We are now a third of the way through the season, making it a good time to examine the landscape in the American League East, which yet again seems to be baseball’s toughest division despite the fact that a lot of people thought this year could be the start of its demise.
The Yankees have somehow managed to get through the first two months of the season still in the thick of things in the division despite the absence of Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Granderson was back but is gone again, and Teixeira, Rodriguez and Jeter all have shaky timelines for their return. It’s going to be awhile. Huroki Kuroda has been outstanding, and C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte haven’t been bad, either.
The Red Sox got off to a blazing hot start but suddenly hit a speed bump almost as soon as accusations spread that Clay Buchholz was cheating and using some sort of foreign substance on the ball. The rotation has since fallen apart, and their great bullpen took two big hits. Joel Hanrahan is out for the season with an elbow injury while Andrew Bailey always seems to be a candidate for the disabled list.
The Rays have been shaky to say the least, but as is typical of a Joe Maddon club, they continue to battle. David Price has really struggled and the team has missed the presence of James Shields in the rotation. Fernando Rodney is following up a historic season with a poor one. Essentially, the “real” Rodney has finally resurfaced. The team struggles to score runs as usual, but at least Evan Longoria has stayed healthy and is producing at a high level. James Loney’s rebirth has been huge.
The Blue Jays are bringing up the rear, and it hasn’t been pretty. Essentially, after pulling off the huge offseason trade, every single player acquired by the Jays has been a tremendous disappointment. Jose Reyes is still out with an ankle injury, Josh Johnson has been ineffective and on the DL, Emilio Bonifacio forgot how to hit and R.A. Dickey went from Cy Young to ineffective.
Brett Lawrie hasn’t been his usual self since starting the season on the DL and the team is awful defensively. It would be almost impossible for the Jays to make the playoffs at this point. They will lament the fact they gave up such key pieces from one of the top farm systems in baseball for a bunch of players that didn’t improve the club one bit from last season.
This is going to sound crazy, but the Baltimore Orioles are the favorites to win the division as we sit here today. They are the youngest club in the division, they don’t have any major injuries (Brian Roberts doesn’t count), they have the best manager, their defense is really good, their bullpen is very good and their offense can score a lot of runs. The starting pitching remains a concern, but is showing signs of improvement with Jason Hammel and Miguel Gonzalez regaining their form from last year. The return of Wei-Yin Chen from the DL will be key.
It’s certainly going to be a close race the rest of the way, as none of the teams are far and away better than any of the others, sans Toronto. The O’s might get there in the next couple of years if Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy become stars, but until then, this is a division that will be a four-horse race down to the final week of the regular season.