The Yankees felt a lot of pressure to field a championship caliber team for this season after missing the playoffs last year. They were suppose to head into this season with a payroll under $189 million in hopes of missing out on millions of dollars worth of luxury taxes.
Instead, though, the Yankees ditched the $189 million goal -- not a mandate, remember -- and spent about half a billion dollars on free-agents to help get them back to October. So far, so good because that plan, the first three weeks of the season, is playing out exactly how the Yankees had hoped it would.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka -- the Yankees' two biggest signings of the winter -- stole the show Tuesday night at Fenway Park, helping the Bombers to a 9-3 win over the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series. The Yanks this season are now 4-1 against their rivals, thanks to the contributions of the new additions.
Ellsbury hit the third pitch of the game off the wall in center field, and after a fan reached over to grab the ball, he was awarded a triple to start the contest. He would come in to score on the next pitch when Derek Jeter singled to center field, extending his hitting-streak to 11 games. Ellsbury's second hit of the night, another big one, was a two-run double in the 5th inning that turned a 5-2 into a 7-2 game.
This season, Ellsbury has been one of the Yankees' best hitters, leading the team in batting average (.342) and on-base percentage (.395), and his eight stolen bases are good enough for second in the American League, behind Elvis Andrus and Jose Altuve.
A lot of people questioned the Yankees' decision to sign Ellsbury to such a massive contract, regardless of whether or not Robinson Cano was on his way out the day. Many feared if he would be able to stay healthy. He ran into the calf issue during spring training -- which is apparently not 100 percent, actually -- but there has been nothing else up to this point. If he continues to stay healthy, he can compete for the AL MVP award this season.
Tanaka was just as impressive, tossing 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball, while striking out seven and walking none. Both of the runs given up where solo homeruns in the 4th inning when David Ortiz and Mike Napoli went back-to-back. Other than that, it was Tanaka's game, as he notched his third win of the season in fourth start.
We knew heading into the offseason that, if posted, it would cost a lot of money to get him, but we also knew that this kid has talent. The Yankees shelled out the cash -- giving Tanaka a seven-year, $155 million contract, with another $20 million going to his former club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles -- has returned the favor, with a 2.15 ERA and 35 strikeouts with just two walks in 29.1 innings.
Also contributing to the win last night was Carlos Beltran, who belted his team-leading 5th homerun of the season, going 2-for-5 with two RBIs in the game. This guy always wanted to be a Yankee, he's getting that chance, and he's really making the most of it so far this season.
Brian McCann also helped out, adding a 3rd inning run on a double against Jon Lester, one of McCann's three hits on the night. He's worked out well so far, too. When he's not hitting directly into the shift, he's batting .262 with three homeruns on nine RBIs.
Honestly, though, I have a tough think thinking that all four players will play this well all season. Ellsbury, I'd assume will slow down at some point -- though I really hope he doesn't -- and Tanaka will hit a wall as all pitchers do.
But for now, however, everything is working out just as planned for the big spending Yankees.