were very proactive at the trading deadline and seemed to make the deals they wanted to make. They could have traded Andrew Miller sooner, but waited for the best return. Could have traded Koji Uehara, but really wanted him back for 2015.

What do you think the availability is for Ryan Zimmerman as a trade option? He didn’t play much down the stretch for Washington. I know he’s righthanded, but he’s a legitimate bat the Sox could use in the lineup.

Ryan, Spencer, Mass.

His value is at third base and because of his throwing issues, probably not a great option for Boston. Zimmerman could play the outfield or first base, but those spots are filled. And you’re right, they really need a lefthanded bat. Zimmerman likely shifts to first base in Washington because Adam LaRoche is a free agent and won’t likely re-sign in Washington.

Even if Jon Lester doesn’t come back, could we see the Red Sox make a free agent move and sign pitchers Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto? I see a name like Justin Masterson as a potential addition, but I think if they want to have any chance at all, they need two from the group of James Shields, Lester, Cueto, Mat Latos, and Hamels.

Andy, Herndon, Va.

You’re thinking the right way on this. Sign a pitcher and trade for a pitcher. I think this would be the desired way to go. This way you don’t deal all of your prospects but you weed a few out who may not have a future impact on the team. You’ve identified all of the right names as well. Hamels or Cueto or Latos might not be available, but the Red Sox have the quantity (and in some cases quality) in prospects to at least whet the appetite of some of these teams.


I think one of those scenarios needs to happen. Lester, Shields, and Max Scherzer become more affordable if the Yankees or Dodgers stay out of the bidding, but the likelihood is both will dabble and raise the stakes. There’s also the Kenta Maeda option. The 26-year-old Japanese star should be posted in November. Like Masahiro Tanaka, there’s a wide range of opinion on where he sits on a staff. Most scouts believe he’s not as good as Tanaka and sits anywhere from 3-5 in a rotation.

Where does Travis Shaw stand in the grand scheme of things? Do you think he has a future in Boston as a potential first baseman?

Pat, Mattapoisett, Mass.

I believe the organization thinks Shaw could be a factor on the major league level by sometime next year. He can play the corner infield positions, which is a good thing.

I read this summer the Braves may be down on Jason Heyward. He’s a four- or five-tool player, but to this point he’s had a fairly pedestrian career. But he’ll only be 26 when the 2015 season begins, about the same age the Sox obtained another so-called pedestrian player by the name of Ortiz. Might the Sox have interest, especially since he hits lefthanded?


Jim, Westford, Mass.

That’s definitely a name that’s come up. The Braves will likely need to make some offensive upgrades and Heyward could definitely be part of that. The Red Sox may dangle a Yoenis Cespedes, but not sure if the Braves would bite on something like that with Cespedes entering the final season of his contract. It’s no secret the Red Sox have been a bit puzzled by Cespedes’ lack of work on defense.

I am wondering how an MLB player pension plays out, especially with regard to guys like Daniel Nava or a journeyman guy who makes a good buck through arbitration, then reaches a max without big free agency dollars. I’d just to like to know more about the real security of average guys.

Patrick, Livermore Falls, Maine

Don’t know all the details, but here’s what I do know: A player qualifies for his pension with one game. If he gets 10 years in, his pension maxes out at $210,000 a year if he starts drawing on it at age 62. A player can begin taking pension at age 45, but at a lesser amount.

With the recent injury he has suffered, do you still think the Sox would go for Giancarlo Stanton?

Lash, Montgomery Ala.

Hey Lash, went to a baseball card show with Tom Glavine in Montgomery back in 1996. Big Braves country. Sure, I think they’d take the gamble if there is any indication that he won’t suffer any physical or psychological effects of that beaning.

It seems at this point the outfield is going to be jammed next season. I like the idea of Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, and Allen Craig, but where does that leave Shane Victorino?

Jake, Sheridan, Wyo.

Cespedes could play center, but I think that’s reserved for Castillo right now. It’s true, it seems there isn’t a starting role for Victorino or Nava or Bradley or Mookie Betts, but this could all be weeded out with a trade or two. At this point, not sure the Red Sox have any idea how it’s all going to play out. We mentioned earlier about needing a lefthanded/switch-hitting bat. That could come in the form of a third baseman like Pablo Sandoval or an outfielder. Would it be too lofty to think the Red Sox could acquire Alex Gordon, who is entering the final year of his contract and will likely become unaffordable to the Royals?

How does the Rule 5 Draft work?

Harry, Annapolis, Md.

Teams need to comprise a 40-man roster of both veteran players and young players who qualify for roster protection based on their service time. Teams have tough decisions to make on these protectable players and inevitably not everyone can be protected. Those players are thus exposed to a Rule 5 Draft, which basically means you can take an unprotected player from another team at a small fee, but he has to stay on the 25-man roster of the team choosing him for a full season or he has to be returned to the team that lost him. Most of these players are underdeveloped players, so most are not destined to remain on 25-man rosters. But certainly there have been cases of players who became very good major leaguers like Johan Santana, Jose Bautista, and Shane Victorino to name a few.

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