The New York Yankees faced very different prospects than they are normally used to when the 2013 season began, but in the face of adversity, this year's version of the Bronx Bombers has passed this special test with flying colors.
At the start of this season, the Yanks had about $100 million on the disabled list in the names of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter, all with varying injuries and return dates no earlier than May.
Baseball pundits and fans of the sport overall doomed the Yankees to be an 85-win team at best with ESPN's Buster Olney and Jayson Stark going as far as to say that the Yanks would finish in last place in the American League East (per Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com).
That prediction of this veteran team seemed a little strange at best when first stated by Olney and Stark, but now, it looks downright ridiculous as the Bombers have far exceeded the expectations of outsiders and even some of the more negative fans of the team.
Coming into Tuesday's action, the Yankees are 24-14 and are one game up on the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the AL East and just 0.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in Major League Baseball. Again, it's still early, but these results thus far are stunning for many.
I cannot say I'm as stunned as most experts and fans are because despite all the injuries to the Yanks' big bats, I knew New York had a solid pitching staff all around to keep it afloat until the big guns came back.
So while the offense is an uncharacteristic 14th in runs scored in MLB this season, the Yanks' team ERA is an impressive 3.49, which is good enough for sixth in the league.
Speaking of offense: The Bombers have gotten immense contributions from guys general manager Brian Cashman picked off the scrap heap, namely Vernon Wells (nine homers, 22 RBI, .299 average), Travis Hafner (six homers, 18 RBI, .260 average) and Lyle Overbay (six homers, 22 RBI, .252 average).
When looking at Wells' numbers specifically, they are simply astonishing to say the least.
After being driven out of Los Angeles to make room in the Angels' crowded outfield, Wells has the same number of home runs as Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols combined, and he sports a far better average than either of those two sluggers (.212 and .234, respectively).
Wells has also driven in more runs than Pujols or Hamilton separately, and that's a stat that could've helped the Angels, who are ranked 17th in the league in runs scored.
That is a remarkable turn of events this season for a player who was thought to be finished and was believed to be a serviceable outfielder at best.
Combined, not only are the Yanks getting great production out of the three players mentioned above; Overbay, Wells and Hafner are also hitting in the clutch, which is something the Yanks have had a problem with in recent years, both in the regular season and playoffs from some of their best hitters.
It's clear the doubts about this year's roster were a bit overblown, or in some cases very overblown. There were plenty of Yankees fans out there who knew this team had the pitching to weather the storm, but not even those fans with more faith in the roster thought this team would actually be the storm.
No matter what anyone says, this season is different because for once the "Evil Empire" was the underdog with a seemingly lackluster roster that was getting next to no respect from anyone. This is a very new role the Yankees are playing, and they are thriving in it to the fullest extent.
That will enable Yankees fans to gloat about how they are overachieving, which is normally impossible thanks to the incredible amount of money this team spends on players each and every season.
Are you surprised at the start to the Yankees season in 2013?
That's right, gloat away, Yankees fans. This may be one of the few times in your lifetime you get the chance to do so, at least as long as this roster continues to be successful this season.
As the season moves along, tough decisions will have to be made about who will play once the bigger names on the Yankees come back, but when they do, the Yanks will no doubt have the deepest team in the majors.
That's quite the contrast from the start of the season when it was thought the Yanks didn't have enough offense to get the job done.
The only question that will remain is if the return of Grandy, A-Rod, Jeter and Texeira will have a negative impact on the overall winning chemistry of this team. That remains to be seen, but with a great shot in the arm coming in the next few months with players returning, I'm sure the Yanks as a whole don't mind finding out if it will.