Two weeks ago, people were talking about the New York Yankees as one of the best teams in the American League after their acquisitions of starting pitchers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. Now, the race for the American League pennant in 2012 might actually feel like you have won the World Series. Over the course of this offseason, we have seen teams in the American League get significantly better.
The Detroit Tigers, who beat the Yankees in the ALDS last year, signed Prince Fielder to a 9 year-$214 million contract to be the first baseman. The Los Angeles Angels made the splash of the Winter Meetings by acquiring both slugging first baseman Albert Pujols and a top of the line pitcher in C.J Wilson. Plus, the Texas Rangers picked up Joe Nathan to strengthen their bullpen and won the bidding war for Yu Darvish, who could become the first international pitching sensation to actually be successful.
The good thing for the Yankees in this case is that in these All-Star games that shouldn’t count towards home field, the American League, with their bats, might actually gain that advantage back. I mean, just look at next year’s ballot. At first base, you have to choose between Fielder, Pujols, Mark Teixeira, and Adrian Gonzalez. Somebody really good is going to get left off the team in one way or another.
Another good thing for the Bombers is that their two main contenders in the American League (Boston and Tampa Bay) have not done much in terms of player personnel moves. Boston, however, did add Andrew Bailey as their closer, but replaced Jonathan Papelbon in the process. The American League East is still the Yankees to lose. The problem I have with the American League is if you do not win the division, these new Wild Card rules could have New York in a one game playoff with either LA or Texas potentially. As we know from the past, those are not easy matchups for the Bombers.
Of course, just because you make big moves, that does not mean you can buy that World Championship. Right now, if you project it out, there are six American League teams vying for four and potentially five spots. In this DH world of musical chairs, somebody is going to be left without a seat to the big dance.