Baseball: AL East Preview

By and

Really, you think the Baltimore Orioles can keep this up? As scary as Kevin Millar is from the cleanup spot (cough), Brian Roberts is about the only Bird that could start for any of their division rivals.

Once mid-May rolls around and Baltimore has played more than one game away from Camden Yards, the O’s will be making themselves comfortable at the bottom of the division, while Boston, Toronto and New York take their familiar places in the standings at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

The Red Sox will clinch the division in the second to last week of the regular season, mostly because they are the most complete team in Major League Baseball. Yes, they have their holes — particularly with middle relief — but their problems are nothing like what the Yankees have with their starting rotation.

Chien-Ming Wang is the only Yankee starter who isn’t either significantly past his prime (Mike Mussina), experiencing night sweats while going through performance-enhancing drug withdrawls (Andy Pettitte) or has more than five wins at the major leagues (Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy).

Barring significant injuries, four important things will happen in this division this year.

First, Toronto will be a serious threat to win the division and/or the AL wildcard. The Blue Jays have the best pitching staff in the division if A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan can stay healthy. There is also no way Vernon Wells plays another year like Britney Spears plays a sane and stable human being.

Second, the Tampa Bay Rays will actually have someone in their division chasing it at year’s end for only the second time in the organization’s existence.

Third, the Red Sox will clinch back-to-back division championships for the first time…well, ever.

Lastly, the Bronx Bombers (second-coming of Murderer’s Row and all) will not finish first or second in their division for the first time since 1992. Joe Torre’s ego thanks you, George Steinbrenner.