The consensus among the baseball cognoscenti is that the three best teams in baseball reside in our American League East. That may be a bit of an exaggeration—but not much.
For a number of reasons, we are picking the Red Sox to narrowly capture the AL East flag by a single game over the defending American League Champion Rays. The also-rans in the $1.5 billion mausoleum in the Bronx will finish out of the post-season for the second straight year—but will only be 2 games off the pace of the Wild Card Rays.
Our reasoning: First, the Red Sox possess the deepest 1-12 pitching staff in baseball. And, if you count the 2 or 3 slots in their minor league system, they are ridiculously well-positioned with up to eight legitimate starters. This has two benefits in a long, close-fought season. They can call up any of these kids to back-fill injuries or bad performances and they can deal any of them at the trading deadline for bargain-basement "Stimulus Era" help. Second, the Red Sox offense should generate just enough "Post-Manny" run production to complement the dominant pitching. Third, what should be one of the league's best defenses will allow for a lot of 1-run victories.
On the flip side, the Rays—while a wonderfully talented blend of youth and experience—are due for enough of a swoon that they will fall short of another Division Crown. The main reason will be the inability of their bullpen to put up the sick numbers they did in 2008—it just can't happen two years in a row.
Finally, our good friends in Gotham City will suffer from a non-existent bullpen (outside of Rivera), and the weight of the A-Roid fiasco. Add to that the excessive pressure on Teixeira to perform big in New York; the brittle $85 million body of A. J. "Burn-Out" and you have a recipe for splendid disaster. They're just so last century.