The New York Yankees arrived in Baltimore atop the American League East, challenging the popular notion they are an over-the-hill gang of overpaid players who are a couple of sore hamstrings away from crashing back to earth.

Certainly, there are some players in those pinstripes whose odometers could roll over at any time, but the Yankees have proved through the years that it's a dangerous business to underestimate them.


That didn't stop a large chunk of the baseball intelligencia from writing them off at the start of this season, based on the average age of their top stars, the retirement of team leader Derek Jeter and the turmoil that surrounded the return of disgraced superstar Alex Rodriguez. There was legitimate room for skepticism — and still is — but we're more than two months into the season and they're still here.

If you're unpleasantly surprised, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones says, you haven't been paying full attention.

"They know how to win," Jones said. "It doesn't matter who they have on that roster. When you put on those pinstripes, you figure out something. It's remarkable to see how those pinstripes have revived the careers of some guys."

The Yankees entered Saturday tied for the fourth-best record in the major leagues, and two of the guys who were supposed to be hobbling around the clubhouse are having terrific seasons. Mark Teixeira (Mount Saint Joseph) was tied for the AL lead in RBIs and was tied for second in home runs heading into Saturday, while Rodriguez has been one of the club's most productive hitters.

"They said A-Rod wouldn't hit and look at the year he's having," Jones said. "I'm sure he's proven a lot of people wrong at this point. … The man can play baseball. Their team's for real. They said Teixeira wasn't going to do it. Teixeira had 17 [home runs] and 45 [RBIs] the last time I looked. That's production."

Still, the whispers follow them wherever they go. They're fragile, and the years are going to catch up with them if the injuries don't.

Longtime ace CC Sabathia, who faced the Orioles on Saturday night, arrived in town with a 3-7 record and an uncharacteristic 5.25 ERA. Big-money Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has pitched very well when he's been available, but has made just six starts after breaking down during spring training.

Orioles fans have been waiting for the Yankees to implode for a long time and they enjoyed watching their team blow past the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays last season to win the AL East by 12 games.

During the lean decade after the Orioles reached the American League Championship Series in 1996 and '97, even club officials pinned their hopes on the Yankees eventually going gray or wilting under the weight of their ever-growing payroll. Instead, they kept piling up playoff appearances while the Orioles withered away.

"I think that everybody who knows baseball knows [Yankees] history more than they know their own team's history," Jones said, "because they've been doing it the longest and have won the most, so people want to take them down."

Maybe the evenly matched AL East is just holding them up. Every team has exhibited some major weakness. The Orioles are just knitting their lineup back together after early season injuries. The Tampa Bay Rays have scored the fewest runs in the division. The Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have given up the most.

Every team has about 100 games to go, so there's going to be a lot of baseball before anyone really knows who is for real and who is going to fall by the wayside.

"With all the injuries in the game these days, you never know what's going to happen," Teixeira said Friday. "The team that stays the healthiest in this division for the remainder of the season is probably going to win it. That's the fact of the matter."

So far, the Yankees are still the Yankees and no one should be surprised.


Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article. Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at