The AL Least

June 5, 2007 · Posted in Uncategorized 

We have endeavored to hammer the Yankees at every turn on these pages but have yet to touch upon the other 3 teams in the division formerly known as the toughest in baseball. The past several seasons has amounted to a battle of the checkbooks between Boston and New York. Here’s a look at the also-rans.

Toronto:
Our amiable friends north of the border broke the piggy bank in the Winter of ’05. In the process they landed closer B.J. Ryan and hurler A.J. Burnett via free agency ($7 million and $13.2 million respectively for 2007 alone). They also traded for  third baseman  Troy Glaus ( $11.5 million in 2007). For their efforts, they were rewarded with a 2nd place divisional finish, 10 games behind the Yankees, in 2006. As an alumnus of a prestigious liberal arts school (now there’s an oxymoron for you) in Western Massachusetts, GM J.P. Ricciardi apparently gets an automatic pass from the Boston media (Dan Duquette should be so lucky). After 4+ seasons as a mediocre setup guy with a great fastball in Baltimore, Ryan managed to put together 1 1/2 seasons of solid work as a closer for a terrible club. Ricciardi deemed this worthy of a 5 year deal worth $47 million. Even less can be said for Burnett, who never won more than 12 games in the weak NL and managed to log more than 200 IP only twice in his previous 6 seasons in Florida (therefore J.P. concludes that a 5 year $55 million deal is appropriate). At present B.J. Ryan is likely on the DL for the remainder of the season, and Burnett is a passable number 2-3 major league starter. Did anyone need a crystal ball to see this coming? (that’s rhetorical in case you’re wondering) Yet, we’re supposed to feel sorry for the “small market” Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays are still possibly the second best team in the AL East. They have Roy Halladay (when healthy) and a solid offensive attack with Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, and the serviceable first sacker Lyle Overbay.

Baltimore:
Barring divine intervention, they are headed for their 10th consecutive sub-.500 season. After a decade of questionable free agent signings (e.g. Sammy Sosa, Rick Helling, Will Clark, Delino DeShields, Javy Lopez, et al.), they seem to stockpiling a solid core of Major League talent. If they can stay the course with the likes of Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, Nick Markakis, Adam Loewen, and Jeremy Guthrie and harness the considerable talent of Daniel Cabrera, the future looks very bright. This is highly contingent, however, on not hitting the Glenn Davis panic button yet again. 2008 could be the year they go from pretenders to contenders.

Tampa Bay:
This assessment could start and end with the observation that this FLORIDA team plays in a dome! It’s about time to remove the “expansion team” tag and simply state the obvious: they are not good. OK, I’ll give you Scott Kazmir and Carl Crawford. Maybe Delmon Young will emerge in a few years. Rocco Baldelli might someday get healthy too. See ya in 2010.

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