AL East Preview: Crowded at the Top
On New Year's night
At 1 p.m. he got married.
There wasn't much respite on his honeymoon in Hawaii, either: Anthopoulos, 32, worked whenever his wife,
Yes, the task of running a club in the AL East is all-consuming, especially for Toronto, which hasn't reached the playoffs in the wild-card era. The Red Sox and the Yankees are primarily to blame, but it's the recent emergence of the low-budget Rays that has made the division baseball's strongest and proved that large-market cash isn't the only way to win. "Look at the brains in the division," Anthopoulos says. "That's a lot more challenging to me than the dollars."
That brainpower includes the G.M.'s of the last three AL pennant winners:
So strong is the concentration of power -- since 1995 Boston and New York have made 23 of a possible 30 playoff appearances -- that major league baseball's competition committee has floated radical realignment plans. Indeed, the Blue Jays' dalliance atop the AL East at the start of 2009 (they led by 3 1/ 2 games on May 18) came to a screeching halt once divisional play heated up.
The elite never rest either. Hours before the Yankees were to play World Series Game 1 last October, Cashman began calling general managers. One of his calls was to Detroit's
Two weeks later Cashman acquired starter
In Tampa Bay all but six players who are expected to make the 25-man roster were either drafted by the club or acquired in a trade for a homegrown player. "The key to their turnaround," Epstein says, "came when they stopped trying to be competitive right now and instead tried to build something for the long haul." Now the Rays have All-Star-caliber players at six positions, one of baseball's best young rotations and a reliable closer, having traded for right-hander
Baltimore and Toronto are following the Rays' lead. While the Orioles were grooming draft picks such as starters
Toronto is a couple years behind but picked up the pace on Dec. 16, when it traded ace
For now the axis of power remains in Boston, New York and Tampa Bay, arguably the favorites again for the AL pennant. After members of this division play each other 18 times, the title of AL champion will be well-earned.