Red Sox July Report: The Wheels Come Off

Yes, they won last night, but the Red Sox season is over. This team had a lot going for it - a strong bullpen, a good (not stellar) offense, and the second best record in baseball. And that's how it was April through the All Star Break.

Then the wheels came off. The Sox tied their second worst losing streak in a century. The other season that featured a crushing six-game losing streak was 2006, when that losing streak knocked them out of playoff contention). But what alarmed me more than the consecutive losses was that the team was exposed as having no drive, no heart, perhaps even no soul.

No casual fan knows what goes on in the clubhouse, on the flights, or in the hotels. But the impression I got last week was that the 2009 Red Sox didn't seem to have as much fun as they used to in previous years. What was missing? The pranks? The nicknames? The off-duty bloopers and antics? Are we fans just not seeing how easy and loose this team is off the field? Could they really be souless corporate types like the Yankees? We can only guess.

But we do know that the losing streak occurred just a couple of weeks after the Red Sox made a risky deadline trade. The Sox traded long reliever / swing man Justin Masterson for the Indians' Victor Martinez. A risky move. While Martinez has given the Red Sox much needed offensive help, losing Masterson could be a contributing factor behind Boston's disastrous six-game losing streak at the hands of division rivals. Boston knew that a late season trade would involve them giving-up Josh Bard, Clay Buchholz, or Jusin Masterson, and they went with their proven long reliever.

Abruno over at Sox & Dawgs warned against trading Masterson.

While falling out of the AL East race is painful and embarrassing, it is still not yet mid August. One long win streak (or a string of streaks) can get the Red Sox back into the AL East hunt. Also remember the Yankees could also drop if one of their starting pitchers (especially AJ Burnett or Joba Chamberlain) is injured.

And then there are the intangibles that could happen to revive the Sox. We know that Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek are leaders on that team. They are not going to suffer any meltdowns. If there is a flashpoint, or some emotional event that the Sox and their team leaders can use to start a rally, they will most likely take advantage of it. I don't see fire in them yet, but they have over a week to clear their heads, win a few games, and earn a chance to reel-in the Yankees when they visit Fenway on August 21st.