During the All-Star break and straight through to the trade deadline, the chic thing to say in baseball was that the one time dominant American League East had fallen on hard times, and that in today’s game all the powerhouse teams played out west. The Rays, picked by many in the spring as the favorite to win the division, were in last place and shopping former Cy Young winner David Price. The World Series Champion Red Sox were under .500. The Yankees were decimated by injuries and floating around .500. The Blue Jays and Orioles were the top two teams, but both had serious flaws and neither seemed capable of running away from the division. Experts determined that the AL East was the worst division in baseball, and it was a race to mediocrity for first place.
The division then saw a flurry of activity at the trade deadline. There was a combination of buyers and sellers. The Rays did in fact trade Price to the Tigers as part of three team deal with the Mariners. The Red Sox conducted a fire sale, trading Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Andrew Miller, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront. However, the Red Sox received major league talent and not prospects in their deals acquiring Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Kelly Johnson and Joe Kelly. The Yankees missed out on the big name player, but was able to upgrade their club at several positions by acquiring Chase Headley, Drew, Martin Prado, Chris Capuano and Brandon McCarthy. Meanwhile, the Orioles and Blue Jays stood pat for the most part. The Blue Jays made zero deals, while the Orioles only acquired Miller.
However, when you look at the top records in baseball since the All-Star break, you will find the Rays at the top of the list at 11-6, followed by the Orioles and Yankees at 13-7 and the Blue Jays at 12-8. Reports of the AL East’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Rays will most likely enjoy their recent uptick, and the Red Sox have folded on the season, but the Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays are going to see this pennant race through. All three are good teams, albeit without the gaudy and showing overkill of some other teams out west like the Tigers, Angels and A’s. The Tigers vaunted triple Cy Young pitching staff came to New York this week, and lost 3 of 4 to the Yankees. Oakland lost 2 of 3 to the Orioles immediately after the break.
On paper, the Tigers, A’s and Angels are all better than any team in the East. However, games are not played on paper. It would be foolish to think that the winner of the AL East will be a pushover in the playoffs. The Tigers may have the best starting rotation since the 1990s Atlanta Braves, but one must remember exactly how many championships those great Braves’ teams actually won. The AL East is not a joke, and when the dust settles in October, don’t be surprised if an underdog team from AL East is the one left standing. The playoff atmosphere is already building in Baltimore, Toronto and the Bronx. These teams will be ready for October as their playoffs have already begun two months early.