So how wild is it that in the last two days the Tampa Bay Rays have seen themselves submarined into Third place in the American League East, then with 2 spirited wins vaulted again to the high ground leading this high-intensity division. Better get used to it Rays fans, because this roller coaster is going to be an endurance race, and with all things said and done, the Rays will make a few tumbles and rises before 2012 Game 162.
No other division in baseball can boast everyone of it’s members above the .500 mark, and teams that comes into every game with a legitimate chance of victory and staving off defeat at all costs. Pretty amazing if you think about it that a 5-team collection of members who go from the Penthouse of payroll spenders, to the most frugal talent investors in the majors all sit poised and ready for their own individual ascents and falls this season.
I believe this is the latest the Baltimore Orioles have held onto even a visual on the top spot in a long, long time. 4 victories currently separate worst from first. Amazing still is the simple fact if the Boston Red Sox create a victory over the Washington Nationals this weekend, the AL East will be the only division with all of its members sporting at least 30 victories. Think about that for a second, we are barely over the 1/3rd mark in the 2012 season and if this kind of pace keeps up, every member of the division could be on or about the 90 win mark in late September.
Sure some say the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays will begin their tumble soon, but what if they don’t? Could this be the season that the status quo in the AL East of the big money powerhouses being supplanted by the also-runs, or will the grind of the 162 game schedule finally makes it mark and possibly a former World Champion be looking upwards all season long wondering what they have to do to vault out of the cellar.
I truly believe it is going to be that kind of season in the AL East. The top spot will not be confined to Rays, O’s or even pinstripes, but be a game of tag with each having their moment at the top before someone comes and wants that throne again. Some say it will take a monstrous movement by the Red Sox to get back into this division, but 4 games is not a huge deficit, especially for a team with that kind of history of coming back from insurmountable odds and claiming a piece of the post-season pie.
I really do not count any of the five teams out from securing at least 2 of the post-season spots this year, but if this division keeps up its torrid pace of wins, possible 3 of the 4 slots could boast AL east contenders. But in reality, that is what most baseball people believe that extra Wild Card spot was created for, the AL East also-run who has the potential to win it all. Not trying to degrade or put down any of the other divisions in the American League, but currently each has 2 or 3 members hovering in the mid-to-high 20 win plus position at this time.
Sure the current standings favor the Rays, but any sort of losing streak, hot hitting and winning by any of these divisional rivals and the Rays could again go from the top spot to the Bronze medal in less than 2 days. Each of these 5 members of the AL East want their name printed at the top tier, and if this current pace keeps up, each could have their moment in the Sun before the season fully unwinds.
Do not underestimate the Orioles or Blue Jays. Both clubs have their own weapons currently either healing or developing that could decide their final positions, and with the Trade Deadline less than 5 weeks away, one could make a move that solidifies their contention, or produce an inevitable free fall.
Historically this division has been closely contested and positions changed nightly until the eve of the All-Star break. We have seen either of the birds (O’s or Jays) sport a lofty spot in the standing only to see them fall from grace around that moment in the schedule. For some reason deep down I think 2012 will show a change to that pattern.
Possibly the pesky birds will keep their flight patterns true and clean until September when the AL East does their yearly inter-divisional battles that ultimately separates the contenders and pretenders. This division has matured and become so competitive because each of these teams knows it has to find their own ways to stockpile victories and keep their rivals at bay. Can’t wait to see what unfolds in the next 2/3rd’s of this season.