Sure, they teased us with the notion that this season might be different. A 21-29 mark through the season's first two months put general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Torre squarely in owner George Steinbrenner's cross-hairs and provided hope to Yankee-haters that the Bombers' time might be done, finally.
Should've known better. The Yankees put out the same bait two seasons ago, limping to an 11-19 start. Their bashers fell for it then, and like now, wound up silenced.
The moral of the story, then, is that this is how it always ends. This will be 13 consecutive trips to the cauldron that is October baseball, and it seems Billy Martin will sooner return from the grave to burn down the Bronx than will a postseason be conducted without the Yanks.
Thus, it will be another fall of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, the three Yankees who have been with Torre practically since the beginning. Another fall of Alex Rodriguez and his never-ending quest to prove October is not the kryptonite to his superhuman ability.
Still, as redundant as those storylines have become, there is something remarkably fresh about this version of Team $$$. These Yankees have risen from the dead on the wings of several players who are playing primary roles for the first time. Some of the names have infiltrated the household, others haven't. But it's a cast of characters that has brought some new vitality to this long-standing program.
Take Chien-Ming Wang, for instance. Wang won 19 games in 2006 but did so while playing the understudy to Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina. In 2007, with the Big Unit dealt in the offseason and Mussina's best days clearly behind him, Wang was the designated Yankees ace from the beginning. And he's responded with 18 wins, an especially impressive total considering he didn't win even once in April.
The return of Andy Pettitte after he was spun off for a three-year cameo in Houston also has been huge. Pettitte is 9-2 and has pitched fewer than six innings only twice in 12 starts since the All-Star break. He's 14-9 in 34 career postseason starts, including 10-5 with the Yankees, and his presence provides New York's rotation the depth it lacked when he was in Houston.
Then there's reliever Joba Chamberlain, the set-up man who has been called Joba the Hut for obvious reasons but who really ought to be called Joba the Hurt, because that's what he's done to opposing lineups seeking late-inning comebacks. Chamberlain, who began the season in Single-A, has pitched 16 innings since his recall in early August and still hasn't allowed an earned run (opponents are hitting .143 against him). He's become the primary bridge to Rivera, and has given the Yanks a 1-2 punch out of the 'pen that they've lacked since Jeff Nelson was doing the same in their last title season of 2000.
There's also center fielder Melkey Cabrera, 22, whose impact since the start of July -- .313, 38 RBI, better-than-expected defense -- has meant less playing time for Johnny Damon and a boatload of victories. New York is 46-23 since June ended.
And starter Ian Kennedy, who has endeared himself to New Yorkers despite a last name that conjures up all things Boston, can't be overlooked, either. Kennedy's first three starts have produced 19 innings, 15 strikeouts, a 1.89 ERA, two Yankee victories and a nice problem Torre needs to solve. Namely, should the kid get the ball in the playoffs? Add to the equation the excellence of second baseman Robinson Cano (.298, 83 RBI); the understated proficiency of Hideki Matsui (.290, 94 RBI); and the resurgence of Bobby Abreu (.320, 11 HR's, 55 RBI) since the All-Star break), and the quiet wizadry of Torre, and it's enough to make you wonder if the Yankees aren't ready to add a 27th championship to their overloaded trophy case. Then again, feel free to doubt that possibility. After all, if the Yankees are synonymous with October baseball, then so, too, is a nation full of folks pulling for their demise.
And thankfully, how that campaign comes to an end is not nearly as predictable.
Contact Rick Hurd at email@example.com.
1. Red Sox 1
Five straight 30-HR years for David Ortiz equals Jimmie Foxx, trails only Manny Ramirez (6)
2. Angels 2
They've posted four straight winning seasons for first time in franchise history
3. Indians 3
So much for wearing down: 17-6 surge during 23-day stretch has playoffs beckoning
4. Yankees 4
Suddenly, they have good young pitchers sprouting up from all over
5. Mets 5
Pedro Martinez (.693) moves past Whitey Ford (.690) for majors' all-time best winning percentage
6. D'backs 6
Losing Orlando Hudson will prove that second basemen aren't a dime a dozen
7. Tigers 8
Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield each have at least 100 runs
8. Padres 7
David Wells gets first multihit game at age 44; only Satchel Paige did it later
9. Phillies 10
A question to ponder before starting MVP debate: Who gets vote on this team?
10. Rockies 12
Todd Helton betters Tris Speaker, becomes first with 10 straight 35-double seasons
11. Dodgers 11
Get his Hall speech ready: Jeff Kent has 12 straight 20-homer seasons
12. Cubs 13
Lou's crew is sweet (59-33) when starter goes at least six; sour (16-38) when he doesn't
13. Mariners 9
Amidst plunge, a nice note: Their 44 come-from-behind wins are most in majors
14. Braves 15
Two straight Octobers without this team? Maybe the apocalypse really is approaching
15. Blue Jays 14
Until last week, starters hadn't lost consecutive starts since late July
16. Twins 17
What does future hold now that one of best GM's (Terry Ryan) has called it a day?
17. Brewers 18
Give him the stop sign: Prince Fielder poised to join dad in elite 40 (HR)-0 (SB) club
18. Rangers 20
Michael Young needs 18 hits over final 16 games to reach 200 for fifth straight year
19. Reds 22
He won't get many Cy Young votes, but Aaron Harang again among NL's best
20. A'S 19
They haven't faced an elimination this early since the post-McGwire days of 1997
21. Cardinals 16
Apparently, they'll prove to be too flawed to complete a miracle finish
22. Pirates 25
They're a cumulative 261 games below .500 since losing ways began in 1992
23. GIANTS 23
With speed suddenly in abundance, maybe they should hire Whitey Herzog, install turf
24. D. Rays 24
Fix 'pen, add one more solid starter, and they could knock on .500's door
25. Royals 21
In the end, Alex Gordon has shown flashes of being stud he's been projected to be
26. White Sox 28
Even the weather gods don't like this team: 10 games have been delayed by rain
27. Nationals 26
Pitcher Ross Detweiler is first from class of 2007 to appear in majors
28. Astros 27
Craig Biggio will finish career trailing only Speaker, Rose, Musial, Cobb on doubles list
29. Marlins 29
Hanley Ramirez third ever with 360 hits, 40 HRs, 90 SBs over two-season span
30. Orioles 30
Parents, this pitching staff is not suitable viewing for young eyes