I’ve attended more Yankees elimination parties than I care to remember, but the AL East standings always seem to shake out the same way — the Sox hanging one or two rungs below New York.

But this year, based on what we’ve seen from just one month of play, they look about as defanged, declawed and deflated as I’ve ever remembered them coming out of the gate. At least under Joe Torre’s watch.

The starting pitching has been abysmal. The bullpen has been just as shaky. The great Mariano Rivera has a 12.15 ERA and not a single save to show for the month of April. And the offense that I figured would be good for 6 or 7 runs per game hasn’t been able to keep the team from going 9-14.

Worse for New York, the latest rumors on Clemens say the guy isn’t going anywhere but Houston.

Of course, as I’ve stated earlier, we’ve danced on the Yankees’ grave more times than we care to remember, only to be shown up come late September. But what if they don’t bounce back? What if Wang, Mussina, Pettitte and crew continue to tank it up? What if Rivera can’t nail ’em down like he used to? What if Damon, Matsui, Abreu flounder all year at the plate?

It could happen. Sure, odds say it won’t. But it could. Why not them, why not this year?

* * * * * * * *

Is it just me, or did Mientkiewicz seem especially pissy this weekend, complaining about balls and strikes and then, yesterday, barking after that strange play in the fifth where he tried to slide under Tavarez’s tag. Turns out, according to the Globe, that the target of Dougie’s ire was Cora:

“I went to make sure that Tavarez knew everything was OK and there was no problem,” Mientkiewicz told a couple of reporters, including George King of the New York Post. “Then the peanut gallery stepped in. This is the same guy [Cora] that threw an elbow at me on the ground ball he hit to Jeter. And now he’s telling me how to play the game right?”

* * * * * * * *

Thoughts and prayers this morning to the family of Josh Hancock. The Cardinals have put up a nice tribute page on their official site, including the perspectives of some Red Sox players. A former Sox prospect, Hancock made his first official major league start as a Red Sock in 2002. From Youk:

“It was kind of shocking when I found out today,” said Youkilis. “It was really tough, just more of a shock. I’m still shocked right now. It’s just a sad story. I haven’t really heard what the whole details are of the whole thing. It hasn’t really hit home yet. To all of his family and his friends out there, you just have to say a prayer for them and hope they handle it all right. The St. Louis Cardinals lost a good pitcher today.”

* * * * * * * *

Rumors abound that David Ortiz will be on hand and participating in a Q&A at tonight’s premiere of Rumbo a Las Grandes Ligas — a documentary about baseball in the Dominican Republic that features Papi and Vlad Guerrero — at the Boston Indie Film Festival. We don’t know either way, but you can check the Festival’s site here. Thanks to our man (and fellow Larry Young worshipper) Brad for the tip.

* * * * * * * *

Oh, the shirt? You can get one of those here.