Well, this wasn’t supposed to happen. The Yankees weren’t supposed to have bad starts from CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, and then watch their offense get three-hit, all in the season’s first three games. The results create two camps—those who remember the Red Sox’ 0-6 start last season and are ready to panic, and those who remember the 1998 Yankees’ 0-3 start, and are still absolutely sure the Yankees can still win 110 games and the World Series. The truth is probably somewhere in between—the Yankees probably won’t get swept by the Orioles, and there is a reason a season like 1998 comes with the addendum “once in a lifetime”.
The series with the Rays was closer than it looked, perhaps a couple of defensive miscues the difference between winning two games and winning none. Baseball depends an awful lot on random chance, and that the Yankees’ offense only struck out 16 times over three games suggests making a lot of contact, and eventually some of that contact will fall in for hits. Yes, there are plenty of reasons one should be wary of an aging offense, but it’s not the reason the Yankees just got swept.
On the other hand, the team had better hope for improved pitching performances in Baltimore. Sabathia’s Opening Day struggles are nothing new—of the four times he’s pitched the first game of the season, the Yankees have won just once—and one poor start shouldn’t make Kuroda’s Yankees’ career, but the Yankees are now hoping Ivan Nova, the pitcher who had the worst spring by far, can play stopper. Nova was more than up to the task last year, so there is some precedent, although one gets the feeling there would be more confidence all around had Nova had a better March.
The Yankees aren’t the only “good” team slow to get off the ground—the Braves, Giants, and Red Sox are all 0-3 as well, while the Twins, Mets and Orioles are undefeated. Few, if any, baseball fans would think that the season will end with Minnesota and Baltimore hosting playoff games and the Yankees and Red Sox in their division’s basement. This is an indication of just how long the baseball season is, that three games into the season and there is not a single thing we can say definitively about any one team other than that in most cases they won’t got 162-0.
So, as you watch the Yankees take on the Orioles this week, you need not do so from your window ledge. Losing streaks happen; there is no team that won’t, at some point, lose three games in a row, and most will lose four or five at least once during the 162-game season. The phrase “any given Sunday” is football parlance, but it can easily apply to the baseball diamond as well—in any given game, any one team can beat another, and it’s not until the end of May that anything close to a picture of how the season might shake out will begin to take form.
Would fans have preferred the Yankees to start the season 3-0? Of course, that goes without saying, but 0-3 isn’t a harbinger of doom the way an 0-2 start in the NFL often is, and if one remembers that the Yankees played close games all three in Tampa (even if the second wasn’t close until the game’s end), it would seem that all the Yankees need is a little bit of luck.