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Columns > Brian Levenson -  Head Games

Published: 2011/04/03

American League East: Preview

Opening day is here and the season is under way. With a weekend of baseball under our belts, let’s preview the American League East set to the tune of the Grateful Dead’s “Help On the Way.” It’s an awesome jam for an awesome division. Let’s take a look . . . .

Help on the way
Well I know only this, I’ve got you today

The Tampa Bay Rays won the American League East last year, but they will struggle to do it again after being decimated this offseason when some of their best hitters, and entire bullpen, left town for fat contracts in bigger cities. Just when a Tampa Head could give up hope, the Rays signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. It’s a good attempt to replace what’s lost, but this Tampa team is a lot older and slower than last year. The Rays will rely on what remains of last year’s team – Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, and a great staff led by David Price – and hope to keep pace with the Red Sox and Yankees.

Tell me the cost
I can pay

Unlike Tampa, The Boston Red Sox made some big moves this offseason. The Red Sox limped through last year as their three best hitters all missed months of the season. To make up for lost time, the Red Sox paid up and traded up, acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford – a couple of moves that will set the team back close to a quarter billion dollars.

For all of the money Boston spends year in and year out, they have also demonstrated awesome ability to develop great rookies, and at the same time, seem to know just the right time to dump players before they get old and in the way. This Red Sox team looks scary good. It’s not just their offense either. The Red Sox have a good bullpen and their staff has three to four excellent arms, led by staff ace – John Lester.

‘Cause I love what I love and I want it that way
I will stay, one more day

The New York Yankees love winning and love winning with their “Core 4” of Jeter, Rivera, Posada and Pettitte. This offseason the Yankees resigned Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and would have resigned Andy Pettitte if he didn’t retire. This is basically the same team as last year – an amazing offense backed by only two reliable starting pitchers, and the best closer ever, Mariano Rivera. The Yankees didn’t do much to improve this offseason, but anything can happen as the summer progresses.

Without love in the dream it’ll never come true

It may well be that the Baltimore Orioles are poised to do great things, or at least better things, after years of mediocrity. This offseason, the Orioles believed in the dream of winning the division and added three solid hitters in Derek Lee, Mark Reynolds and Vladimir Guerrero to upgrade a pretty decent lineup. Also take note, that the Orioles staff is not bad. Plus, the manager Buck Showalter has been making some sharp comments about other teams in the division – raising the intensity level can only be a good thing for this young team.

Finally, the Toronto Blue Jays will look to avoid last place this year. Last year, the Blue Jays hit more home runs than any other team, but couldn’t find enough good pitching to keep them at the top of the division. It makes you wonder what could have been had the Blue Jays not traded Roy Halladay. The Blue Jays can mash, but can’t pitch, and until they do, they will finish in the bottom half of the American League East.

Like a good Help > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, the race in the AL East will be tight this summer, with lots of great play. I’m not a betting man, but my guess is the Red Sox finish first, followed by the Yankees, Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays. But, watch out for those O’s – they are on the rise.

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