As the Red Sox prepare for three games with the not-too-shabby-in-August-Athletics, the Boston Herald’s Tony Massarotti makes the not-quite astonishing claim, they “look like they’re starting to quit.”

œHe said he couldn™t play. What the (expletive) do you want me to do? Red Sox manager Terry Francona snapped yesterday morning when asked about Manny Ramirez™ absence from the lineup prior to his lifeless team™s 6-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

œIf a guy says he can™t play, he can™t (expletive) play. Go ask him. He said he can™t (expletive) play.

And he wasn™t alone.

So now, with precisely five weeks and a mere 32 games remaining in their season, here is the question we must ask: Do the Red Sox really want to play anymore? Do they want to win?

Red Sox ownership and management have been the target of much displeasure in recent weeks, but it is now time for Red Sox players to take their turn. What happened in Seattle was a joke. From 2003-05, part of the Red Sox™ charm was they continued to play, no matter what, and they found ways to win (last year, especially), despite numerous opportunities to fail.

Suddenly, with this club, the bodies are dropping like flies. And while it is impossible to discern the severity of many injuries, we all know it is easier to play hurt when a team is winning. When a club starts losing – and losing badly – that is when we really get to examine the stuff they are made of. Based on the weekend, you should not be impressed.

In the immortal words of Jim Mora: Playoffs? At this rate, the Sox will be lucky to finish with 85 wins.

(Dustin Pedroia, deeply hurt by the insinuation that he’s not ready for prime time)

Seth Mnookin claims Tito’s lineup on Sunday “would have been more appropriate for a spring training game than a late-August match,” but I don’t think he gives nearly enough credit to the immortal Cha Seung Baek — sharp as he might’ve been at Tacoma, there’s something kind of amazing about seeing the Red Sox — with or without Manny — shut down by a guy with all of 40 big league innings under his belt.