MLB Season Preview: A.L. East
by Robert Ferringo - 03/28/2008
The American League East really doesn't need an introduction. Either the Yankees or the Red Sox are going to win the division, while the other will likely stave off some up-and-comer to secure the Wild Card. Then one of them will lose in the first round, while the other wins, preventing a potential Yanks-Sox ALCS and deflating the boner of ESPN and Fox executives across the country.
In the meantime, the Blue Jays will play just good enough in stretches to convince people that they are a legitimate franchise. The Devil Rays will have people talking about their "good young talent" for six months. The Orioles will suck bad enough to make Earl Weaver and Boog Powell turn over in their graves.
The rest is details. So here are some picks and predictions for the how the A.L. East will be won:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
BOSTON RED SOX
2007 Record: 95-67 (first)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 2.5/1
Odds to win World Series: 4.5/1
Wins Over/Under: 91.5
Strengths: They have star power, a solid top half of the rotation and perfectly well rounded pitching staff, exceptional role players, and a nice influx of ripe talent. They are clutch, they now have a winning pedigree and excellent experience, and their management is top-notch. They are the best team in baseball.
Weaknesses: Manny Ramirez is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, and you never know if/when he is going to flake out. Also, as solid as their pitching staff is they are one Josh Beckett blister or one Beckett back injury from getting real thin, real quick. There is also the potential Coco Crisp Distraction.
Player to Watch: Dustin Pedroia, 2B. I know I was supposed to say Jacob Ellsbury, but he's getting enough pub. Pedroia is the one who we're not sure if he can sustain his production from last year or is set for a sophomore slump.
Outlook: I hate to say it - because Red Sox fans are such huge dicks - but Boston is really the ideal franchise in the Majors. The only thing that can stop Boston is A) injuries or bad luck, and B) the Tigers.
NEW YORK YANKEES
2007 Record: 95-67 (first)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 3/1
Odds to win World Series: 5.5/1
Wins Over/Under: 98.5
Strengths: They're the Yankees. They play in a candy-ass division and they still have a handful of all-stars. Their lineup is formidable and they always have the means to make a blockbuster trade to improve their position.
Weaknesses: I'm still not a fan of New York's starting pitching and I don't think it's one of the best four or five staffs in the A.L. That's a problem, even when they can score as much as they do. Oh, and there's the fact that they still have A-Rod and that he'll never win anything. Also, too many of their regulars are past their prime.
Player to Watch: Robinson Cano, 2B. He already has a solid reputation, but I think we're going to see Cano make The Leap this year and become one of the A.L.'s best second sackers.
Outlook: Joe Torre consistently knew how to push all the right buttons with the Yankees. Well, that's when he wasn't asleep in the dugout. However, I think Joe Girardi is the perfect guy for the situation because the Yanks need a little fire. They need a little attitude. And they need to realize that because of awful trades and terrible free agent signings they just aren't as good as they were five years ago.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2007 Record: 80-82 (third)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 12/1
Odds to win World Series: 25/1
Wins Over/Under: 87
Strengths: I think the Blue Jays have the best outfield in the division and, when Scott Rolen is healthy, they may have the top lineup vs. left-handed pitching in the Majors. They are surprisingly feisty against Boston and N.Y., and they have some very spry young arms on the back end.
Weaknesses: Like so many teams in the MLB, Toronto's season is going to come down to whether or not their key guys can stay healthy. And considering that they're starting the year with Rolen and closer B.J. Ryan on the D.L. it's not looking likely.
Player to Watch: Jesse Litsch, P. This is one of those live young arms that the Jays have. He's been excellent this spring after developing a solid sinker.
Outlook: This team can be a solid, steady earner for bettors. But they aren't going to supplant the top two teams.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
2007 Record: 67-95 (fifth)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 75/1
Odds to win World Series: 150/1
Wins Over/Under: 66.5
Strengths: Scott Kazmir, Scott Shields, and Matt Garza actually give the Rays a strong front end of the rotation. This team has good team speed and they've brought in some veteran bats (albeit over-the-hill bats) to supplement the young players.
Weaknesses: This team is still a solid fade on the road. And until they can win away from home they can't be taken seriously. They also have to worry about the veterans that they acquired mailing it in of feigning injury. Also, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel give the Rays one of the worst back ends of the rotation in the league.
Player to Watch: B.J. Upton, OF. The Next Great Young Player in the Rays farm system could have a breakout year. Or he could become Carl Crawford, one of the most overrated players in the game.
Outlook: New name, same crappy Rays. On one hand I wouldn't be stunned to see them finally have a breakout season. But all that means is 70-75 wins. Tops.
2007 Record: 74-88 (fourth)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 100/1
Odds to win World Series: 200/1
Wins Over/Under: 66.0
Strengths: They have a cool ballpark. And they might draw some fans when the Yankees and Red Sox come to town.
Weaknesses: Kevin Millar is one of their best hitters and Steve Trachsel was in the running to be the Opening Day starter.
Player to Watch: Jeremy Guthrie, P. He was lights out for about two months last year before becoming very average. Has electric stuff, but how much help will he get?
Outlook: Vegas has set Baltimore's win total at three games lower than the next worst team. This crew is set to lose 100 games and I'm going to try to cash in on its ineptitude as much as possible.