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Carl Crawford, And Why Red Sox Fans May Want To Curb Their Enthusiasm

Let's all just take a few steps away from the fire.

While the Red Sox are reportedly (things we learned from Adrian Gonzalez: until we see a player in Fenway with a Red Sox uni on, there are no sure things) about to sign free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford, there's no reason for us to lose our collective heads. 

For those of you complaining that the Red Sox overpaid for Crawford (seven years, $142 million) and for the presumed extension for Adrian Gonzalez (seven years, $156 million), Brian MacPherson would kindly like to ask you to cool it

For those of you thinking that the Red Sox aren't going to go after bullpen help, Ed Downs advises putting a lid on it.

And for those of you thinking that the cream of Major League Baseball now spends its summer in the Fens and that nobody can challenge the Red Sox' preemptive pennant, look no further than Miami

Still, the Red Sox assemblage of super-duper-star power over the past week has been impressive. Adrian Gonzalez, who was always going to wind up in Boston eventually, came maybe a bit sooner than anyone expected - and with a bit more circus fanfare than Theo Epstein and friends hope he carries with him all the time - and for a smaller price tag than a lot of folks anticipated.

Crawford was a bit different. Nobody saw Crawford coming. Nobody anticipated a need for another left-handed bat in a lineup replete with them, nobody saw a hole in Fenway Park's diminuitive outfield that couldn't be covered by Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Kalish or J.D. Drew. And it's safe to say that nobody expected a guy who's earned a not-so-great name for himself in the clubhouse would be brought into an organization full of clubhouse heroes.

But then, aren't those all the reasons that Epstein went after him? To keep the hallowed Fenway outfield grounds protected from those mean, mean baseballs hit by the visiting team? To pepper opposing right-handers and wear out the Green Monster? And, perhaps, because with Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and the newly added Gonzalez, anyone who decides to act out will promptly be quashed?

To be sure, the Red Sox aren't promised to be any better this year than they should have been last year, had they stayed healthy. Blue Jays' GM Alex Anthopolous makes a case for that in Alex Speier's latest reaction piece, but notes that Boston probably should have won 100 games last year, too. 

There's no guarantee, either, that Crawford will be happy in left field in Fenway, which figures for him to be sort of like putting a Great White in an aquarium or like giving Joey Chestnut a Fenway Frank and telling him to "take his time." But he doesn't want to play center, and center at Fenway takes some work to learn, so the Sox will happily put Ellsbury back there and let him run amok, under the condition that he doesn't barrel-roll into or over anyone's knees. 

One way or another, these Red Sox figure to be bigger contenders than last year's team, if only because the Rays have gotten markedly thinner, the Yankees have gotten another year older and the Blue Jays and Orioles simply don't have the money to improve at the same pace as Boston and New York. Where Cliff Lee ends up could be a big deal; he could make Texas a contender again or go to New York, leaving the AL West (what happened to those Angels in all this free agency, by the way?) to wilt while the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox chase the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. 

(Don't get me or anyone else in this barren strip of over-indulgent hardball euphoria wrong, seeing Lee spurn the Yankees offer and watching GM Brian Cashman crumble as he puts on a Rangers hat would be the highlight of this offseason, despite all of Theo's work. But he's probably going to New York. Doesn't everyone? If he does go to Texas, he'll become baseball's biggest one-man story since Barry Bonds, and will become much bigger than Bonds ever was simply because a) there's more media out there now and b) Lee's story would be one that endears him to humanity, not to greedy, soulless muck-rakers, and media at all levels loves that kind of garbage.)

But the Sox still have work to do. The bullpen still needs shoring up - there's two big holes right now after Tim Wakefield, Junichi Tazawa and Felix Doubront and before Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon - and Scott Downs would be a fantastic lefty specialist to add. If he winds up unavailable, Brian Fuentes wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.

They could use another right-handed bat - this is the spot where Bill Hall would have fit marvelously on a healthy squad last year, but he'll get more playing time (albeit less money) elsewhere. And they could still make a move or two, sending Ellsbury or Marco Scutaro or Daisuke Matsuzaka to parts unknown in return for prospects or, perhaps, that right-handed bat - if Josh Willingham is still being shopped by Washington, he might be a good addition in that role, making Mike Cameron available for another move. 

There's no indication that Epstein is done improving the team - not after he said that the Red Sox "weren't remotely close" on anything Wednesday afternoon, only to land Crawford that night, and not after he's noted numerous times that the Sox are still in on relief pitching and right-handed bats. There's still at least two spots on the 25-man roster that need to be filled, and it wouldn't be surprising to see only one of them go to relief pitching, considering that Wakefield, Tazawa and Doubront have all been starters in the past and could probably give the team quite a few innings. It would be a drastic measure, and might even be a bit illogical, but take a look at where the Red Sox were six days ago and where they are now. 

Doesn't that defy logic, at least a little bit?