Long before I was making Dorn and Bacon’s columns look like cave drawings, I was a pretty goddamn good baseball blogger… and I still am. In fact, the reason I was brought on board was to write sports columns. This is the first of six division previews from now until opening day to satiate your desire for the Great American Game. We’ll start with the American League (because it has the best name). Today, it’s the AL East.
The Orioles are on rough times… again. It seems as if their attempt at a rebuild has fallen flat on its face. But there’s still some pieces there that make you wonder. Brian Matusz was as big of a prospect as anyone in baseball until he got injured. There‘s some optimism surrounding the Orioles with catcher Matt Wieters and Matusz, but they play in the AL East. I can’t spend much more time on these guys. They’re one of the worst run organizations in baseball and it’s going to be another season in the basement for the O’s. Get your shit together, Baltimore.
65-97, 5th in the AL East
Boston Red Sox
Oh how the mighty have fallen… well not really. The Red Sox might find themselves in an odd situation this year. Yeah, I get the whole beer and chicken fiasco in September last year, but really? Fire Theo Epstein? The guy who won you two (TWO) World Serieseses? The Red Sox are a class org, and I understand there were probably other circumstances as to why they fired Theo and Terry Francona. Before you get all up in arms about Francona, realize this: Francona was one of the worst managers when it came to Pythagorean winning percentage in the last five years (Pythagorean winning percentage calculates how many games a team should win. Nerd stuff. Amazingly, Tito and the Sox should have won more games in the last five seasons, but didn’t. Too much beer and chicken, I suppose).
The Sox have an aging team with a pretty good rotation and one of the best lineups in the AL. The AL East is a juggernaut and the Sawx might find themselves falling from grace this season.
85-77, 4th in the AL East
New York Yankees
The Evil Empire was at it again this offseason… oh wait, no they weren’t. The Yankees absolutely were big winners this winter, trading uber-prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda, straying from their big spending ways and doing some old-fashioned wheeling and dealing. The Yanks unloaded some of A.J. Burnett’s awful contract to the Pirates, where he was immediately struck in the face by a fastball during a bunting drill (NLol). The Bronx Bombers return a ridiculously good rotation (with the addition of Pineda) and an aging, yet still stellar lineup. Not much else to say here. The Yanks will be the Yanks again.
95-67, 1st in AL East
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays do it right. Homegrown players, great trades, lock up their own. They’re a model of how a “small-market/low budget” team should operate. Add young lefty Matt Moore to their rotation and you’ve got the recipe for an upset in the AL East. Joe Maddon may just be the coolest damn manager in the show, he’s pretty good at his job, too. Their rotation gives me the heeby jeebies. Chock full of young studs anchored by James Shields and followed by David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Moore and Wade Davis. Those guys might just be the best young rotation ever assembled. This is not hyperbole. Oh yeah, they still have Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce in their lineup. Never sleep on Tampa.
93-69, 2nd in AL East, 1st in AL Wild Card
Toronto Blue Jays
Our neighbors to the north have been quietly building the best team no one seems to be talking about. Stacked lineup, solid rotation, good bullpen. It’s a team that can beat you on any given night. Only problem is, they play in the AL East. If they played in any other division (maybe with the exception of the AL West or NL East), they would be serious contenders. Jose Bautista should have been the AL MVP last year. Damnit, if they didn’t play in Canada they might be my favorite team outside of my hometown Royals (don’t laugh).
But alas, the Jays just don’t have the horses quite yet. They stack up with every other team in the league. Unfortunately, they play in the same division as the two other best teams in the AL. Sorry Canada, America is better than you once again, even Florida.
87-75, 3rd in AL East