The greatest division races are already shaping up to be in the (AL and NL East). Teams that had been afterthoughts are now in the mix, perennial powers have found themselves in the cellar. Things are changing quickly, so by the time this goes up on the afternoon of June 10, it may already by obsolete: teams that were in first may have fallen to second or even third. A team who was in it could not be out of it. A team that was out of it could be in it. It is just that volatile.
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The NL East really isn’t the race that the AL East is appearing to be, but looks can be deceiving.
The two leaders of the division (Washington and Atlanta, who is just a game back) almost certainly will stay in it, unless they have problems with injuries or the Nationals go through with their stupid plan to shut down Strasburg after he has pitched a certain amount of innings. The Mets will, presumably, fall back, although I would have thought they would have fallen back already.
The big questions in the NL East are Miami and Philadelphia, two teams that, although they are four (Miami) and seven (Philadelphia) games back could easily find themselves back into it. Miami had a great May, and have enough talent where they could easily have another big month, while the Phillies, devastated by injuries, are also too talented a team to finish in last, and could make a good second-half run depending on when and if Chase Utley and Ryan Howard return.
Overall, however, I’m high on the Nationals right now. They have that aura around them that all good young teams seem to have, a feeling almost as if they are destined for greatness. They might not be a team that will get to the playoffs this year, or go deep in them. But they will.
Meanwhile, the AL East is nuts. At varying times over the last week, the Yankees, Rays and Orioles have held at least part of first place. The Blue Jays and Red Sox are taking up the rear. And the thing is is that all of these teams have strengths and weaknesses that could allow them to win the division. However, I predict that by the time this all ends, it’ll be the Rays and Yankees fighting for first, although the other three should be in the conversation of getting into the wild card playoff as well.
Really, the Yankees and Rays have as close as a team gets these days to having it all. The Orioles have a great relief staff and power at the plate. The Blue Jays and Red Sox cannot be discounted from catching fire with their potent offenses and pitching staffs that have underachieved.
In other words: it’s going to be fun.