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2018 Opening Day

Opening Day, and since everyone is in action, I can start pretty much anywhere. But I’m going to start right here. The Houston Astros have the belt. The Boston Red Sox have the division. But the New York Yankees demand your attention. Because if hating the Yankees is good for baseball, then get ready for business to be boomin. The Baby Bombers get things started at 3:37 eastern north of the border in Toronto. And by 3:45, one of their mashers will have jumped ship, and the Hater-Aid will be flowing.

Remember that scrappy little upstart from the fifth borough? The one that clubbed its way to a MLB-leading 241 home runs and pushed the Stros to the brink? In case you forgot, that crew just added THOR to the middle of their line-up. Derek Jeter left his final gift basket in the Big Apple. And instead of some hand sanitizer, an NDA, and a signed Rawlings, the rest of the American League has to deal with not one, but two monsters in the middle of the Yankees lineup every night.

Check out this opening frame for Toronto starter J.A. Happ: Batting first and playing left field Brett Gardner. Batting second and playing in right, Aaron Judge. And batting third and just swinging the hickory, Giancarlo Stanton. Gardner. Judge. And Stanton. And all due respect to Gardner, but that’s got to feel like throwing B.P. to a little leaguer before those two monsters strut to home plate.

That’s 6-foot-7, 282 pound Aaron Judge. Then 6-foot-6, 245-pound Giancarlo Stanton. That’s two starting defensive ends in the NFL. That’s two guys bigger than the starting offensive tackles for Bill Parcell’s Super Bowl winner. And that’s 111 big flies combined last year, meaning the single-season teammate record set by two guys named Mantle and Maris is in their sights.

Those two alone would be scary enough, but that lineup doesn’t end there. Gary Sanchez has himself a silver slugger. New second baseman Neil Walker’s got one in his closet, too. Shortstop Didi Gregorius smoked 25 bombs last season and 1-to-9 these guys are going to grind pitchers into dust. And did I mention the rotation? Luis Severino is going to be an ace. Masahiro Tanaka is only gonna get better. Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery will compete every time out and CC Sabathia may not have a cannon holstered onto his left shoulder anymore but that dude is going to find a way to get people out. And it’s not like these guys need to go deep every night. Get five or six, kick up the cleats, and then turn the rock over to the best bully in baseball. New manager Aaron Boone has got to be feeling like the luckiest man on the planet.

Now I know the Sawks have responded. Hell, I know a team that won 93 games in spite of finishing D.F.L. in home runs for an American League team added J.D. Martinez to the middle of the lineup. And that David Price is back looking like David Price. I just know that the Evil Empire is going to find a way to do what they always do. Stack the deck. Choke people out. Make a couple moves at the trade deadline and then bring those bats into October.

The Yankees have the 7th highest payroll in baseball. That’s the lowest they’ve started a season since 1992. The 167 million going out the door is the lowest since 2003, so you know if there’s a deal to be made, they’ll make it. And more importantly, it resets their luxury tax rate, meaning if you hate these guys now, wait until you see what they do in free agency next year — when they offer Manny Machado a couple hundred million. Or. Bryce Harper a half a bill. Or both.

But this team isn’t playing for next year. It’s playing for this year. And it’s going to mash baseballs out of Yankees Stadium — and every other yard — at an absolutely insane rate. The Baby Bombers are all grown up. The Empire is striking back. And get ready to boil up a bucket of hate every time you see this club beat another pitching staff into submission. Because they’re only going to get better. And it all starts in a few hours. Get ready to slam some hator-ade.

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