Still Breathing: Somehow, Someway, Boston Red Sox Still In Playoff Hunt

July 22, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine (25) visits the mound to talk to starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Somehow, the Boston Red Sox are still alive.

Bad attitudes, a clueless new manager, a dysfunctional front office, inexplicable underachieving, washed-up veterans, impressive rookies, winners, losers, dreadful injuries... playoff contenders.

Those are your 2012 Boston Red Sox.

And if you haven't seen it all in person, I suggest you purchase your 100th anniversary ticket to Fenway Park, the nation's most beloved ballpark, before the end of this memorable season. The experience will be so uplifting; you may not even acknowledge the team is losing once you start singing the sweet tune of "Sweet Caroline" in the eighth inning.

That's it in a nutshell.

In my 30 somewhat years of watching the Red Sox and a decade of covering Major League Baseball, I can honestly stay I haven't seen anything like this. When asked if this Red Sox team has the ability to make it to the postseason, my answer is "I don't know." When asked if the team will be buyers or sellers at Tuesday's 4pm trade deadline, my answer is "I don't know." When asked if Jon Lester - the ultimate baffling underachiever - should be traded, my answer is, "I don't know."

Mediocrity will force those answers.

This is one of the strangest Red Sox teams I've had to talk about in recent years. To prove that statement, after Friday night's butt-whipping from the first-place New York Yankees, I told a friend, "This team is toast. They just don't have any fight in them and you can tell there is just no team chemistry."

Fast-forward 48 hours. After Sunday night's 3-2 win over the Yankees in 10 innings, I said to the same friend, "The Sox showed so much heart and fight tonight. They're back in this." And if they can do it all again Monday night against the Detroit Tigers at home, it'll be the first time the team has strung together more than two wins since June 16th. That's quite a stat for a team with a $180 million payroll, don't you think?

"We know we can compete with teams like this," Andrew Miller told reporters after Sunday's win. "We know what we've got, and we know what we're capable of."

"We're in it together and we've been in it a lot together," Valentine added. "They wanted this win as badly as I did. He shows that kind of passion a lot. I guess it was on national TV, so that was even better."

Yes, Bobby. Everyone was watching. But unfortunately, what they witnessed was two months later than expected.

Miller said it perfectly, but actions speak louder than words. And for the first time this season, the Red Sox finally walked the walk Sunday night in the Bronx and may have bookmarked the turning point of the season. The question is, however, can they continue that type of play for the remainder of what has been an inconsistent season? In a tight American League East, one that Blue Jays' manager John Farrell told me was the most competitive he's seen in recent years, the Sox have found themselves in unchartered waters; competing for a playoff spot with the Baltimore Orioles - an organization riding a 14 consecutive losing seasons stat - and teams alike.

Off the field, the team has been in shambles. Surrounded by controversy and drama since spring training, I'm willing to bet one of the best clubhouse moments this season was Terry Francona's pow-wow with his ex-players Saturday afternoon in the Yankee Stadium visiting clubhouse, one that resulted in him sending an apology to text to Bobby Valentine. Don't worry, Tito, you didn't do anything wrong. The players loved it and likely needed it.

Unfortunately, Francona can't get Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to play better. He can't heal Carl Crawford's left arm and make him more comfortable in Boston. In fact, from what I've been told, he tried that last year and it didn't work. He can't help find Adrian Gonzalez' power swing, nor can he force the players to want to win for Valentine. Only the players can solve the above issues and only the players can write the end of their story.

"We're two games under .500. We're the Boston Red Sox, so if anyone's thrilled with where we're at, they better reevaluate because I don't like losing. I know everyone else doesn't like losing," Pedroia told reporters Sunday night. "We've got to play better now."

They're the Boston Red Sox. If you aren't familiar with them, re-read the first paragraph.

There are 60 games left. The rest is still unwritten.

Jen Royle is a Columnist for SB Nation Boston. Follow her @Jen_Royle on Twitter.

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