I’ve always said that the American League East is the de facto best division in sports. That’s certainly a debatable point, and quite frankly I’m sure that some people would argue that the NFC West of the NFL is in the discussion – it’s certainly up there to say the least. However there can be little doubt that the AL East is one of the strongest divisions in sports. Or can there be – doubt, that is?
In the past week I’ve heard several people argue that the division is fairly weak. And seeing that New York is only 23-20 and in first place, I suppose that they have an argument. However I would submit that it’s still quite the opposite. The Baltimore Orioles were in first place until yesterday when they were overtaken by NY. However they’re still only a half game back. Ultimately Tampa is in last place, and they’re still well within striking distance at five games back.
I think that to say that the AL East isn’t strong is in effect comparable with not looking past the
tip of your nose. Granted there are also a lot of injuries in the division, including Matt Wieters of the O’s. However generally when you see a division with teams bunched as closely as these five teams are bunched, it indicates that the division is in fact incredibly strong given the fact that they beat up on each other.
This isn’t an absolute science, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion. However in the power-happy American League East, ask yourself how many other division winners would be competitive? Detroit would for sure, and I think many people would argue Oakland as well. However I think Oakland is much happier hitting for average in their massive ballpark than they are for power. But I think that many of the National League division leaders would be eaten alive.
On the flip side, how many American League East teams would dominate in other divisions? For sure, it’s very tough to say. The Orioles have struggled against the AL Central this year, but last place Cleveland is coming to town this weekend. Ultimately this isn’t an absolute discussion one way or the other, however the fact is that in the American League East we see a lot of battle tested teams that know how to win.
The big issue with playing in such a hotly contested division comes in the end when it’s determined who goes to the post season. While division opponents beat up on each other, second place teams in the central and west can easily sneak up and into wild card contention – leapfrogging what might be a stronger team from the AL East. Again, some people will point only to the result and argue if they made the playoffs then they were obviously better.
The records were better 5-10 years ago in a sense because it was only two teams (Boston & New York) competing for the division title each year. Now the entire division is in essence doing so, thus it stands to reason that top to bottom the American League East is the best division in sports.