Bryce Harper and Manny Machado loom over this Yankees season.
So much anticipation — years of it — accompanied their free agency. So much expectation persisted that one or the other, perhaps both, would wear pinstripes, that even when the Yankees were making their non-intentions clear there was still disbelief, right until first the Padres, then the Phillies signed one, then the other.
In recent years, though, the Yankees have pivoted from responding to need with deeper reaches into the wallet. The contender that arrived to Thursday’s Opening Day owes more to opposite philosophies — namely homegrown patience with Miguel Andujar, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino, and the crafty, buy-low trades for Chad Green, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks and now Luke Voit.
No fan felt the euphoric rush that would have come with a flash on a cellphone that the Yanks had bagged Harper or Machado when Green, Gregorius, Hicks and Voit were obtained. Yet, it is the baseball equivalent of purchasing four luxury cars for spare change. And the seismic chants of “Luuuke” that greet each Voit at-bat now and swell ever louder with each brawny smash resonate on The Bronx euphoria scale.
“From the moment he came over here, he pumped us up,” Aaron Judge said. “It’s just the passion he has for the game, and we all feed off of that. Especially once he hit that three-run homer, you heard how loud the stadium got.”
That first-inning, opening statement fueled a 7-2, never-in-doubt triumph over an Orioles team so bad it should be relegated to the Atlantic League.
One win, particularly against such an overmatched opponent, will not stem the inevitable “told-you-so’s” in the near future during a Yankees losing streak or, say, a Harper binge. But even on a day when the Yanks were not overly sharp, their blueprint to 95-plus wins was overt — a competent-to-better start by Masahiro Tanaka (two runs, 5 ²/₃ innings), unrelenting waves of elite relievers and a lengthy lineup filled with patience and power.