What is it that turns the near-perfect baseball machine of last night into…into…well into whatever it was that took the field today? What is the fleeting magic that disappears like smoke in the wind from one day to the next? For so long, we told ourselves it was injuries. Trot and Nomar, Nomar and Trot, gotta get them back in the line-up. Then we were convinced, we just knew, it was Derek Lowe. If he could only get his sinker going and shore up the house of cards that was his psyche, the team would roll. Ahhh, Pedro, that had to be it. The inconsistent ace just needed to string together a few good outings, then we’re off. Schilling’s ankle, can’t lose Schilling.

News flash, Red Sox Nation: all of the above is fixed. Nomar and Trot are back, Lowe is pitching like Lowe, Pedro is pitching like Pedro, and Schilling’s ankle is fine. Then….what? Well, IT goes by many names, yet is nameless. Heart, spirit, soul, chemistry; all those words have been used but none truly capture IT. It is something that possesses the mind and body a player and uses him to infect those around him. It was in Cedric Maxwell when he told his team to jump on his back and he’d carry them, and he did, right to the NBA Championship, it was Bo Kimble taking his free throws left-handed in tribute to fallen teammate Hank Gathers during a magical run through the NCAA tournament. It was Kevin Millar’s “Cowboy Up” that carried the 2003 Sox so close. Believe it or don’t believe it, I was there, I know.

As this team limps towards the all-star break, looking over its shoulder at a fast-approaching Devil Rays express, we need IT. Bad. Someone needs to step up and take ownership of this team. Give it a name, a face, a personality. Someone needs to grab the lifeless husk and administer a heart-punch, even better, a shot of adrenaline straight into the heart, Pulp Fiction-style. Who, you ask? Well, not Mr. Francona. He’s handed the keys to the candy store over to the giggling kids. He’s convinced he has enough talent that he can sit back and watch them win. If not, see paragraph one for a list of excuses. Nomar? To quote number 5 himself, “that’s funny, just hilarious”. Pedro? Manny? Ortiz? No, they let their play speak for itself. Trot, Tek? Maybe.

Think for a minute, the answer is there, in fact, its everywhere. On every Ford and Dunkin Donuts commercial. Curt Schilling. The guy is a horse, he’s a demon on the mound, he arrests drunk drivers part-time for cryin’ out loud. He had the stones to put a world series clause in his contract, didn’t he? The guy is a hero in the making. A half-season away from the stuff of legend. It is he who must take this team by their collective throats and lay down the challenge. Win, or go away. He is an “elder statesman”, a “team leader”. He can do it. He can reinstate the Don Baylor kangaroo court of old and make these guys accountable for their miscues. He can lead. He can inspire. And he knows how to win.

Time is getting short, the corn getting high in the field of dreams. The time is now Curt. Tomorrow. Make this team yours and make them winners. Make us all winners.