As it currently stands, they traditional powers in the American League East, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays, are struggling, and the division is their for the taking. On Memorial Day weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays sit atop the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles a game and a half behind he Jays. The East is flat this year, and while the injury-ravaged Yankees are still in the hunt, the playoffs could look a lot different this year.
The Red Sox were not going to be as good as they were when they shocked the world in 2013, having lost production from center field with Jacoby Ellsbury signing with New York, and having lost production from behind the plate with Jarrod Saltalamacchia signing with the Miami Marlins, but I didn’t think they would be this bad. Now enduring an eight game losing streak, the defending world champions look more like the team that Bobby Valentine managed in 2012 than the one John Farrell took all the way last October. The Yankees looked strong out of the gate, but injuries have brought them back to earth, and the fact that Masahiro Tanaka lost a game to the Chicago Cubs of all teams has showed us that money does not buy happiness and you cannot script baseball. The Rays have also had injuries to their pitching staff, and like the Red Sox, have had trouble scoring. The Jay’s and O’s are taking advantage, though.
The shift in power withing the AL East was most apparent this week with the Blue Jay’s sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park earlier this week. The defending champs were outplayed on the mound and at the plate as the Red Sox’ starters continued to struggle, the Red Sox’ hitters continued to leave bunches of runners on base, and the Blue Jays hitters were going deep like it was their home ballpark. A lot of people expected this kind of production from Toronto last season, when they made moves to acquire Jose Reyes, Mark Beuhrle, and R. A. Dickey to go with hitters they already had like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion (who I’m still kicking myself about trading in fantasy baseball last year and had back-to-back two-home run games against the Red Sox this week), and Brett Lawrie. John Gibbons, who was hired for his second stint as manager of the Blue Jays after the Red Sox hired John Farrell away from Toronto in 2012, has his team playing really well, and this could be the first great Blue Jays team since they won back-to-back World Series in the early 1990s.
There is still a long way to go, and with the new wild card system that Major League Baseball introduced in 2012, nobody is really out of it before August, but the AL East looks a lot different from the division the Red Sox won last year. If the Blue Jays and Orioles stay healthy, they could bury the struggling traditional powers pretty quickly.