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Who Will Win the East?

The American League East is perennially considered to be the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball. For the most part, the AL East has been a two-headed monster featuring the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. However, after making the Postseason three out of the last four years (including a World Series appearance in 2008), the Tampa Bay Rays have emerged as a viable third juggernaut in the division. Furthermore, many baseball talking heads are boldly predicting the Toronto Blue Jays to get over the hump and make it to the Postseason for the first time since 1993.

The Issue

To begin the 2012 season, both the Yankees and Red Sox sputtered out of the gates, each suffering sweeps at the hands of the Rays and Tigers, respectively. In addition to the Rays impressive sweep of the Yanks, the Blue Jays took two out of three from the Cleveland Indians. The Baltimore Orioles have also started 3-0, but it does not seem that they have the roster to contend long term (not to mention they swept a Twins team that lost 99 games last season).

I realize this is a small sample size of games, and it is entirely too early to tell, but it begs the question: Are we witnessing a “power shift” in the AL East to the Rays and Blue Jays, or are we in store for “business as usual” with the Yankees and Red Sox on top?

The Case for a “Power Shift”

Even with small budgets, the Rays and Blue Jays seem to have rosters built for a successful season. The Rays have a pitching Murderers' Row with the young arms of Shields, Price, Hellickson, and Moore and a bevy of young talent in Longoria, Zobrist, and Jennings. On the other hand, the Blue Jays have one of the best players in the league in Jose Bautista in addition to Lowrie, Romero, and Rasmus, who could all have breakout years.

Questions about the Yankees and Red Sox rotations, coupled with concerns for their aging superstars, leaves the door open for a power shift to take place. If the Rays and Blue Jays can stay healthy and get hot down the stretch, they could both contend for the AL East crown and an AL Wild Card spot.

The Case for “Business as Usual”

The strength of the Rays’ rotation is well chronicled, but concern arises when you look at their lineup. Granted there are some tough outs, but outside of Longoria, the Tampa Bay lineup is far from superior.

The Blue Jays will need at least 10 more wins than last year (81-81 in 2011) before I could even consider them to be in the hunt for the division title. I am not sure that they have done enough to strengthen their lineup or rotation to improve by that much.

Let’s be real, though. The last time that neither the Yankees nor Red Sox made the playoffs was in 1993. That’s a tough statistic to overcome, especially when you are staring down two of the top three payrolls in the game.

My Prediction

The Rays and Blue Jays will have productive seasons, and I believe that both teams will finish with winning records. However, I predict that both the Yankees and Red Sox will settle in and run away with the AL East. I am sticking with my preseason picks of the Red Sox winning the AL East and the Yankees nabbing one of the Wild Card spots.

Bring on the debate. Tweet me @KyleOKC.

The American League East is perennially considered to be the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball. For the most part, the AL East has been a two-headed monster featuring the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. However, after making the Postseason three out of the last four years (including a World Series appearance in 2008), the Tampa Bay Rays have emerged as a viable third juggernaut in the division. Furthermore, many baseball talking heads are boldly predicting the Toronto Blue Jays to get over the hump and make it to the Postseason for the first time since 1993.

The Issue

To begin the 2012 season, both the Yankees and Red Sox sputtered out of the gates, each suffering sweeps at the hands of the Rays and Tigers, respectively. In addition to the Rays impressive sweep of the Yanks, the Blue Jays took two out of three from the Cleveland Indians. The Baltimore Orioles have also started 3-0, but it does not seem that they have the roster to contend long term (not to mention they swept a Twins team that lost 99 games last season).

I realize this is a small sample size of games, and it is entirely too early to tell, but it begs the question: Are we witnessing a “power shift” in the AL East to the Rays and Blue Jays, or are we in store for “business as usual” with the Yankees and Red Sox on top?

The Case for a “Power Shift”

Even with small budgets, the Rays and Blue Jays seem to have rosters built for a successful season. The Rays have a pitching Murderers' Row with the young arms of Shields, Price, Hellickson, and Moore and a bevy of young talent in Longoria, Zobrist, and Jennings. On the other hand, the Blue Jays have one of the best players in the league in Jose Bautista in addition to Lowrie, Romero, and Rasmus, who could all have breakout years.

Questions about the Yankees and Red Sox rotations, coupled with concerns for their aging superstars, leaves the door open for a power shift to take place. If the Rays and Blue Jays can stay healthy and get hot down the stretch, they could both contend for the AL East crown and an AL Wild Card spot.

The Case for “Business as Usual”

The strength of the Rays’ rotation is well chronicled, but concern arises when you look at their lineup. Granted there are some tough outs, but outside of Longoria, the Tampa Bay lineup is far from superior.

The Blue Jays will need at least 10 more wins than last year (81-81 in 2011) before I could even consider them to be in the hunt for the division title. I am not sure that they have done enough to strengthen their lineup or rotation to improve by that much.

Let’s be real, though. The last time that neither the Yankees nor Red Sox made the playoffs was in 1993. That’s a tough statistic to overcome, especially when you are staring down two of the top three payrolls in the game.

My Prediction

The Rays and Blue Jays will have productive seasons, and I believe that both teams will finish with winning records. However, I predict that both the Yankees and Red Sox will settle in and run away with the AL East. I am sticking with my preseason picks of the Red Sox winning the AL East and the Yankees nabbing one of the Wild Card spots.

Bring on the debate. Tweet me @KyleOKC.