SCHMIDT: Wild doesn’t quite explain the wild-card race

There simply isn’t an adjective in existence that quantifies the madness.

Wild? As in wild-card?

No, that’s definitely selling it short.

After 161 games, six months and hundreds of homers, strikeouts and packets of bubble-gum, there was a deadlock in both the American League and National League wild-card races. The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays were tied at 90-71. The Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals were tied at 89-72.

The stomachs of baseball fans nationwide? Tied in knots.

This shouldn’t have been possible. The reason the baseball season lasts half the year and consists of more games than a decade worth of football is to make sure by the end of the marathon, we are absolutely, cross-your-heart, hope-to-die positive the best teams are at the forefront. This year, not so much. A disruptive rift has shattered Major League Baseball’s tidy little plans.

You see, the 2011 season is a nonconformist. A rebel. An anti-establishment zealot who wants chaos and anarchy. This is not the usual baseball way. This is an outlier.

Wild? Nah, that word just isn’t working.

How the season, which seemed so ho-hum just a month or so ago, transformed into this Mr. Hyde monstrosity of disorder is a bit hard to explain. The Red Sox, in typical fashion, were in complete control, ready to for their complimentary second place finish behind the New York Yankees and stroll into the playoffs. Everything was so normal.

Then September rolled around, and they suddenly became all thumbs and left feet.

Boston stumbled, tripped and fell flat on its face, going 7-19. Tampa Bay churned out a 16-10 month. Boom. Instant drama.

Meanwhile, in the NL, the Braves did a fine choke job of their own, blowing an 8 1/2 lead to the Cardinals since Sept. 1. Atlanta’s top two sluggers, third baseman Chipper Jones and catcher Brian McCann, fell into prolonged, funktastic slumps. While Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has been, well, Albert Pujols, batting a scorching .363 with 19 RBI.

Of course, ties are made to be broken. And on the last day of the season, with a postseason berth on the line, after a month of losing ground and confidence and hair, the Red Sox continued their losing ways with a 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioloes.

Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon had the Red Sox one strike away from the postseason but instead gave up a double to Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis that set up outfielder Nolan Reimold to knock in the game winning run.

The Rays, well they were the anti-Red Sox: They fought back from a 7-0 deficit to win in walk-off fashion courtesy of a home run by third baseman Evan Longoria for an 8-7 win in the 12th inning.

And, to continue the drama, the Braves finished off the collapse and lost to the Phillies 4-3 in 13 innings. The Cardinals? There was never any doubt on their end. They took care of business 8-0 over the Houston Astros to claim the NL Wild Card.

Usually, baseball gets pretty snooze-inducing about midway through the season. The difference between the good, the bad and the Pittsburgh Pirates becomes apparent. The last 80 games are a waste of time and leather.

Pitch. Swing. Hit.

Get to the playoffs already.

This year, the Sox, Rays, Braves and Cards made sure game No. 162 was as intriguing as game No. 1. They made sure this year there was a reason to stay interested, to stay involved, to tune in and be bewildered and bamboozled by the lunacy.

A half-year of games. Four teams. Two wild card sports. One day.

Yup, this season was…

You know what, you fill in the blank.