A lot of people thought the 2014 AL East could be the weakest. They especially thought that after the first couple of months of the season when the Toronto Blue Jays sat atop the division and everyone else was sorta floundering. People suspected that the Jays were in for a correction — and that correction came thanks to both injuries and finding their true level — but no one else looked particularly strong. Some commentators were nearly certain that no team would even win 90 games.
The Orioles, however, soon began to pull away. The ended up with 96 wins and won the division by a dozen games while everyone else either struggled, reconfigured their rosters or both. Was it a strong division last season? Nah, not really. But at least one team came out of it looking good, and the streak in which the winner of the AL East had at least 95 wins under its belt reached its fourteenth straight year.
It’s hard to see that streak continuing this season. As our previews of the individual AL East teams demonstrate — here are the Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Jays, Rays — there is an argument for almost every team to either win the thing or crater badly.
The O’s look OK, but they’re counting on a lot of comebacks from players with injury histories. The Red Sox have pop, but the pitching is not scaring anyone. The Yankees have some famous and talented players who could experience a nice late-career resurgence, but betting on aging and injury-prone players is no safe bet at all. The Jays are starting a lot of rookies and lost their best starter for the year. The Rays lost their manager, GM and arguably their best player in the offseason and don’t gave the resources to reload as quickly as most teams do. Taken together, that’s a pretty darn mixed bag.
But I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing that everyone in the AL East has a big flaw or three. I mean, what has been everyone’s biggest complaint about the AL East for most of the past 20 years? That there were two teams — the Yankees and the Red Sox — who could field more talent and pay that talent more money than anyone else and that the Jays, O’s and Rays couldn’t break through. The Rays broke through, but that was often explained away as some function of Moneyball magic and years of high draft picks and, man, merely mediocre teams like Toronto and Baltimore had no shot.
Well, now everyone has a shot. And even if that means that we won’t necessarily see the most stellar brand of baseball being played at all times in this division, we should see some competitive races. So viva the “weak” AL East. Even if it’s the weakest it’s ever been.