The Problem the AL East Could Have if the Baltimore Orioles Improve

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The Problem the AL East Could Have if the Baltimore Orioles Improve
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Ever since the Tampa Bay Rays became legitimate playoff contenders in 2008, there have been talks of division restructuring throughout the MLB (or at least in each league).

The A.L. Wild Card has gone to a team in the AL East in all but one season in the past seven.  

The problem, however, is that for most of those years the Rays were not a contender.

Now that the Rays have an elite team, there will be, at least for the next few seasons, three teams in the AL East, all deserving of the playoffs: the Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox.

The Rays have an extremely young squad with tremendous amounts of talent, and as long as the management does not make unintelligent trades, there is a mass exodus of players, they will have a solid lineup in the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, for all but Yankees and Red Sox fans, both teams have enough money that each team will be competitive every year because of their budget. They can afford upgrades every season, and even when struck by injuries, they can find a way to replace practically anyone to a reasonable level at any point in the season.

Why is this problem especially relevant now?  Well, the Toronto Blue Jays have perhaps sounded the alarm.

The Blue Jays have veteran players, such as Vernon Wells and Alex Gonzalez, who have reemerged this season as excellent players and a strong regiment of young players, such as Fred Lewis, Adam Lind, and recently acquired John Buck (who has essentially come out of nowhere from Kansas City to have, so far, a breakout season).

Their pitching staff has been unusually strong, as Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum have become aces on the team, Kevin Gregg has been surprisingly consistent as a closer, and the rest of the bullpen has held their own with their performances.

The Jays currently share the same record as the Boston Red Sox and through almost 50 games, all four teams in the AL East are within 6 games of each other.

The Baltimore Orioles, however, are stuck in the basement in the AL East and have been for a long time.  They are already 18 games back, and this season is practically over for them already.

The O's have a lot of talented players, but just have not been able to piece anything together in the past few years.  

Luckily for the MLB, the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays always seemed to rotate on bad seasons where two were fairly mediocre.  This year, though, it looks like the Jays may be able to hold their own this season, which could mean that two playoff spots (the AL East guaranteed spot and the AL Wild Card) all would belong to the AL East, and the two spots would be sought by four teams.

That's not terrible, but it could be unfair to some of the teams if they miss the playoffs because of how good their division is, especially if they have a better record than another team that made it.

If the Orioles somehow improve (and very quickly) to become contenders for the playoffs, a serious problem emerges.  Five talented teams would be competing for one guaranteed spot and a chance at a second.

While it is extremely unlikely that five top teams will be in one division, the possibility remains with four teams having successful teams so far this season.

Sure, this is jumping the gun a little since it is only a quarter into the season, but the debate over division restructuring may be just beginning, especially since it could hold some benefits.  

Since the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry will not be split by the MLB, just for traditional and economic reasons, the only team to move would be the Rays.

If the AL teams were to remain AL, a swap between the Indians and Rays could make sense, but unless the Orioles can somehow improve soon, this debates seems rather unnecessary.  

The Blue Jays and Rays all could for some reason have poor seasons in the near future, but it seems as if the Red Sox and Yankees, for the reasons noted previously, will almost never have a bad year, where they are not competitive in their division.

So, for now, the Orioles struggles could be a positive thing (except for Baltimore fans that is).

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