2011 MLB Predictions: Is the AL East a 3-Team Race Again?

Kate ConroySenior Analyst IIJanuary 25, 2011

BOSTON - APRIL 12:  Jorge Posada #20 of the New York Yankees stands on the field with the standings on the scoreboard in the background before the game against the Boston Red Sox on April 12, 2008 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Last week the Tampa Bay Rays reunited two old pals, but will it feel good enough to make the Rays legit in 2011?
The Rays are now proud owners of Johnny Damon's and Manny Ramirez’s talents heading into the season.
Veterans, who both have two World Series rings (Manny’s are both with the Boston Red Sox, and Damon has one with Boston and the other with the New York Yankees). The two were teammates on the historical 2004 Red Sox, who broke an 86-year-old curse.
Now, as part of the Rays organization, the two 38-year-old stars have a chance to stick it to their old teams, but is it enough to help Tampa Bay finally beat their two division rivals?
Not necessarily, but it does give the Rays something they have been missing the last few seasons, and that is experience.
Even with Manny being Manny, his power bat gives the Rays a solid DH. Over his 18 seasons, Manny has 555 home runs and 1,830 RBIs. Manny only played in 90 games last season, with nine home runs and 42 RBIs as part of the Dodgers and White Sox organizations.
Damon is a solid clubhouse guy and he will play everyday as an outfielder. Damon is not physically close to making up for Carl Crawford, both on the field and on the bases, but he can get the job done.

In 2010, Damon played in 145 games posting his lowest numbers with eight home runs, 51 RBIs and 11 steals.
Still, nothing calls for motivation more for these two than sticking it to both the Red Sox and Yankees.
While this move might not make the Rays favorites to win the World Series, or the AL East for that matter. The presence of the two can definitely make the Yankees and Red Sox jobs harder because it makes the Rays harder to beat.
Overall, Tampa Bay might not be as lethal without outfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Carlos Pena, shortstop Jason Bartlett and starting pitcher Matt Garza who all have new homes, but they should not be counted out just yet.
They still have a great starting rotation, lead by 25-year-old David Price who finished second in 2010 AL CY Young voting, third baseman Evan Longoria is one of the best players in the game and if B.J. Upton can adjust his attitude to match his natural talents, he is a top outfielder and clutch hitter.
The Rays have come through and made a name for themselves the last few seasons in the hardest division in baseball. In 2010, the Rays won 96 games, the most in baseball. The team’s skipper, Joe Maddon, is a genius manager and motivator, who the players love.
Despite all the accomplishments the Rays have made since dropping the word "devil" from their name, attending a home game at Tropicana Field is depressing. For some reason, the city of Tampa Bay has not embraced the franchise even with all the success.
Having to give away tickets for postseason games is pathetic, but not unfeasible. Imagine how good the Rays would be if they had a fan base to match the Yankees and Red Sox do all year long?
If the Rays ownership can fill the ball park whatever way they have to in 2011, the team could once again put together a nice season. They now have the veteran stars, so now just have to fill the seats.