When all is said and done this season; the often predictable American League East Division may show something a little different, and here is why.
Some early estimates have the idiot Yankees spending around $230 million on salaries this season. Yet somehow George and let's not forget Hank Steinbrenner hilariously botched Joe Torre's contract situation. The Yankees go to spring training with their first new skipper since Torre replaced Buck Showalter after the 1995 season - 10 division titles and 6 pennants ago.
The Yankees have kept busy during the winter by teasing their fans with talk of brining in Twins ace Johan Santana, and by retaining a few veterans whose performance will no doubt go down - Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Let's not forget though, they also added LaTroy Hawkins to replace the often under-valued Jose Vizcaino and added a backup for Posada in Jose Molina, ooohhhhhh. Despite likely spending more than the Jays, Rays and Orioles all together, the Yankees find themselves without a first basemann as Doug Mientkiewicz and Andy Phillips are both gone. Do you know what that means Yankee fans? It's likely Joe Girardi will have to send out fielding superstar Jason Giambi to make us all laugh and commit costly errors leading to dozens and dozens of runs. In any case, Boston should take the east again without much issue, but don't be surprised if there is a different team sliding in to the wild-card spot in 2008.
Not surprisingly the Red Sox have done even less than the Yankees, which is a good thing. They are still a championship team, with or without the addition of a Johan Santana (I have a sneaking suspicion he'll end up in the NL, but who knows). They held on to Lowell, who had a monster year in 2007 and Curt Schilling, who may not have the stuff he used to, but is still a winner. What really might make you think is that Boston has the second ranked farm system among all MLB teams and were first following the 2005 season. Remember what Dustin Pedroia did last year? Watch what Jacoby Ellsbury does in 2008. They have a multitude of other prospects you'll be hearing about in the next few years. Which could give Theo Epstein other choices rather than picking up Manny's $20 million a season options in 2009 and 2010.
OF COURSE I LIKE, NAY, I LOVE THE BLUE JAYS!!!
They've added what I think are impact players in Scott Rolen and David Eckstein to go along with Vernon Wells who will no doubt 100% rebound from last season. Alex Rios and Aaron Hill are both going to be all-stars this season, and remember where you heard that when it happens. That all being said, it's their rotation that could get them to the promise land this season. If Halladay and Burnett are healthy all season, they should contend. The Jays were 4th in the AL last season with a 4.24 ERA and players like Dustin McGowan, Shawn Marcum and Jesse Litsch should all improve with valuable experience. A healthy BJ Ryan will only boost a bullpen that was solid without him last season. Jeremy Accardo, Casey Janssen and Scott Downs made sure of that. Basically this is a roster of pure manliness.
Believe it or not the Devil Rays are better this year. Matt Garza and Troy Percival will improve the pitching staff. If the Rays use Cliff Floyd as DH, expect him to have a pretty solid season, and they should, unless for some reason Rocco Baldelli proves he can break down even more than he already has (aplogies to the barber for that). Akinori Iwamuru is going to get even better, and possible slide over the 2nd base to allow superstar prospect Evan Longoria a chance to play 3rd. They once again, and for the second year in a row have the first overall pick.
We don't need to talk about the Baltimore Orioles. If they win more than 72 games, I'll eat my hat.
Since the strike shortened season of 1994 I haven't had much hope year to year the Jays would make the playoffs. Sure, I've wanted it, maybe even though that in a couple of those years there was an outside chance. It never really bothered me though as I am a fan of the game first. However, this season is the first time in awhile that I believe they have a realistic shot if the hand plays out the way it should. Which often in professional sports, it doesn't. Put it this way. An injury free Jay team, with their key guys playing to the level they are capable of, means they do indeed have a chance to get into the post-season this season. This is in my opinion only, though I know it is shared by many in the baseball community.