Polar opposites

Topical reference in the headline alert, it’s kinda cold outside.

What I’m referring to, instead though, is the AL East. It’s kinda crazy, really, how the preseason predictions are almost the complete opposite to what they were last year. Last year the Jays were the toast of the division, the Yankees were old but perhaps still had the talent to compete, Tampa was undergoing one of its mini retools, Baltimore was a young and up-and-coming team and Boston sucked.

Now, the Sox are the toast of the division, having won the World Series. The Yanks have brought in some big name free agents, and if they get Tanaka suddenly look like a real force in the division. If the Rays hold onto star pitcher David Price they look like a really strong team.

Baltimore, while still up and coming, doesn’t look so up and so coming anymore. They lost some key players, haven’t upgrade their pitching, and are facing injuries to key players.

And the Jays suck.

So what does it mean? For one, anything can happen. For two, that’s especially true in the AL East. Think about it, there is at least one team in every other division that has as close to zero chance of winning the division as you can get in professional sports. If Minnesota, Houston, Miami, the Cubs, or Colorado win their respective divisions some people are going to make a lot of money.

In the AL East, that’s not the case. Maybe some of my homerism is coming through, but it’s entirely plausible that every team could win the division. The Yanks could slug – or perhaps more appropriately run – their way to first place. Baltimore could get a repeat performance from Chris Davis, a return to form for Matt Weiters and an early return of Manny Machado. Tampa has the pitching and just needs to hit enough, and with Will Myers another year old they might just do that, do win the division.

Obviously Boston’s among the favourites and should compete.

That leaves the Jays. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for any prediction from 70 to 95 wins. The talent’s still there. There are a few players – hello Brett Lawrie – who could take that next step. Despite the cries from many the team does have some pitching. Brandon Morrow stays healthy and Drew Hutchinson comes back from Tommy John at full strength and the rotation looks downright strong.

Or Lawrie continues to struggle with the bat, Colby Rasmus takes a step back, Morrow gets hurt and Hutchinson struggles.

One thing this all means is please don’t give up before it starts. There’s a lot of pessimism heading into 2014, and it’s not unfounded. Last year was a brutal one to be a Jays fan. But the lesson from last year is that anything can happen.

And the fact the Jays do have the talent in place is as good a starting point as any.

Six weeks until pitchers and catcher report.

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