Is the American League East Still the Toughest Division in Baseball?


August 1, 2012

Is the American League East Still the Toughest Division in Baseball?The American League East has long been accepted in baseball circles as the best division in MLB.

Home of archrivals and twin superpowers Boston and New York, the division has hosted seven of the 12 pennant winners since 2000 — four for the Yankees, two for the Red Sox, and one for the upstart Rays.

Toronto has frequently been lauded as a team that would have contended in any other division, and the Orioles would have been a middling team rather than a cellar-dweller were they not bordering the Atlantic.

But a seemingly seismic shift in power has taken place during the past couple of years, to the point where the AL East no longer has a stranglehold on the title of the league’s toughest division.

The AL Central may not have a certifiable pennant contender at the moment, but it has Detroit — and any team that boasts not only the defending Cy Young winner and MVP in Justin Verlander but also the one-two punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder deserves some recognition. The Royals have a bright future ahead of them — offsetting a miserable present — and Cleveland and Chicago are both solid, if not sensational.

The Rangers and Angels are quickly becoming the West Coast version of the Yankees and Red Sox, albeit without a century’s worth of history. Both teams look like serious contenders for the World Series, boasting deep rotations and overwhelming offenses. The Mariners have a ways to go, but the pesky A’s are somehow fighting for a playoff spot yet again and are 18-11 against the famed AL East this year.

The NL East, long the domain of the Phillies, now appears to be under new ownership. The Phillies have sunk like a rock to the cellar and sold off two-thirds of their starting outfield, while the Nationals and Braves have shot to the top of the standings. The Nationals appear poised to dominate the division for years, with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper highlighting a plethora of young talent.

The Pirates, long the doormats of not only the NL Central but also the entire major leagues, are shockingly 15 games above .500 and only three games out of first. It took a blistering stretch by the Reds to take over the top spot, and the defending World Series champion Cardinals still lurk not far behind.

Finally, there’s the NL West, possibly the most volatile division in baseball. Since 2003, each team has won the division at least twice except for the Rockies, who’ve still managed to win the wild card twice and have made a World Series appearance. This season, it looks to come down to a duel between heated rivals San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Arizona possibly playing spoiler.

Which division in the toughest in baseball?

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