By Joe Auriemma
The grass is green, the offseason is finally over and the baseball marathon is finally here. Being down in Florida for Spring Training to get a good look at the other teams in the American League East gave me a better look at the top three teams not just in the American League, but possibly in baseball. This division is going to be tightly contested.
Here are my predictions for the AL East final standings and the AL award winners:
With the upgraded starting rotation, solid bullpen and very good lineup, the Yankees will once again rise to the top of the American League East. Unlike in previous seasons, it’s not just about offense, but they have a well-rounded attack, including a good bench. They do have question marks, but so does every other team in baseball and the Yankees don’t have quite as many.
Red Sox 96-66 (Wild Card Winner)
The Red Sox are deep. There rotation is very good. Jon Lester is the real deal and is only going to get better. This is a very well-rounded squad; good bullpen, great rotation and a lineup that could be potent. The rivalry will be renewed this season as both teams not only jockey for the top spot in the AL East, but have to hold off a young and talented group in St. Petersburg, Fla., that oh by the way won the AL Pennant last season.
As much as I like the talent that the Rays have, I see them falling back to earth a little bit. I still think they are going to be tough and pesky the whole season, but with the Yankees’ overall improvements and the Red Sox, well being the Red Sox, I just think the Rays are going to fall short in their quest for a second straight division title.
Blue Jays 81-81
I really like Cito Gaston as the manager of this team. I really like Roy Halladay to dominate like he always does and I think the offense is decent. I just don’t think the Blue Jays have the horses to compete in this division.
Orioles management should be ashamed of how they have let this once-proud franchise drop to the doldrums of the American League. They don’t have pitching, they have decent offensive talent, but that’s about all this team can boast. This team could actually be a major player in deciding the division winner.
AL Award Winners
Grady Sizemore – He has a 35 home run and 40 stolen base season as the Indians win the Central division.
AL Cy Young Winner
CC Sabathia – I think he’s going to be dominant in pinstripes this season. Honorable mention is Jon Lester, who I also think is going to be an absolute beast.
AL Manager of the Year
Bob Geren – The A’s manager might have the right pieces in place to win the AL West and some luck on his side as the Angels start this season with a lot of injuries. I don’t know if this trendy pick to win the division will actually take down the Angels, but they could certainly make a run at it.
AL Rookie of the Year
David Price – I know he is starting the season in Triple-A, but is there any doubt that this guy is the goods? A call up by May gives Price enough time to show the league how dominant a force he could be for at least the next decade.