2006-04-14 / Sports

Yankee Fans Don't Have To Bite Their Nails Just Yet

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist

By Michael Avallone
Sports Columnist

New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez, right, congratulates teammates Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, (2), and Bernie Williams (51). (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez, right, congratulates teammates Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, (2), and Bernie Williams (51). (AP Photo/Peter Morgan) If George Steinbrenner had his way, the Yankees would go 162-0. Now that obviously isn't going to happen, but that didn't stop the media from ratcheting up the red flag after an up-and-down start to 2006.

Entering the season, there was little doubt in anyone's minds that the Bronx Bombers would be favored to win the A.L East for the 10th time in 11 seasons. With an offense that features two sure-fire Hall-of-Famers and possibly two more, the Yankees could very well become the first team since the 1999 Cleveland Indians to break the 1,000-run barrier.

A 15-2 drubbing of the Oakland A's their opening game only reinforced those beliefs, but then a funny - and potentially scary - thing happened. New York dropped their next four games, scoring a total of 10 runs in losses to the Athletics and Angels. The Yanks rebounded with a 10-1 win on Sunday and have now scored 21 combined runs in their first two home victories against the Royals.

Obviously, it's the media's job to drum up interest and what better way than to act like the sky is falling? No knowledgeable baseball fan gets too high or too low over the first five games of the season, but for some reason, the press likes to look for the first ding in the armor and run with it.

Sounds familiar right? After all, last year's 11-19 start was supposed to be the sure-fire sign that the Yankees just didn't have it anymore. After falling to that low point, the Bombers proceeded to go 84-48 (.636) to win another Eastern Division crown, tying the Boston Red Sox at 95-67.

All isn't rosy in Yankee-land however. While the offense will surely pummel the dregs of the American League (see Royals, Kansas City), it remains to be seen what will happen when they face off against the upper-echelon teams of the junior circuit. So far, Anaheim and Oakland beat New York four-of-six times. Both teams boast good pitching staffs.

The old adage says that "good pitching stops good hitting." Is it a coincidence since the Yankees have become an offensive juggernaut in recent years that they haven't been able to win a World Series? Then there's the Yankee pitching itself. Randy Johnson has given no indication that the 42 years on his birth certificate is slowing him down, but the rest of the staff - outside of Mariano Rivera - leaves plenty to be desired. Mike Mussina - 38 years of age himself - has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons. Like Johnson, Mussina is off to a strong start so far, allowing just four runs in 13 innings (2.77 ERA). With names like Chien-Ming Wang, Shawn Chacon and - eventually - Carl Pavano rounding out the rotation, there is legitimate concern that the team is not built for a short playoff series.

Panic time? Hardly. It wasn't too long ago that another Yankee squad struggled out of the gate, losing their first four en route to a 1-4 beginning. That was the 1998 club and all they did was win 125 total games and the World Series.

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