It's easy for all of us in the Nation (including your humble scribe) to begin the Panic Watch after the Sox recent 4-6 road swing. Things were looking pretty good 10 days ago as the defending World Champs seemed to be settling into to first place for a nice long cake-walk to another division title. But don't look now—this is not your father's division.
No longer the AL LEAST (us and the Empire deciding on bragging rights in late September), the new AL BEAST is the only division in baseball where every club has at least 20 victories—even the cellar-dwelling denizens from the Bronx. Everybody got better. The Rays finally decided that young quality arms and top everyday prospects was a better strategy than signing washed-up veterans. The Orioles sacrificed a quality arm in Bedard, but held on to Brian Roberts and are winning with a mix of the past (Millar/Huff) and the future (Markakis/Jones). The Blue Jays are up and down with their slew of talent (Rios/Wells/Halladay/Burnett) and the Empire is, well, just the usual moneybags brigade of A-List free agents and youngsters.
The bottom line is that this will likely be a very tough fight to the post-season—with the AL Wild Card again residing in the East. We need to be a little more realistic about the ups and downs of the Old Towne Team as they slug out 72 games or so with their fellow travelers in the AL BEAST.