Hello, baseball fans, and welcome to the first of what I hope will be a funny and informative series of divisional breakdowns. I’m bringing you information about the teams all the way from Toronto to Miami and every one in between. Today, I’m going to cover the wildly different AL East, where a new team has risen to take the prestigious crown away from its normal holders.
1. Toronto Blue Jays
2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. New York Yankees
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
The past 20 years have been difficult for the Blue Jays, as they have gone without a playoff berth for the 3rd longest time in the MLB. This year, the management of the Jays decided they were tired of that trend and brought in such key acquisitions as R.A Dickey, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle (really anyone of value besides Giancarlo Stanton from Miami). The acquired position players should fit in very nicely with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Brett Lawrie. On the other side of the field, the rotation can hold up against anyone in the MLB, with a bevy of talent in Dickey, Johnson, Ricky Romero, Buherle, and Brandon Morrow. The Blue Jays have to worry about the usual competition from the Red Sox and Yankees this year, as the teams are either retooling or dealing with injury problems.
Best Case Scenario- The offseason moves pay off, injuries stay away from the key players in the lineup, and Toronto reaches the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
Worst Case Scenario- The moves seem to be ill-advised, as the expensive contracts of their new players and injury troubles drag on their gameplay. Toronto, with a broken wing, has its playoff hopes crash and burn.
Tampa Bay Rays
Even though the Rays performed well last year, finishing 90-72, they still finished 3rd in the AL East behind the Yankees and surprising Orioles. This year, however, the Yankees face injury troubles galore and the Orioles are expected to regress, so the Rays should swoop in to claim 2nd place in the division. Evan Longoria, fresh off his 6-year, $100 million dollar contract extension, should carry the load if he stays healthy, and Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings will support him. Their rotation is not as strong as it was last year, as the Rays dealt both James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for stellar young prospect Wil Myers (among other players), but it is still headlined by the reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price, as well as 10+ game winners Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore. Manger Joe Maddon will find a way to make this ball club win games, as he always does.
Best Case- Longoria stays healthy, Jennings and Zobrist contribute like they are supposed to, the rotation is serviceable (and Price is consistently great once more), and the Rays enter the playoffs once more.
Worst Case- Longoria is injured once again, the rotation cannot handle the loss of Shields and Davis, and the Rays fall behind to 3rd in the division behind their rivals the Yankees.
New York Yankees
Oh, the Yankees. The seemingly ever-successful team was very good last year, going 95-67 and finishing first in their division enroute to the ALCS, where they got swept by the Detroit Tigers. This offseason has brought a Mets-esque wave of bad luck to their neighbors, as players like expensive, drug-filled, and declining Alex Rodriguez, along with Michael Pineda, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira, are injured. The Yankees, who rely on their power, lost 149 home runs from their lineup already, and it’s not even April. The only bright spots are returning Mariano Rivera (who will retire at year’s end) and Derek Jeter (who suffered a setback today with his injured ankle), along with new additions such as Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner . Manager Joe Girardi will have his job cut out for him this year.
Best Case- The injured players return soon enough that their absence isn’t too much of an issue, the new players perform well, Mariano Riveria is solid in his final year, Jeter’s ankle and hitting holds up for a season, and the Yankees squeak into the final wild-card spot with grit and small ball (and perhaps mid-season splurging, reminiscent of late George Steinbrenner).
Worst Case- The injured players take all the pop out of the Yankees lineup, the new additions fail to match even lowered expectations, Riveria and Jeter cannot perform as well as they have in years past, and the Yankees finish 4th (or even 5th!) in the division they expect to dominate, to the delight of most of the league (and free world).
The Orioles surprised many last year when they went 93-69, finishing second in the division behind the Yankees and winning the initial AL wild-card game before losing to the Yankees in a hard-fought 5 game ALDS. Manager Buck Showalter helped lead this team back to prominence last year, helping them win their first game since 1997, but the Orioles will regress this year. The Orioles did not change a precarious bullpen, and will have to depend on All-Star Adam Jones and young talent like 3B Manny Machado and SP Dylan Bundy. While all are tremendous talents who have bright futures ahead of them, I don’t believe that the Orioles will reach the postseason again this year.
Best Case- Jones and Machado supply both offense and stellar defense, Chris Davis keeps hitting bombs, Bundy and the rest of the rotation is solid, and Showalter somehow gets the Orioles into the playoffs two straight years in a row.
Worst Case- The Orioles’ luck runs out as they are no longer winning all of their extra-inning and one-run games, their young talent is not producing or gets injured, and last year’s incredible run is viewed as a fluke by media and fans alike.
Boston Red Sox
Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox had a dreadful 2012, going 69-93 a year after a historic September collapse and reorganization of the front office and managerial positions. This year, another new manager, John Farrell, has been brought in to try to coax wins out of a strange but talented bunch of players. Although the Red Sox are rebuilding, they still were players in the free-agent market this winter, signing Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, and Mike Napoli. If those players can work well with mainstays such as Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Will Middlebrooks, and Jon Lester and and Clay Buchholz pitch well, the Red Sox could have a very nice 2013. My advice to Red Sox fans, however, is to not expect that.
Best Case- The rotation and lineup are relatively injury-free and without drama, Farrell can control his players on and off the field, and the Red Sox don’t embarrass themselves as they’ve done in the past couple years, making a push for the playoffs.
Worst Case- The Red Sox implode once more, as injuries and drama undermine whatever success they have. Farrell gets out of town after one year, and expensive new players are ridiculed and booed at Fenway.
There you have it! That’s it for the first edition of dbc482’s divisional breakdowns! Next time, I will cover the surprisingly deep AL Central. Can anyone defeat the AL champion Tigers this year? Find out tomorrow!