Summing up the power of the American League East is simple. Just consider this startling statistic: In the last four years, three separate teams from the American League East have made the World Series.
Furthermore, in 15 seasons since the wild-card was introduced, only five teams other than the Yankees or Red Sox have won the award. Simply put: the American League East is an elite division.
Even before the Tampa Bay Rays startled the world in 2008, the Yankees and Red Sox were two of the most powerful teams in Major League Baseball. With the addition of the Rays, who have been a serious contender since 2008, the American League East is nearly unstoppable.
However, as the 2010 season comes to a close, after featuring a rare World Series without the Yankees, Rays or Red Sox, we are beginning to see signs that the American League East may be losing some of its power.
Maybe for the seasons to come, the American League will be more even-matched.
Let’s start with the New York Yankees.
After winning the World Series in 2009, the Yankees had a rocky season in 2010, ultimately ending in a Texas Rangers defeat in the American League Championship series. New York was up-in-arms over the loss, but not because the Yankees weren’t in the World Series. Rather, it was because, for once, the future didn’t look so bright.
The Rangers showed the world something about the New York Yankees: if you can get to CC Sabathia, the Yankees aren’t all that scary. A.J. Burnett was a disaster, and nobody has any reason to believe he will recover.
The rest of the pitching staff is a bit concerning as well.
Nobody knows where Andy Pettitte will be in the years to come, and nobody knows what to expect from Phil Hughes. In fact, even when both pitched great games, the Yankees failed to prevail.
When Derek Jeter didn’t perform this season, the age concerns finally began to manifest inside the minds of Yankees fans. How will Jorge Posada fit in in the future? Can we rely on Alex Rodriguez? What can we expect from Jeter? Will Mariano Rivera continue to perform? Will Andy Pettitte be back?
Even when all of these questions are answered, the future will still look uncertain.
Yes, the Yankees know they can, and probably will sign Cliff Lee, and that will help. But the concern surrounding the Yankees goes beyond big-time pitching.
The players that were essential to the teams success for the last decade now look to be on the decline, and Yankees fans are left to hope and prey for the future. The Yankees will always succeed, but how the questions as to how they will succeed are all too concerning.
The Red Sox are next. After a dreadful season—by their standards, at least—Boston looks to be in no position to improve. Victor Martinez will likely be gone next season, and nobody knows if Adrian Beltre (the one bright spot this season) will be back either.
Their pitching staff is extremely concerning as well. Even with the varying success of Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz, the Red Sox had trouble maintaining leads and win streaks. Their bullpen is nothing special, and Jonathan Papelbon does not see a pretty road ahead of him.
David Ortiz is also another point of concern for the Red Sox.
After resigning him to a one-year deal, Boston fans are likely to see another dismal season from the aging power hitter. Earlier this year, he spoke out against another one-year deal, citing the negative effects it would have on him. Although he has recently shot those comments down, you have to believe there is some truth.
Then, there is the Tampa Bay Rays.
All season, everyone in the world new that 2010 was the last chance for the Rays to make something happen— at least for the near future. Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Rafael Soriano will likely all be gone next season, and that says everything that needs to be said for this team.
The American League East will always be a top division, but it looks as though there may be some legitimate competition for these teams in the years to come. As of now, there aren’t too many options to drastically improve teams, and the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees may find the most drawbacks in that sorrowful truth.
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