Driving home from New Hampshire last night, after watching the Sox drop another to Chicago, I pulled off the highway for a lemonade Coolatta (which, when combined with 8.3 ounces of Red Bull, can pretty much empower me to drive my car to Venus if need be). Reflecting on the loss, and with exasperated sports radio callers buzzing in my head, I pulled away from the drive-thru window and glanced up to see Manny staring back at me. Or at least a cool painting of Manny adorning the shop window. And I imagined, judging from the amount of anti-Manny sentiment I catch on the radio and the press these days, that the proprietor of this DD may well have fielded some suggestions from her/his customers that this image be taken down now that Manny’s out west. And I further hoped that said proprietor promptly invited these people to go pound sand in their asses, and plans to keep the painting alive at least to the end of the season. You see, I’m all about moving forward. But I don’t mind looking back from time to time.

As for the team’s recent play, it’s becoming painfully apparent that getting rid of Manny hasn’t helped Clay Buchholz out of his funk. Or got Mike Lowell hitting consistently (and that double play that Scenic bumped into in the seventh with bases loaded was one of the biggest foot-through-the-TV-screen moments of the 2008 season). Or stopped Tek’s batting average from plummeting past the Mendoza line. With Jason Bay coming back to earth (2-for-13 so far in Chicago), Wake hurting and Ortiz wondering if he won’t be needing a robot arm by the end of August, there’s plenty of reasons to push my fists through walls and wonder aloud if the defending world champs will even taste a little playoff action this year.

But I don’t want to think that way–especially since 2004 taught me to never say never. On a positive note, the Sox seem to be playing a bit better on the road, even if the loss of our best hitter–arguably one of the most feared batters in all of baseball–has us looking a lot less like Superman, and more like a perfectly ordinary Clark Kent. Hell, even tonight’s starter, the illustrious Commander Kick-Ass, seems an oddly subdued dude this year.

There’s still plenty of time for a ten game win streak. For Masterson and/or Colon and/or Zink and or whomever we can pull into the rotation to come up huge. For Lowell to find his swing, for Ortiz to become Mecha-Godzilla, for Tek to–well, let’s not push it. I just want a sign of life, a spark of sorts, to get this team refocused on the goal.