New York — It used to be so easy to be a Yankees fan. You'd flip on the TV in April, sit back for six months and wait for the victory parade in October.
But it has gotten a whole lot tougher the past few years. Now, they ask you to be patient. They ask you to have faith in their ability to come back. If you can't believe in anything else, they beseech you to at least believe in their history.
And now, every October, it seems, they are issuing apologies, making promises, hurling threats. And oh yeah, raising ticket prices.
So far, 2008 is looking a lot like 2007 and 2005. In fact, at this very point in the season a year ago, the Yankees were precisely where they are now, four games under .500 and watching a division race run away from them before it has really even started.
And once again, they ask you for patience and faith and belief in what they have done in the past. They don't want to remind you that every year, that past moves further and further back.
But how much patience can you have, how much faith can you retain, how long a memory do you need after what the Yankees have shown you this season, which is now more than one-quarter gone?
Sunday night, the Yankees lost to the Mets, 11-2, in a game nowhere near as close as the score. Following on the heels of their 7-4 loss Saturday, this was the worst regular-season weekend the Yankees have had in a long time. You can go to 2005, when they hung around .500 until July, or last season, when they bottomed out at 21-29 and 14 1â2 games back of the lead on Memorial Day weekend.
Both years, they righted the ship, rallied to make the playoffs, if only for a brief appearance.
But this year feels different, for a lot of reasons. There aren't many players to feel good about, and manager Joe Girardi, for some reason, doesn't inspire the same kind of serene confidence that his predecessor did.
"Put it on me," Girardi said. "I'm the leader. I gotta find something."
In truth, Girardi's the safest man in Yankee Stadium, and really, there's little he can do.
Asked to pinpoint where his team needed to improve, Girardi touched all the bases: "We need to play better, we need to pitch better, we need to hit better and we need to play better defense."
He left out baserunning, but when you manage only three hits and two walks all night, how much baserunning can you do? Right now, nothing is working, and the one thing that had worked - Chien-Ming Wang - well, that broke down, too.
So now, all Girardi can do is try to erase the first 44 games of the season, as if they didn't happen and, more importantly, as if they will not matter when this season is finally tallied up.
But what is there to make you believe they will be any different? Phil Hughes is still out, and Ian Kennedy still hasn't arrived, and judging by his last four starts, Andy Pettitte may be fading away. Robinson Cano is "up" to .204, Melky Cabrera is down to .255 and Jason Giambi may never hit his weight again.
And on the mound, Joba Chamberlain has shown signs of being mortal, Kyle Farnsworth has shown signs of being the same old guy.
This year, the Yankees are something they rarely have been. This year, they are a tough team to believe in.