Which is the toughest division in baseball?

May 18, 2011

Still the AL East

Phil Rogers

Chicago Tribune

There are going to be some fascinating races this season.

The NL East shapes us as a genuine three-team battle between the Phillies, Braves and Marlins.

But the best division in baseball is still the one where teams spend the most money — the AL East. It's such a good division that the Yankees' $203 million payroll does not guarantee them a spot in the playoffs.

The Rays' young pitching is a real threat to the Yankees and Red Sox in terms of the East title, and the strength of the Blue Jays and Orioles could make it hard for the East runner-up to pile up victories, meaning the wild card might be found elsewhere.

The East has advanced two teams 12 of 16 seasons in the wild-card era, but this year it might be too strong for its own good.

progers@tribune.com

No change at top

Joseph Moskowitz

Morning Call

The mix of the old-school baseball persona and new-school raw power makes the AL East the toughest division in baseball — still. The Yankees and Red Sox haven't had stellar starts, but with Cy Young-caliber pitching and power at nearly every spot in the lineup, it is only a matter of time before the two ticking-time bombs explode.

The Rays lead the division behind the arm of James Shields and the surprising bat of Matt Joyce. Even traditional lightweights — the Orioles and Blue Jays — are pulling their weight. The O's are flirting with .500; and the Jays are battling the Yanks and Sox for second place.

None of these teams likely will hold baseball's best record at season's end, but that's only because the division is so tough.

jmoskowitz@tribune.com

NL East tops

Dom Amore

Hartford Courant

If starting pitching is baseball's most important element, then one might begin and end this debate with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Josh Johnson and Jair Jurrjens. Why wait for Johan Santana and Stephen Strasburg to get healthy?

The NL East is baseball's best division at the moment. Its teams are 55-36 outside the division — even the Mets are 8-8. The AL East, the perennial favorite here, has not yet lived up to its 2011 billing. Its teams are 62-54 against the other divisions, but the Red Sox's tough start indicates that the East might not be as dominant as it has been in past years.

In the NL East, the Phillies have established a fearsome foursome in Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Yet they hardly are running away with the division — so good are the Braves and Marlins. This is going to be MLB's toughest race.

damore@tribune.com

Where the money is

Mike DiGiovanna

Los Angeles Times

The offensive firepower of the Yankees and Red Sox and the superior rotation of the Rays make the American League East the toughest division in baseball, though the National League East, with excellent teams in the Phillies, Marlins and Braves, is gaining ground.

What gives the AL East the edge is the seemingly endless financial resources of the Yankees and Red Sox. The fact the Rays won the division last season and held a three-game lead over the Yankees and Red Sox entering Tuesday's games is a testament to their pitching and resourcefulness.

The AL East might also go four-deep this season with an improved Blue Jays team that entered Tuesday night with a 21-20 record.

mdigiovanna@tribune.com

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