By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BALTMIORE -- Over the weekend, forced to address reports of a "disconnect'' between himself and his manager, Theo Epstein, on more than one occasion, declared that his team was not, in fact, a "soap opera.''
Despite some evidence to the contrary, Epstein is correct.
But this season itself? Cue the theme music from "The Young and the Restless.''
The Red Sox are going down to the final game of the regular season -- and very likely, beyond -- to determine whether they qualify for the postseason.
Such a scenario would have, of course, been unthinkable only a few weeks ago, when the focus was on who would start Game 3 of the ALDS.
And now? The Red Sox haven't said who would start a play-in game at Tampa Bay Thursday afternoon, and one of the reasons they're putting off any sort of announcement is because they're still casting about for a potential trade acquistion to make the start.
This would give "short-term rental'' a new meaning. No fewer than three club sources on Tuesday night offered variations on "highly unlikely'' when asked about the chances of a deal being made to obtain a starter for Game No. 163.
But the very fact that the notion was still being batted around tells how strange this season -- and in particular, the last month -- has been.
In the span of about seven months the Red Sox have gone from having an embarrassment of riches when it comes to pitching to just plain embarrassing.
Tim Wakefield couldn't crack the rotation at the start of the year, but for the last two months, he's been part of the regular five-man crew. Kyle Weiland probably didn't expect to make five regular season starts for a team with designs on a championship -- especially when he began his season at Double A.
And in anticipation of a play-in game, the Sox are desperately in search of an alternative to one of their own, whom they paid 82.5 million and who, not long ago, enjoyed a reputation as one of the most dependable "big game'' pitchers in the business.
Consider, too, that the Red Sox have been caught from behind by a team which is 16-10 for the month of September.
If the Rays had gone on one of those torrid, nothing-can-stop-us runs like the Colorado Rockies in 2007 and again in 2009, that would have been perfectly understandable.
Sometimes, teams play .750 ball down the stretch and overtake a team which has dipped to, say, .500 or less in the final weeks, victims of some injuries or fatigue or disinterest -- or a combination of all three.
But 16-10 is not exactly a team with a mission, some unstoppable force. Being caught from behind by a team playing six games over .500 for the month may not be unprecedented, but is sure is rare.
It's the equivalent of being lapped on the track by a tortoise. But the Sox have been so bad, so inept, that they have not only invited the Rays into the playoff party, they have held the door open for them.
A win Wednesday night likely guarantees the Red Sox nothing but a one-day trip to Tampa for a play-in game, meaning that the same team which has not won back-to-back games since the final week of August -- think about that -- now must
win three games in a row just to make the postseason.
That same postseason berth seemed a layup a month ago, one that wouldn't require last-minute heroics from the team's third-string catcher; that wouldn't involve a desperate, scrambling, never-been-done before deal to find a pitcher from outside the organization for the 163rd game of the season.
A week ago, the one word I kept hearing repeatedly from fans was "disgust.'' The shoddy play of the Red Sox, coupled with their cliff-dive in the standings, turned people off to the degree that they not only didn't care about the playoff battle, they were openly rooting for them to fail.
In the last week, between the 14-inning win Sunday night in New York and Ryan Lavarnway's cameo right out of The Natural, that's changed. People, I suspect, are hooked again. They can't turn away. They need to watch to see what happens next, follow it to its logical conclusion, see how the story ends.
And isn't that, really, the very embodiment of a soap opera?