The Baseball Notebook

April 1, 2010 11:00 AM

AL East Picks

The Yankees & Red Sox have owned the AL East in the three-division era that began in 1995. In the fifteen seasons of the current alignment, the Yanks have won ten division crowns. The Red Sox have won two and the franchises shared another (2005). Only the ’97 Orioles and the ’08 Rays got their nose in the middle. Boston has had a lock on the number two spot, finishing second nine times and tacking on five wild-card appearances. With the division’s two heavyweights leading the way, the East has owned the wild-card berth, taking it 11 of the 15 years. Bottom line? This is a tough division to survive in, but at least you can settle for second and still make the playoffs.

All of which is a great security blanket as the Pinstripes and Sox are loaded once again. Tampa Bay gets a lot of respect and they have the pitching to compete. However, I suspect there’s just not enough depth in the lineup overall to get above the 85-88 win level, particularly when one considers that 36 of their games will be against New York or Boston. The Blue Jays are fading fast and their window of opportunity to contend disappeared after 2006. With the trade of Roy Halladay, the Jays are destined for the basement. Here in my hometown of Baltimore, the Orioles are on the brink of a breakthrough. The young pitching looks good, led by Brad Bergesen, and Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis anchor a nice lineup. Put them in the Central and they’d be a contender. Even in the East, they’ll challenge Tampa for the third slot and end their string of 13 straight losing seasons. And bigger things aren’t far behind.

But for this year, the powers-that-be still own the territory in the East. Painted broadly, the Red Sox have the arms and the Yankees have the bats, with the trio of Beckett-Lester-Lackey trying to stop A-Rod, Tex & Jeter. Of course that’s a pretty crude portrait. New York’s got C.C. Sabathia in the rotation and Mariano in the pen. Boston counters with Paps in the pen, and still has hitters like Youkilis, Martinez and Drew. But the pitching-hitting broad strokes sum up the basic contours of the race, and pitching is what ultimately prevails. I’m a biased Red Sox fan, but I’m betting Boston in 2010.

Tomorrow is the AL Central. And today there’s an overview of West Virginia as The College Basketball Notebook continues its buildup to the Final Four.

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