The last time the Yankees started 0-3, they won 114 games and the World Series.
There you go. That's something to print out and tape to the wall of your cubicle. Laminate it and carry it in your wallet. Tattoo it in backwards lettering on your chest for when you play Taxi Driver alone in your apartment. Baseball seasons are long, arduous affairs. People are born on Opening Day, give birth around the All-Star Break, and tidy up their estate with their lawyers during the Division Series. The season is so very long, in fact, that after an 0-3 start, a team can still have one of the very best seasons in baseball history.
An 0-3 start feels like the end of the world because there isn't anything to buffer it. When the Yankees lost four in a row last September, it wasn't a big deal. Probably because a) they were in first place and b) they won six in a row before the losing streak. It was just a part of the 162-game season -- an ebb followed by a flow followed by an ebb. Losing three to start a season, though? Something must be wrong. Something horrific.
Well, the Yankees probably don't think so. Panicking about the Yankees in April is so 1989. Again, the last time the Yankees started 0-3, it was 1998. It all ended up fine. Everything was like a dream. One with Wade Boggs riding around on a police horse for some reason. Or maybe that was 1996. Or maybe that was an actual dream I had, and Wade Boggs came down from the horse and was my seventh-grade teacher, but he wasn't my seventh-grade teacher, you know? Regardless, the 1998 Yankees were just fine.
The last time the Red Sox started 0-3, it was 2011. Barack Obama was president. American Idol dominated the Nielsen ratings. Time travel had not yet been invented. It sure was a different world back then. And the Red Sox actually started 0-6, on their way to a 2-10 start that had the greater Boston area in a panic. Turned out they were just fine. Until they weren't! But for a while there, they were the best team in the land. The 0-3 start didn't prevent them from being in great shape for the stretch run.
Here's the difference between the Yankees' 0-3 start and the Red Sox'.
The Yankees lost their three games when …
- CC Sabathia pitched poorly and Mariano Rivera blew a save in the first game
- Hiroki Kuroda was knocked around in the second game
- Their offense was shut down in the third game
How many of those things would you expect to continue? Maybe Kuroda's a little long in the tooth, and I guess Rivera has to zorp back to his home planet at some point before we all get suspicious, but for the most part, those aren't things the Yankees were supposed to struggle with. They still might, of course. This could be the worst season of Sabathia's career. Kuroda could be a free-agent dud. The Yankees' hitters could disappear every third game. But all of that would be pretty unexpected. The same thing goes with the Giants, who are 0-3 because their starting pitching has been a mess. Maybe that continues, but it's not supposed to.
The Red Sox lost their three games when …
- Their bullpen coughed up the first game
- Their starting pitcher in the second game got absolutely shellacked
- Their starting pitcher in the third game got absolutely shellacked and the bullpen coughed up two separate end-of-game leads.
How many of those things would you expect to continue? Considering the off-season was spent worrying about the starting pitching that set fire to the Red Sox' playoff hopes in 2011, and that the two best relievers from last year aren't in the bullpen this year, maybe all of them. We're still talking about three games, but the worry with the Red Sox was that their pitching would be a mess. In the first three games, the Red Sox' pitching has been a mess.
And this all means? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Both teams could go 100-59 over their next 159 games. But the above might explain why one team and their fans seem to be at DEFCON 5, catching up on their reading, while one team and their fans will soon be at DEFCON 1, stockpiling ammunition and iodine tablets. One 0-3 start seems out of place. One 0-3 start fits the pre-existing narrative. That's the only difference. It's still a long season. There's still nothing to take away from the first three games of the season, losses or not.