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The Yankees eventually bowed out in four games in the divisional series, and should struggle this season.
The AL East, a notoriously tough division, may be well on the decline this coming year.
The New York Yankees, who finished first last season with a 95-67 record, will likely not replicate that success.
Were it not for the incredible seasons of Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, the Yankees’ star shortstop and face of the franchise, Derek Jeter, may have gotten serious MVP interest with well over 200 hits and 32 doubles. Yet he is still rehabbing from a broken left ankle, but he claims he will be ready by Opening Day.
Regardless of Jeter’s health, this Yankees team is old and full of distractions, most notably the PED allegations on third baseman Alex Rodriguez (per ESPN).
The only respectable starting fielder under 30 on this team is outfielder Brett Gardner, and even he is 29-years-old.
Expect a down year for the Yankees.
As for last year’s second-place team, the Baltimore Orioles, they may be the most dangerous team in this division.
They finished their miraculous run last season at 93-69.
This team is young and confident, with strong starting pitching throughout the rotation and an offense that was second in the majors in home runs. They could very well beat out last year’s first place team, the aging Yankees sans Alex Rodriguez and other role players.
But the loss of power-hitting infielder Mark Reynolds will hurt, and the team has not done anything in anticipation of perhaps another injury-riddled season for former star second baseman, Brian Roberts. This could be offset by the late emergence of rising star Manny Machado, who will now play his first full season in the majors.
They haven’t made any notable additions though except for injury-prone starter Jair Jurrjens. The Orioles will win a good amount of ball games, but not nearly as many as last season.
Furthermore, this team was 29-9 in one-run games last season, and that record may not be the same by next season.
As for the third-place team, the Tampa Bay Rays, they lost far too many key players to contend as well as they did last season.
However, the Rays acquired outfielder Wil Myers in a trade with the Royals, who was the Minor League Player of the Year after he hit .314 with 37 home runs through Double-A and Triple-A. But the trade also included losing James Shields, who has been one of the top pitchers for the Rays for years. Myers could get called up mid-season and provide power to a weak outfield.
The Rays also lost B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena, and have not done much to replace their production.
Expect an average season from the cash-strapped Rays.
The last-place team in the division in 2012 was the Boston Red Sox.
In spite of this, I expect the Red Sox to win many more games this season than the 69 they won in 2012.
The marriage between Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox last year was very clearly doomed from the start. The Red Sox players complained about how they wanted a relatable manager that would be more supportive and less critical. Notwithstanding the fact that they’re paid millions of dollars and that is one of the softest and most childish things I’ve ever heard, the front office still disregarded this and hired Valentine, who is one of the most passionate, outspoken and blatantly critical managers ever.
Now that Valentine and many of those players are gone, expect new manager John Farrell to have much more success. Farrell had his ups-and-downs with the Blue Jays, but should be successful with the new-look Red Sox.
Boston also added a number of key players this offseason that should be a headache for the Blue Jays.
The most dangerous names acquired are outfielder Shane Victorino, All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan, catcher Mike Napoli and starting pitcher Ryan Dempster.
I believe the new talent and new manager could bring a bounce-back year for the Red Sox, but still not enough to make the playoffs.
On the other hand, the 2012 NL East was stacked with talent, primarily with the prominent rise of the Washington Nationals, who are here to stay. The 2012 NL East was much tougher than the Marlins anticipated, and that partly contributed to their demise.
In the end, all four AL East teams have serious holes that have yet to be filled, and the Blue Jays should take serious advantage this season.