In 2013 the narrative of the AL East has the potential to be the most interesting/exciting in all of baseball because all five teams each have their own individual story to tell. All could possibly win the division or finish last.
The Toronto Blue Jays, for example, the dubious “winners” of the offseason by adding the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner in RA Dickey and every single player from the Marlins who had a name which denotes they belong on be on a major league roster, including the one, who, when healthy, is known as the “most exciting player in baseball,” in Jose Reyes.
New manager same as the old manager in John Gibbons and expectations for 2013 are soaring. To put it in the douchebagian poker speak from seven years ago which still permeates our colloquaial today, the Blue Jays are “all-in” on the 2013 season. But we have seen before, offseason acquisitions don’t always translate into regular season wins.
Then there is 2012′s cardiac kids” the Baltimore Orioles, who won the Wild Card last year after going an astounding 29-9 in one-run ball ames. Thats a winning percentage of .763 which is an all-time record. That, coupled with the fact that in 2012 the O’s scored only 7 more runs then their opponents did all year (715-705) makes people want to say what Buck Showalter’s boys accomplished last year was a fluke and the team is more likely then not to finish worst instead of first.
Next you got the Tampa Bay Rays, a 90 win team a year ago who just missed out on making their third straight postseason appearance.
Tampa Bay has become the modern mecca of pitching. In 2012 they led the majors in ERA and batting average against and were third overall (first in the AL) in strikeouts. For historical connotation, per Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, their 3.19 ERA was the best in the AL in 22 years, their .228 batting average against is the lowest since the DH was invented 40 years ago and their 1,383 K’s were the most in the American League’s 112-year history.
So we know they can pitch the crap out of the ball, so the quesion is, can they hit? And they answer is, probably? Maybe? I don’t know, the uncertainty of it all is what makes this division so great.
Keep in mind, last year, with Evan Longoria in the lineup, the Rays were 47-27 and 43-45 without him. With him healthy and the staff just comes close to replicating last season’s production, then that could easily translate to another 3-4 wins and October baseball
Notice I’m talking about the AL East and i haven’t even mentioned New York or Boston once? That’s what makes this division so interesting. In addition to everything mentioned above, plus the individual stories for the Yankees and Boston ( which I’ll get to next) there is this whole new dynamic to the New York-Boston rivalry. For a decade weve watched them jockey for first and second place but in 2013 it looks like they’ll battle for not last, adding a whole new dynamic to this rivalry.
In 2013 the New York Yankees begin their quest to lead the majors in payroll for the 15th straight year, and they are off to a good start. In fact, you can probably make it offical and wrap that up right now. Their 228mil is 12mil more than the second place Dodgers and, with all the injuries they’ve already sustained, Jeter, Granderson, Texeira, Hughes, Rodriguez, they will more likely then not have to add payroll not shed it.
Question, has any team led the majors in payroll but finished last in their own division? Answer, I don’t know, I’m asking you. I know it hasn’t happened since 2008 when Baltimore almost did but luckily the Rays were called the Devil Rays then and the Devill Rays sucked, so they (BAL) only finished fourth. I could not find team payroll stats pre-’98, keep in mind, im just some fat dude who’s got too much time on his hands, all i got is Google just like you, I’m not an encyclopedia. But this is definitiely something to watch for this year.
Perhaps their fall from dominance won’t be quite that dramatic as to finish in dead last, still, they haven’t finished under .500 since 1992 and their streak of 20 straight seasons of winning ball, realistically, could be in jeopardy. Speaking of 1992, the Yankees lineup featured names like Nokes, Stankiewicz and Maas which sure sound a whole lot like the Hafner, Wells and Overbay’s that they have now. Forget the division and the wild card races, can their first goal should be just get to 82 wins?
And lastly, Boston. Boston would like to forget about 2012, a season filled with fueding, failing and purging, both players, the exile of Beckett, Crawford, Gonzalez to LA as well as the fans “purging” at the teams 69-93 record and their AAAA roster by seasons end.
But 2013 is a new year, new manager, John Farrell, with new lineup and a new attitude. Returing are same solid, youngish pitching staff that should be health, with a positive attitude and the ability to keep them in games. If Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury play 150 games each, Shane Vicorino and Mike Napoli turn out to be solid free agent additions and the eventual return of David Ortiz to some level of a productive player, then Boston could be good. If one of those things go wrong, they could still be tough, but would need some luck to challenge for the division.
My predicition for the division is BALTIMORE.
I don’t buy that they were lucky last year but i do agree that the 29 wins in 1-run games is a fluke. They will win less 1-run games this year because they will win more games by two or more runs. A lot of people claim their lack of offseason acquisiions means they will be the same team as last year only worse due to the fact that they will have to be less lucky. I disagree. Last year Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold only played in 33 games combined so they are both basically new acquisitions to the 2013 lineup as oppposed to the 2012. Nick Markakis only appeared in 104 games in 2012 because of two stints on the DL. The second of which ended his season prematurely on Sept 8th. Then, factor in that the O’s will get full seasons out of Manny Machado and Nate McLouth who only played in 51 and 55 games respectively in 2012 and they should be better in 2013.
The orioles regular lineup feature only three players over the age of 30, 2B Brian Roberts is the elder statesman at 35 (and just placed on the 15 day DL as I’m writing this), SS JJ Hardy is 30 and won the Gold Glove last year and LF Nate McLouth is 31. With the core of this team, Adam Jones, Matt Weiters, Nick Markakis and the 20 year old 3B Manny Machado, so young, the Orioles are a team that is just starting to come into their own and HAS NOT peaked yet, as the pundits would have you believe.
Second place belongs to TAMPA BAY.
They say good pitching beats good hitting and what the Rays have is great not good. They will scuffle to find enough offense all year but this is post steroid, post HGH, clean baseball that we are watching now, offense will be harder to come by across the board and no team is built better to deal with that fact of life than the Rays are.
Per ESPN The Magazine’s baseball preview issue, Longoria’s WAR is 28.5. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that statistic, WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. So, in regualar speak, that means with Longoria in the lineup, the Rays will win 28.5 more games per year then they would without him. So what that means funcitally is they need to find a way to protect Evan Longoria both literally and figuratively. Literally because they need him healthy and his bat in the lineup for no less than 150 games. Figuratively they need to protect his bat in the lineup. Tampa has to find a bat to go behind his spot so he can’t be pitched around. Wil Myers came over from the Royals in a trade for Scott Shields and could be delegated with that responsibility once they recall him from AAA.
Third place goes to TORONTO.
RA Dickey will have success in a new league that has to learn his power-knuckler, and the Jays will be competitive. I expect them to finish above .500, make a push for 90 wins and to be involved in the dual Wild Card race for most of the season. I don’t expect them to go from a 73 win team to a to a 95 win team just because they fleeced the Marlins. Their rotation has two guys, Brandon Morrow and John Johnson, who have long track records of injury concerns. If one goes down, they will still be competitive, aided by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion’s 40+ home run potential and Jose Reyes setting the table in front of them, but if both falter or go down, then the Jays won’t have enough depth to keep a dog in the hunt.
Fourth belongs to NEW YORK.
This may be by biased as a Yankee fan coming through here. I don’t know if i “think” they won’t finsh last, and thus “beat” Boston or “hope” that they will.