The Red Sox struggles: Put away your umbrella, the sky is not falling

I'm going to do it.

As hard as it seems right now -- after being swept by the Yankees, no less -- I've decided that the 2009 season is not over. The 2009 season is not shot. As close to the ledge you are right now, I urge you to step back.

It's time to be positive.

I will point out first that the Red Sox have a 62-48 record. That's tied for third best in the American League with the Texas Rangers. While the winning percentage has certainly dropped since the All-Star break, the record is nothing to sneeze at. We need to remember that as bad as this "slump" is, it's wedged within a season that has been pretty decent.

The Red Sox have 62 wins, but can anyone tell me that the Red Sox have actually played really good ball this season? I can't remember a single time when I thought: This team is really good.

Sure, this doesn't sound like a positive, but it is. The Sox have won games and they haven't been at their best. The Sox have to, before this season is over, make a big run. And when's the best time to make a run? At the end of the season, of course.

We've never seen that out of a Sox club in recent history. Usually the Sox have a spurt in the beginning or middle of the year where they play their best baseball. But how about once where it finishes a season? Maybe the Sox will tear through September and go into the playoffs with a duckboat-full of momentum.

I mean, really, this offense has to click at some point. While the pitching has been solid to great all year, the offense can't claim anything close to that. But what happens when Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, Victor Martinez and David Ortiz all hit their stride at the same time? It means a lot of runs and a lot of wins.

Another reason to stay positive: the pitching. Josh Beckett may be your American League Cy Young winner right now and Jon Lester is a guy no team wants to face in a big game. While the starting rotation doesn't have much to offer behind those two studs, we should be happy with the fact we have two studs in the first place. Yeah, we need at least one more dominant pitcher if we want to go into the playoffs and win, but there's time to see if someone will pan out. Who knows, maybe Daisuke Matsuzaka will come back and pitch like he did in 2008? I know it sounds like a joke, but it's a possibility.

Here's what I'm really holding out hope for and this is what I think the Sox really need: a leader.

David Ortiz used to be a leader of the Sox. That was when he was hitting 40+ home runs a year. Now he's hitting .220 and he just doesn't carry the same swagger. As much as I'm sure he'd like to stand up and tell each and every player to take their heads out of their million-dollar backsides, it just doesn't work when it comes from a guy who's having one of the worst years of his career.

So let's pass the torch. I'd love to say give it to Pedroia and Youkilis, but it sort of upsets me they haven't already taken the reigns in that sense. There's still time for that. But there are two guys on the offense that I'd love to see get in the clubhouse and make some noise: Jason Bay and Mike Lowell.

Imagine if Bay and Lowell got fired up and lit a fire under this team's collective ass? Just the fact it's Bay and Lowell would do the trick. Two of the quietest Sox on the team, taking charge and getting stuff done. I think that would work. And the good thing is -- there's still time.

I was talking to my neighbor today and I told him that this Yankee series reminded me of another series: the 2004 ALCS. Remember that horrible feeling we had after three games? It was like getting punched to the ground and kicked in the face before we can even open our eyes. I feel the same way today.

But what changed all that? One play. One sign. One stolen base. That's all it took and it turned everything around.

That can happen now. That can happen now because there is still plenty of time in this season. A four-game sweep to the Yankees hurts, but it doesn't kill the Sox. The Sox aren't dead until Major League Baseball tells them their season is over and to pack up their bags.

So here's my one simple message to all of you:

Keep the faith.

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