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Big picture remains out of focus for Red Sox

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  August 6, 2012 11:07 AM

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Continuing to monitor the temperature on the locals while wondering whether the Red Sox or Patriots will be playing the more important game on Thursday night ...

Losing to the Minnesota Twins has caused an obvious response filled with despair, but things really have not changed much for the Red Sox. They were 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot when the Twins arrived at Fenway Park on Thursday. The Sox are 4 1/2 games out of a playoff spot now. If Boston had won three of four over the weekend, we'd be reluctant to give them too much credit for beating a bad team.

The point?

The Red Sox are in the same position now that they were last week ... or the week before that ... or the week before that. A series win over the Twins wasn't going to change the fact that the Red Sox needed to improve their play against an upcoming schedule that looks like a minefield. In the next four weeks, starting on Monday night, the Red Sox will play 18 of 26 games against the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A's - all of whom are ahead of them in the American League standings.

And beginning on Thursday in Cleveland, the Red Sox will play 32 of their final 50 games on the road.

Pessimistic? You should be. But it shouldn't really have anything to do with the Minnesota series. It should have had to do with the 105 games before that. Since the All-Star break, the Red Sox have won series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. They have lost series to, among others, the Toronto Blue Jays (an ugly sweep) and now the Twins. The Red Sox have been as schizophrenic as ever, which means we should not react to how they play against any particular opponent anymore.

The big picture is what is disturbing about this team.

And it still is.

Carl Crawford has batted .333 with three home runs, nine RBI, eight runs scored and a 1.063 OPS in his last nine games, which puts the Red Sox in an awfully interesting situation. If Crawford continues to hit and the Sox continue to lose, does it make any sense to further delay potential Tommy John surgery on the player's left elbow? Crawford seems convinced he needs surgery. The Red Sox are not so certain. But if the Sox continue to play .500 baseball, every game Crawford plays now is one fewer he plays next season.

In the end, one can only wonder if it would be better for Crawford to go into a slump a facilitate a decision that seems inevitable.

While Red Sox tickets have been selling for just a few bucks on the secondary market, it is particularly interesting to note the crowds turning out for Patriots training camp. This goes well beyond the fact that football is, as Howie Long once noted, "America's passion." This has far more to do with the fact that the Patriots are organized, likeable, well-coached and committed.

Doesn't it?

When Doc Rivers comes out and takes responsibility for Ray Allen going to Miami, he is obviously trying to deflect heat away from Rajon Rondo. But that is only part of the story. Rivers all but called Allen a baby for being unable to deal with the fact that Rondo now means more to the Celtics than Allen does, which is really what this entire story was about.

Rondo has been getting better. Allen has been getting worse. And to his credit, Rivers chose what was best for his basketball team, empowering his younger point guard and giving him someone like Avery Bradley to run with, all while Allen sulked and pouted about a role on the bench.

Comical, right? Veteran players always say that the team comes first. But so few of them actually walk the walk.

With all due respect to Alfredo Aceves, who is doing the best he can, we are now creeping toward mid-August and Andrew Bailey isn't back yet. On Saturday night, Aceves blew his sixth save of the season and suffered his seventh loss, unsightly statistics that place him among the major league leaders in both categories for relief pitchers.

Bailey, of course, was supposed to be the replacement for Jonathan Papelbon before suffering a thumb injury in spring training. Prior to this year, he had averaged three blown saves in three major league seasons; again, Aceves already has six. That three-game difference means an awful lot to the Red Sox right now, and one can only wonder why Bailey's injury rehab has taken so long.

Nobody should blame any of this on Aceves, who is a swingman by trade. But if the Sox had pushed Bailey as much as they have pushed Carl Crawford, Aceves might also have been freed up to help the Sox in other areas and the Sox would be far better off for it.

Tom Brady's 35th birthday once again raises questions about the future of the Patriots quarterback position, but it also makes one wonder whether Bill Belichick waited far too long to earnestly retool the Patriots defense. With a better effort on defense, the Patriots might have won one or two more Super Bowls during the Brady-Belichick era, including last year's defeat to the New York Giants.

That said, it will be interesting to see how the Patriots defense develops early this season with the additions of, among others, Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. And it would be rather ironic if Brady's play starts to slip some in coming years, but the Patriots nonetheless find themselves in Super Bowl contention thanks to an improved defense.

Tony's Top 5

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The final chapter on Teixeira and How Red Sox pitchers work the strike zone Jan. 7, 2009 and July 17, 2009. Some actual reporting – an obsession with Mark Teixeira and the art of pitching.
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For 2011 Red Sox, there was plenty of blame to go around Oct. 1, 2011. The disgraceful collapse of the Red Sox stoked the fire in all of us.
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Behind Garnett and James, Celtics and Heat are digging in June 4, 2012. Improbably, the Celtics pushed the Heat to the limit.
2
Thrill is back for Patriots Jan. 30, 2012. Another Super Bowl has even Bill Belichick musing.
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You’ve got to believe June 15, 2011. On the morning of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we all had reason to believe.
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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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