Bobby Lemaire, Staff Writer
Throughout the 2012 Major League Baseball season, there was no division with as much talent as the American League East. The New York Yankees won the division with a 95-67 record, making it all the way to the ALCS before bowing out in 4 games to the Detroit Tigers. The Baltimore Orioles finished second in the division, amassing a 93-69 record and then beating the Texas Rangers in a one game playoff, before losing in a thrilling Game 5 to the Yankees. Also reaching the 90 win plateau were the Tampa Bay Rays, who finished 90-72, but still failed to make the playoffs.
That left the Toronto Blue Jays (73-89) and the lowly Boston Red Sox (69-93) as the two teams in the division that could be roughed up by out of division teams. But, the entire division landscape changed on November 13, when the Blue Jays struck a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins, with the Jays acquiring superstar shortstop Jose Reyes, catcher John Buck, utility infielder Emilio Bonifacio and two stud starting pitchers in Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. The Marlins received shortstop Yunel Escobar back, with a couple of pitching prospects.
The Jays, already with home run hitter Jose Bautista, who had 27 homers in only 92 games and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion who had a career year with 42 homers and 110 RBI’s, are now a threat to take over the spot as top team in the AL East.
While the Blue Jays have gotten significantly better, the other contending teams in the AL East have mostly kept their playoff caliber squads intact. While the Yankees are unlikely to sign Nick Swisher, they recently re-signed starting pitchers Andy Pettitte (who had a 2.87 ERA in his 12 starts before injury) and Hiroki Kuroda (who had 16 wins). Along with the returns of shortstop Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, the Yankees are going in the 2013 with the same expectations as they have every year, world championship or bust.
The Baltimore Orioles were the biggest surprise of the division last year, thanks to the managerial duty of Buck Showalter. With catching sensation Matt Weiters behind the plate, star outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis driving in runs and pitchers Darren O’Day and Jim Johnson getting the final outs of the game, the O’s have no plans to go back to the past decade of baseball mediocrity.
The Tampa Bay Rays also have plenty of talent in order to make a run at the playoffs. With 2012 Cy Young winner David Price leading a very deep pitching staff, with James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays are going to give up very few runs. Along with stud hitters Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, it is also very easy to foresee the Rays playing some October baseball as well.
But in the current baseball playoff format, only one of these teams will make the playoffs by winning the division and it is possible for two other teams in this division to claim the Wild Card. In this situation, one playoff caliber team will miss the playoffs. That’s not even counting the fact that another division can produce a wild-card team.
This division is going to be tough for all of the teams because each team plays every team in their own division 19 times. Then you have to add in the Red Sox, who might not be in contention to make the playoffs next year, but would love nothing better than to play spoiler to an arch-rival like the Yankees or Rays.
All baseball fans will be eagerly waiting for April when the regular season starts and these teams face each other in an attempt to win a World Series and achieve baseball glory.