More than regular seasons

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More than regular seasons

For all the success and happiness that Boston experienced during our run of seven championships over 10 years (which already feels like 100 years ago), there was one negative aftereffect that still lingers to this day: We dont care as much about the regular season.

In so many ways, thats understandable. After all, over that decade of dominance, we pretty much saw everything. We saw teams cruise through the first 16, 82 or 100-something games and then choke when it mattered most. We saw teams sleepwalk through the regular season, and become heroes when it was all on the line. We saw mediocre teams have legendary postseasons. We saw mediocre teams have despicable postseasons. We saw mediocre teams have mediocre postseasons. But either way, the general takeaway was this:

The regular season is kind of . . . blah.

Its a mindset thats typically most pressing at this time of year late-January or early February when the Patriots are recently finished, the Red Sox are barely a twinkle in our eye, and all we have are the Bruins and Celtics, not even at the mid-way point of their seasons, winning and losing games that weve already convinced ourselves wont matter once the real season gets under way.

In sense, thats a good thing. Its given us a healthier perspective on sports and life. In general, it's helped make us sane. Temporarily, at least. But in another sense, where's the fun in that? What's the point of investing so much time and energy into a team when you spend the first few months shrugging your shoulders at every turn: "Eh, it's only January. It doesn't matter."

But while our instincts still err on the side of regular season insignificance, with every passing championshipless year, you can feel tides starting to turn. Combine that with a few extenuating circumstances, and in 2013, we're faced with what will likely be the most telling winter season in recent memory.

First of all, the Bruins just started. They've only got 48 games now, 46 games to make a statement, become a team and prove themselves worthy of all the preseason hype.

The Celtics are 40 games into their season, with 42 left, but find themselves in the exact same place. Their season may as well start now.

Of course, we've seen this before with the C's. They're probably the biggest reason the regular season has such a bum rap around here to begin with. But in the past, there was a least a broader body of previous work. A stretch of time when the Celtics flexed their muscles against the NBA's best, and showed that somewhere underneath all the apathy, their potential is real.

You can argue that this year's team delivered that with three straight wins over Indiana, New York and Atlanta. You can argue, once again, that their recent struggles have coincided with another Avery Bradley injury, and that once he's healthy, everything will be fine.

But you listen to Doc Rivers who believe it or not, has much firmer grasp than you or I on where this team headed and fine is the last thing that comes to mind. Doc's about ready to blow a gasket. Not to mention, the old "just wait until the playoffs" mantra doesn't have the same ring with the C's currently in line for a first round match-up with Miami.

But whatever, even with all the urgency and panic (at least with the C's) surrounding Boston's two winter teams, we still can't completely shake the lessons learned over a decade's worth of success. Even if the playoffs started today, and the Celtics did have to play the Heat, could you ever count them out?

I mean, obviously some people would. I'm sure Shaughnessy would deliver another predictable and thoughtless column, and all the experts would pick the Heat (with good reason), but no one in their right mind would say that Boston's regular-season struggles eliminates them from having postseason success. We all know how much things can change.

But for once, it might be nice to not have to count on that.

To see the B's and C's undergo a winter to remember, and provide actual evidence for optimism heading into the real season. Instead of just forcing us to fall back on recent history and blind faith.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Quotes, notes and stars: Barnes takes the blame in loss

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Quotes, notes and stars: Barnes takes the blame in loss

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

QUOTES

“That one’s one me. I’ve got to do a better job of securing that lead and getting out of that inning.” - Matt Barnes on giving up the lead.

“When he tries to go down and away to right-handers, the ball’s leaking back to the middle a bit. That was the case against [Lorenzo] Cain [and Raul] Mondesi in this case tonight. It’s on the plate first pitch, bases loaded he’s trying to get a strike to get ahead. But in general, Barnes has pitched to the edge at times and missed, and then when he’s on the plate it’s probably found the middle of the plate a bit too much.” - John Farrell on Barnes’ outing.

“I think everybody in that bullpen believes in every single person down there.” - Barnes said on the bullpen.

“It was good, everything was good . . . Just the fastball command was a little out of control.” - Eduardo Rodriguez on his left hamstring and his performance.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz launched his 31st home run of the season, which also marked the 534th of his career, tying Jimmie Foxx for 18th on the all-time home run chart.

* Mookie Betts recorded his Major League-leading 56th multi-hit game of the season.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. finished 1-for-2, bumping his average to .317 (77-for-243) at Fenway this season.

* The Red Sox grounded into four double plays, tying their season high on 6/12 against Minnesota.

* Matt Barnes’ ERA jumped from 3.68 before Sunday’s game to 4.45 after giving up 5 runs without recording an out.

 

STARS

1) Raul Mondesi

Mondesi’s bases-clearing triple in the sixth opened the floodgates and gave Kansas City the lead they would continue to build off.

2) Matt Strahm

 Strahm relieved Yordano Ventura after his short 4 and 1/3-inning outing. He held the Red Sox scoreless through 2.2 innings to earn his second win of the season.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez launched his sixth home run in his last eight games against Boston. He became the Royal to homer in three-straight games at Fenway since Billy Butler did in 2011.

First impressions: Red Sox implode in 6th inning, lose to Royals, 10-4

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First impressions: Red Sox implode in 6th inning, lose to Royals, 10-4

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 10-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Boston’s bullpen continues to be a roll of the dice every night.

This time Matt Barnes was the latest reliever to suffer from the plague that’s filled this bullpen all season.

Part of it was bad luck on two perfectly placed balls, the other part was Raul Mondesi lacing a triple, and Lorenzo Cain smacking a single.

Robbie Ross was better, but not by much.

No lead seems safe in the hands of any Boston reliever.

 

David Ortiz keeps putting himself in the same breath as legendary Hall of Famers.

This time it was former Red Sox great Jimmie Foxx, who Ortiz is now tied with at 534 home runs, 18th all time.

Early in the season he’d match a legendary player every so often, it was impressive. Now it’s almost to be expected every night he plays.

Next on the all-time home run list is Yankee Legend Mickey Mantle with 536.

 

The bottom of the order continues to play an important role in Boston’s run production.

Chris Young got things started in the fifth, then Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley Jr. kept it rolling so both Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts could cash in all three runners.

Moving JBJ back to ninth Saturday proved to be a good move, and moving Leon back down with his recent scuffles seems to be the best move, too.

Not only can they knock each other in any given instance, but they also put Dustin Pedroia (or Holt) and Bogaerts in run-producing situations, as opposed to just setting the table.

 

Chris Young’s hamstring shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

He was able to leg out the soft grounder to third base in the first inning.

Young has lost a step or two with age, but it seemed like he opened it up on the play.

Hopefully that’s a sign of the end of the injuries in left field this season.

 

Junichi Tazawa looked strong.

That’s more so an observation of his fastball reaching 94 mph.

Tazawa has a long way to go before he’s back to where he was, but the righty took a step in the right direction Sunday night. He retired Kansas City’s 2-3-4 hitters in his first inning and working past a leadoff single in his second inning of work.