I've decided to put together a roundtable for each division. I have asked five fans (that are Bleacher Creatures) five questions about their division. The first installment of this six-part series has to do with the American League East.
The writers I asked were Ian Hunter (Blue Jays), Isaac Barrow (Orioles), Stephen Meyer (Yankees), Amanda Bruno (Red Sox), and Jonathan Slotter (Rays).
1. Who is the best player in the AL East?
IH: Hands down the best player in the American League East is Roy Halladay. Put all the trade talk aside, and no single player is more valuable to his team than Doc. He's the closest thing to a guaranteed win each time to steps out onto the mound.
IB: As far as best overall player goes, you can't go wrong with Evan Longoria. He's young, turning 24 in October, has power, average, contact, and defense.
SM: The best hitter in the AL East right now is Tampa's Evan Longoria. In terms of pitchers, I would have to give the nod to Roy Halladay, with Josh Beckett close behind.
AB: Kevin Youkilis. His overall leadership and character cannot be beat by anyone on any other team. He has a solid offensive stat line (.299 BA, 17 HR, 57 RBI, 49 BB, 24 2B) and superb defense at both corners of the diamond, which shows he's a very versatile player. Don't forget he finished third in AL MVP voting last year.
JS: Roy Halladay. I think this is a pretty easy question. There are good field players in the league (Youkilis, Longoria, Crawford, A-Rod, Texiera) but they have been less than consistent the whole year. A close second would be Youk or Crawford.
2. And the most disappointing?
IH: After winning the American League MVP in 2008, it seems like Dustin Pedroia has dropped off a cliff when it comes to expectations. His numbers are nowhere near his past two previous seasons, but everyone else in the Red Sox lineup seems to be picking up the slack for Pedroia's short comings.
IB: Most disappointing would easily be Daisuke Matsuzaka. I thought he was the most overrated pitcher in baseball last year, but I did think he'd probably follow up the performance with a good year. Boy, was I wrong.
SM: The most disappointing hitters in the AL East are without a doubt Vernon Wells and BJ Upton. They do not have the age excuse that David Ortiz carried in the beginning of the year. The most disappointing pitcher is NY's Chien-Ming Wang.
AB: Daisuke Matsuzaka. By far the biggest disappointment. After being the hero for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, Dice-K hasn't come close to being one with the Red Sox this year. He is on the 15-day Disabled List for the second time this season, did not win an outing until June 2 (5-1 win over Detroit) had an earned run average of 12.79 at one point (April 14 at Oakland), and is currently settling with a 1-5 record and 8.23 ERA. Not exactly the $103 million man that they signed in December of 2006.
JS: BJ Upton. He has so much potential, could be the best 5 tool player in all of baseball, but sometimes lacks focus and is so inconsistent with his hitting.
3. Which team will win this division?
IH: At this point in the season, it looks like it's going to come down to the wire between the Yankees and the Red Sox. I imagine both of those teams will go back and forth in the standings quite a bit over the next few months.
IB: I know the Yankees have the lead, but I have to go with the Sox. They've been my prediction all along. It says something when they're in a team-wide funk, but are only two games behind.
SM: The Red Sox will win the division by two games due to increased rotation depth, even though NY's bullpen has improved so dramatically. The Yankees are one small trade away from being the favorites, though Boston might be looking into Victor Martinez.
AB: Boston Red Sox. Despite what's currently going on in the divisional race, Boston overall will be stronger towards the end with its bench and pitching, but it will be ridiculously close. Count on Boston and New York to go back and forth during the stretch. The Red Sox offense is bound to heat up again.
JS: The Rays. They have good depth everywhere and always get consistent play out of their bench players (the Gabe's, Aybar, etc.) and Aki is coming back. Also the Red Sox and Yankees are not going to get better at the trade deadline.
4. Will Roy Halladay go and where?
IH: For the immediate sake of the Blue Jays I hope he doesn't get traded but it looks like the writing is on the wall that he will leave Toronto some time soon. If he is dealt, it will probably be somewhere like Philadelphia, St. Louis or Los Angeles. I can't see J.P. Ricciardi trading Halladay within the American League East.
IB: I don't think he will. I know Ray Halladay is filthy, but the fact is, 5-for-1's rarely work. Halladay, on top of that, is getting up there in age. Teams aren't willing to part with that much. It says something when the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets are scared away.
SM: Roy Halladay will only move to an NL team in my opinion, as the AL offers have included seemingly weaker prospect packages thus far (and Halladay openly admitted he wants to win first and foremost..but would prefer the NL). If a gun was put to my head for a definitive answer, I would guess that he stays until the offseason.
AB: Roy Halladay will not be traded. It's just one of those fantasy trades that you'd wish would come true. Why would Toronto give up its best pitcher and face of the franchise? If they were to trade him, it'll be out of the AL East and perhaps to the National League, maybe the Phillies?
JS: No where, he will get traded during the summer.
5. What's the most important series remaining?
IH: It looks like the most important series in the AL East will be played out August 6-9 at Yankee Stadium when the Yanks welcome the Red Sox for a crucial four game series. This series could have huge implications as to who takes top spot in the division.
IB: I think I'd be foolish if I didn't say Boston and New York's three-game series from Septemember 25th-27th at Yankee Stadium. It may not determine the division itself, but it's a huge series.
SM: The 10 games remaining between the Yankees and Red Sox are CLEARLY the most important of the group (as Tampa has already now fallen 7 back in the loss column). Tampa will be a spoiler down the stretch, however, as Boston and NY play a combined 18 games with Tampa through the end of the season.
AB: The final Red Sox-Yankees series at Yankees Stadium September 25-27. Arguably the entire month of September is the most important month with the Sox playing two series against Tampa Bay while the Yankees only host them once. The Rays will be a crucial factor in who wins the division.
JS: Yankees-Rays, last series of the year.
Contribute to the discussion. What do you people think? My quick answers would have been:
1. Nick Markakis/Roy Halladay
2. Vernon Wells
3. Red Sox
4. Yes, Philly
5. Bos/NYY any series remaining