Is the AL East suddenly winnable?
If there has been a common refrain over the past decade (or longer) out of Blue Jays nation it would have to be one word – unfair. That’s how being a member of the AL East has felt seemingly forever given the presence of the two headed financial powerhouses in New York and Boston.
It was an honest beef with the clout those two teams had, often times the salaries from only their infields alone surpassing most other teams entire payroll. Whatever problem either of these teams would face they could always throw the mighty dollar at it and seemingly make it disappear.
To make matters worse over the past five years there has been another franchise starting to take flight on a bare bones payroll structure. It would be hard to argue the Tampa Bay Rays haven’t been the most well run franchise in baseball over a five or six year period.
Endless supply of quality starting pitchers, athletically gifted position players at a few key positions (all at either affordable or bargain bottom prices) and a penchant for turning reclamation projects into superstars (Ben Zobrist anyone?).
The Toronto Blue Jays were always the also-rans to the ‘big two’ of Boston and New York, good for a noble third place effort year in and year out. Well even that changed recently with the emergence of the Rays.
However the year is now 2012 and the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are suddenly looking well, rather ordinary and dare I say it, beatable. Of the two the Yankees look more likely to shake off a relatively slow start as any time you can roll out a line-up that deep you are never out of a game.
But the reality is no team is impervious to the aging curve and it looks like both the Sox and Yanks have gotten a bit long in the tooth. Whether it is injury (Youkilis, Rivera) or just underperformance (Beckett, Hughes) the two kingpins look vulnerable.
Let’s look at the standings as of May 14, 2012.
|AL East||W-L||GB||RF||RA||Home||Away||Vs East||P10||Pythag W-L|
Based strictly on runs for/runs against (Pythag. theorem) the Toronto Blue Jays are actually the top team in the American League east. Both the Orioles and Rays have benefited from a bit of fortune in terms of their overall win/loss records.
The Blue Jays haven’t done themselves any favours in terms of head-to-head AL East matchups thus far and that has to be something they improve upon immediately. Given the slow offensive starts for Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and Yunel Escobar and the shaky ninth inning duo of Sergio Santos and Francisco Cordero (Jays have seven blown saves thus far) the team has performed admirably.
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have serious rotation question marks and those aren’t going away this season. The Baltimore Orioles are definitely a team on the rise but I don’t think they can match the Toronto Blue Jays bat for bat or arm for arm.
Finally that leaves the Tampa Bay Rays who are looking like the class of the division. They can send a stud to the mound at all five spots in the rotation and they haven’t missed a beat since losing Evan Longoria. If they can get timely hits they are built to win this season and I feel they are the team to beat right now in the East.
But don’t count out the Blue Jays if the bats start to match the outright amazing performance of the pitching staff. It still feels like this team hasn’t played that great yet either and definitely not their best.
This could be an interesting season.