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No Surprises Here – The A.L. East Is Good

How would you feel coming out to play baseball everyday knowing you’re probably going to lose? How about putting on the cleats knowing your team has to win 20 straight games to even have a shot at 4th place- In a five team division. Welcome to the  Baltimore Orioles. At 33 Games behind 1st place, it’s safe to say they’re playing for the 2011 season, maybe even the 2012 season, maybe even hoping that Mayan calendar is right so they can get out of that six or seven year contract. Such is life on the worst team in baseball in the best division in sports.

Statistically speaking, it is quite improbable that the three best teams in baseball should come from the same division but statistics are useless in the A.L. East. It is a place where parody runs wild and Kevin Youkilis bats like a gorilla. The Yankees, Rays and Red Sox boast some of the best rosters this side of the new millennium. Rather than try to sort through this mess unorganized, here’s a team-by-team breakdown to show the strengths and magnify the weaknesses.

These stats accurate as of 8/30/10.

The New York Yankees are the most loved and the most hated franchise in baseball, if not all of sports. People just care about them. It’s been up and down for the Bronx Bombers this year, not as flawless as their championship year in 2009, but still getting the job done as they share the best record in baseball. George Steinbrenner passed away and coverage was on Sportscenter for what seemed like 17 days straight. An American League Championship Series matchup seems inevitable between these big hitters and the Rays.

Biggest Pro: Robinson Cano must be on steroids- .322 Avg, 25 Home runs, 89 Runs

Biggest Con: A.J. Burnett must’ve stopped taking steroids- 5.17 e.r.a., hasn’t won since July?

The Tampa Bay Rays are still pretty new to this whole winning thing. And with the average age of the starting rotation under 26, half the team is still in Huggies. But as a young team unaccustomed to the spotlight, they sure are consistent. They share the best record in baseball, at 81-50, with the Yankees. After a huge series win against the rival Red Sox, the Rays had a home series against the Blue Jays. The announced crowd for Monday night’s game was an embarrassingly low 11,968.

Rays’ mascot Raymond adorning his Huggies. | Eric Kilby/flickr.com | Illustration by Mike Trobiano

“It was a big let down,” said Carl Crawford, according to Yahoo Sports. “We came out all fired up and you see that, it’s really depressing.”

With attendance not rising and money growing tight, many wonder how long the Rays can stay in Saint Petersburg, but you get the feeling a World Series win sure would help.

Biggest Pro: Crawford isn’t quick, he’s just plain fast- 41 stolen bases, 92 runs

Biggest Con: James Shields should apply to be a pitcher at the home run derby. He’d get the job. He’s given up 29 homers in 27 games.

The Boston Red Sox have been trailing all season, but they have yet to kick the can. Maybe it’s because they’re scared they’ll break their toes. A team hit with these kind of injuries usually fades out, but that doesn’t seem to be Boston’s style.

Stars such as 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia and 1st baseman Kevin Youkilis are out for the season, not to mention catcher Victor Martinez and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury have missed significant time. But they have kept themselves afloat, getting within 4.5 games of 1st place on August 27th, before losing two straight to the Rays.

You get the feeling that this team is just as good as any other when they’re healthy. The trouble is, they’re not.

Biggest Pro: Adrian Beltre should write a letter to the media with four words on it- “I’m not washed up.” .323 avg., 88 RBI

Biggest Con: Bad luck.

The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t really sure what to make of this season. They win a lot. But they also lose a lot. They’ve hit the most homers this season, but they’re 24th in batting average.

At 68-63, they are 13 games behind 1st  place and the hope of postseason play dwindles every day. A core of young pitchers figures to give this team a real shot at winning over the next 5-7 seasons. They just picked a really bad season to have a break out year.

Biggest Pro: If chicks really dig the long ball, the Jays are striking rich with the ladies- 197 homers

Biggest Con: They play in the AL East- Yankees/Rays/Red Sox/Fate.

The Baltimore Orioles have won 36 percent of their games. With a new manager, Buck Showalter, the O’s have started winning at an alarming 61 percent rate. Using simple math, I have determined that at the end of the season, they will still be in last place. A+ for effort, boys.

Biggest Pro:  The season is over in a month!

Biggest Con- You know it’s bad when people care more about hockey in your town than baseball.

Look for marquee, playoff atmosphere matchups in September because the A.L. East is stacked. Maybe Baltimore didn’t get the memo.

Miles Parks can be reached at mparks@spartans.ut.edu.

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