Beltway Report: Who wins the American League East?
So, just who will be the beast of the American League East? Traditionally, it has been Boston and New York carrying the flag for what many consider the strongest division in Major League Baseball. But oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The Yankees have all of the sudden discovered fiscal responsibility under the Steinbrenner boys. Boston, a bit long in tooth, did add some marquee names during the winter. Only time will tell whether they turn out to be box-office hits. Leaving the Baltimore Orioles, the defending divisional winner, poised to reclaim the top perch.
I think the Orioles may take a slight step back from their 96 wins last season that saw them winning the American League East by 10 games over second-place New York. But the rest of the teams in the division are just as flawed as or even more so, enough to make it tough for any to overtake Baltimore for the division title. I really don’t see another team having improved enough during the off-season to pass the Orioles. Boston may come the closest, but barring a late spring training trade by the Bosox to bolster their starting pitching, the Orioles should have enough to claim their second consecutive division title this year.
Toronto appeared poised to make the strongest run at Baltimore, but a season-ending knee injury to pitcher Marcus Stoman makes the Blue Jays starting rotation a bit thin. Toronto did add veteran catcher Russell Martin (from Pittsburgh), which is instrumental on both the defensive side as well as Martin’s ability to handle the pitching staff. Still all told the Jays will be no better than a third place finisher.
The Yankees just didn’t do enough this off season. The Yanks’ starting pitching is old, and having Alex Rodriguez back on the field may be more of a detriment than benefit for the Pinstripes. NY will have just enough to finish fourth, while Tampa Bay, without veteran manager Joe Maddon, who bolted the Florida Gulf Coast for Chicago’s North Side, is just too undermanned to finish anywhere other than the basement in this loaded division.
The fate of the AL East this season may, however, hinge on decisions made by a team from out of the division, even out of the American League, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies appear to be on the verge of a huge fire sale. The big-ticket item in the sale will be All-Star starting pitcher Cole Hamels, who could, if added to a rotation like the Red Sox, be enough to flip the two top spots in the division. Boston has both the prospects and the cash to make such a deal a reality.
Injuries may also play a pivotal part in determining the order of finish in the division. Baltimore’s first-place prediction is based upon stars Manny Machado and Matt Weiters returning to form after knee (Machado) and arm (Weiters) surgeries ended both players 2014 season prematurely.
It’s a long season that will have many twist and turns for all the teams in the AL East. It’s the club that can navigate through the campaign, hitting the fewest potholes likely crossing the finish line first.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH- AL EAST
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox
- Toronto Blue Jays
- New York Yankees
- Tampa Bay Rays