Within a few days of the end of the 2010 World Series, a contest in which most Yankee fans had no more than a passing interest, thoughts turned to 2011 and how our favorite team could return to glory.
We were certain that success could be pinned to an improved pitching staff.
No longer would we have to sit on pins and needles as Javy Vazquez drove us crazy.
The Yankees starting rotation was going to be CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and, regrettably, probably A.J. Burnett.
But we could survive with Burnett.
CC Sabathia had just won 21 games.
Phil Hughes had won 18 and was a certain star for years to come.
Cliff Lee was a former Cy Young winner who could not possibly pass up the kind of money Hank and Hal and Jennifer Steinbrenner were going to let Brian Cashman throw at him.
Never mind that some sweet Yankee fans had spit on his wife during the ALCS and spilled beer on her.
Never mind that Texas was making a big pitch for him.
And Andy Pettitte had come back from some midseason injury woes to have another great year. The Core Four was intact, and Andy would be back.
We could live with A.J. Burnett. After all, he was going to be the fifth starter in this stable of studs.
So let's analyze things now.
Cliff Lee, of course, is playing in the City of Brotherly Love, where he apparently took less money to play in a city he says he really enjoyed in his short stint there before.
Andy Pettitte decided he liked staying in Texas with his beautiful bride when the kids were out of the house all day at school.
If Cashman had come on YES and told all of us fans that the starting rotation on April 18, 2011 for the New York Yankees was going to be CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, how many people would have jumped off the Triborough Bridge?
How many tickets would have been sold to fans who couldn't wait to see a guy who was a disaster last year despite having some of the sickest stuff in baseball (A.J. Burnett)?
How many jerseys would have been sold to young kids who couldn't wait to get a XXXXXXXL jersey for a guy who didn't even pitch in the majors in 2010 (Bartolo Colon)?
How many dads were anxiously awaiting the chance to take their kids to spring training and wait patiently to get an autograph from an old guy who was 12-6 last year (Freddy Garcia)?
And how many new Yankee female fans would swoon for another young stud pitcher being heralded to the mound at Yankee Stadium (Ivan Nova)?
What hope would Yankee fans have had if we had known back in November that this was going to be the starting rotation?
How amazed would we have been if we had been told Phil Hughes would go on the disabled list with a "tired" arm after pitching 10.1 innings in three games?
How many of us would have cried unashamedly if we had been told that CC Sabathia would have no decisions after his first four games?
The Yankees are in first place despite this absolutely unbelievable rotation we now see for The Most Storied Franchise in the History of Sports.
A.J. Burnett has been the shining light. He has won his first three starts.
But before we start carving that plaque for Monument Park, let's pause just a minute.
Yes, A.J. has three wins.
But he also has an ERA of 4.57, which gives him an ERA+ of only 89. He has given up 17 hits and nine earned runs in 17 innings.
Don't think A.J. is going to finish 31-0. Don't even dare hope for 15 wins out of A.J. You know he will need Sigmund Freud before the weather gets hot for good.
CC Sabathia pitched very well in his first two outings.
But a week ago in Boston he survived only 5.2 innings. He only gave up one run in Beantown, but he gave up nine hits and walked four while striking out only four.
Last night against the Rangers, CC was probably worse. He pitched through 6.1 innings, but he gave up eight hits and four runs, all of which were earned.
I don't know about anyone else, but I am taking up donations to buy CC some more Captain Crunch and have it shipped to him. We gotta get that lost 25 pounds back on the big man soon.
Bartolo Colon has been Phil Hughes' savior out of the pen so far. Almost exclusively in Hughes' dismal three starts, Colon has come out of the pen to pitch 11.1 innings, and he has a respectable ERA of 3.97.
But can he start?
Can he pitch well over a long haul?
If he is starting (as he is due to do in Toronto this week), who is going to pitch long relief when he or Freddy Garcia gets in trouble early?
Garcia has been pushed back and pushed back by an inordinate number of off days and rainouts in the first 18 days of the season.
He has only been called on once, and he was really very good. He pitched seven innings and gave up only three hits and one run.
And he did it the way Eddie Lopat used to do it for Casey Stengel: He was the Junk Man re-incarnate.
How long do we think that can last?
Ivan Nova might be the answer for long relief if Cashman could go out and find one more old, fat man somewhere who can be trained to walk up the little hill and put his toe on the rubber.
After all, Nova ain't bad for about two-and-two-thirds innings. But as a starter, he wears thin fast. He has thrown 14.2 innings in three starts and has an ERA of 7.36.
Gets kinda old watching Nova come out in the fourth inning, don't it?
Again, let's take ourselves back. Imagine Michael Kay interviewing Cashman in November after he has announced the starting rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Nova, Colon and Garcia.
And Cashman predicts that the Yankees will be on pace to win 104 games and that they will be in first place in the AL East after three weeks of play.
Would somebody please wake me up and tell me I can't eat Thai food anymore?