5 factors that have kept the AL East locked into place



In five of the past seven seasons, the Yankees and Red Sox have had the two highest payrolls in baseball. The only one of those five seasons that the Yankees and Red Sox didn't finish 1-2 in the division was last year, when the Blue Jays took second. Coincidence? Probably not. But it's not the be-all and end-all, either. Consider that the Orioles finished fourth in 1998 with the highest payroll in the league.

Regional networks

The Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network and the New England Sports Network have been huge moneymakers for the New York and Boston teams, respectively. Throw in Rogers Communications' purchase of the Blue Jays and the Orioles have long believed that they won't be able to compete in the division until they narrow the revenue gap. They hope the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will help them do just that.

Front office stability

Since Pat Gillick resigned in 1998, the Orioles have had four different general manager arrangements, including two that essentially featured a two-headed decision-making system. During that same time, the Yankees have had one GM, the Blue Jays and Devil Rays have had two each and the Red Sox have had three, not counting Theo Epstein's brief separation. Front office stability has been just about a must for teams wishing to maintain success.

Dugout stability

The Yankees are the gold standard here because Joe Torre has been their manager since 1996. During that span, the Orioles and the Red Sox have had five managers each and the Blue Jays have had seven. The Devil Rays, who didn't play their first season until 1998, have already had four managers. Many players have come and gone, but Torre has not.

Scouting, development

Five of the Yankees' biggest contributors during their title runs - Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams - were developed by the club. Boston's 2004 World Series championship team was led by David Ortiz, who, like teammate Tim Wakefield, was signed by the Red Sox after being released by another team. Toronto's top two players - pitcher Roy Halladay and center fielder Vernon Wells - are homegrown.

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