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Why the Yankees' 5-8 start unquestionably means that they are doomed

It's over. Just look to the recent past.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing is going right for the Yankees right now. They're making mistakes in the field, baserunning blunders, and stranding approximately 69,420 runners in scoring position. They have yet to win more than one series in 2016 and having already lost another to the lowly Athletics, they need to win tonight to avoid an even more humiliating sweep at Yankee Stadium.

So now the Yankees find themselves 5-8, dead last in the AL East. To quote a great philosopher, it's not what you want. It may be far worse than the Yankees feared. This is their worst start in over a decade, and if the past couple times they went 5-8 mean anything, then they are surely doomed to an awful season.


Fresh off the disappointment of the '04 season, the Yankees made a big trade to bring Randy Johnson aboard and further reinforced their pitching by signing free agent starters Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. They won 101 games in each of the past two years, and with these additions, it seemed like 2005 would be another romp, even with the powerhouse Red Sox in the same division. Sure enough, the Yankees won the opening series against Boston, but they quickly took a nosedive, losing eight of their next games. They needed a 19-8 blowout victory over the Devil Rays to simply move up to 5-8.

Yet that's where they were. Some players were hitting, but Jorge Posada looked terrible with a .227/.306/.250 triple slash and Bernie Williams didn't seem too much better. The starting pitching was a mess, and another embarrassing loss the next to Hideo Nomo (somehow still pitching in 2005) made them even worse: 5-9. They turned out to be so bad that they were 11-19 after play ended on May 6th. Pathetic.

Then they went 84-48 for the rest of the year to reach 95 victories, winning the AL East for the eighth consecutive season. They scored 886 runs, belted 229 homers, and Alex Rodriguez won the AL MVP with a 48-dinger, 9.4 WAR campaign. Pathetic.


Expectations were very high on the '97 Yankees after the euphoria of the World Series-winning '96 season. Even though they have lost Jimmy Key and John Wetteland in free agency, they signed the durable David Wells and promoted setup man Mariano Rivera to closer. They had every reason to expect good things from '97. The regular season began and they not only went 5-8 to start the year; they went 5-10.

They lost series to middling-to-crappy teams, like the Angels, Athletics, and Brewers. To twist the knife, the loss that pushed them to 5-10 was miserable, as they blew a 4-1 lead to Milwaukee and lost it on a walk-off walk issued by David Weathers. Rivera looked like a disaster at closer, blowing three of his first six save chances with a 4.00 ERA and 14 hits allowed over nine innings. Wade Boggs and Cecil Fielder both appeared to both be suddenly washed up.

The '97 team went 91-56 from that point onward, winning 96 games (four more than they had won in the '96 season the year). They finished two games behind the wire-to-wire Orioles for the AL East, but they still captured the Wild Card and their 96 victories were the third-most in baseball anyway. Pathetic.


So now here stand the 2016 Yankees with a 5-8 record. The season is a long, long way from over, and slow starts do not spell doom. Put down the torches and pitchforks. Give them time. The 2005 team did make some changes that helped them turn it around (like calling up Robinson Cano and getting surprising contributions on the mound from no-names Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon), but those did not even happen until May, when the Yankees were further under .500. It's okay to be shaky in April. That doesn't automatically ruin teams.

Who knows? Maybe they'll be as lousy as another Yankees team that started 5-8 and finished the year celebrating a World Series championship on the back of Reggie Jackson.