|After their weekend sweep of the Red Sox, the Orioles (briefly) had the best record in baseball. (Getty Images)|
Remember when the AL East was the Yankees, Red Sox and everyone else? The Rays then thrust themselves into the mix in 2008 and the Blue Jays appeared poised to be better than "let's hope for third" this season. Now the Red Sox are in last place and the Yankees are fighting to stay out of fourth while both teams have serious pitching problems to varying degrees. So things are turned upside down from what was once the norm.
And the Orioles? The Baltimore "No one wants to work for Peter-Angelos" Orioles?
They were slated for last place by almost anyone paying attention before the season. They had over a dozen pitchers in spring training competing for the starting rotation and, no, it wasn't a sign of depth. At the time, it smelled more like desperation to find five guys worth rostering.
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And look at them now. The Orioles are 19-11. Now, we have to keep in mind the tale of the 2011 Indians. Through May 23, the Indians were 30-15. They had the best record in baseball and a seven-game lead over the Tigers. They would finish 80-82 and a whopping 15 games behind Detroit.
But can't we also note the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks? I remember people -- myself included -- laughing at how the D-Backs were a sure bet to finish last in the NL West. Instead, they went out and won the thing by eight games over the defending World Series champion. If you want an AL East example, those 2008 Rays were supposed to stop hanging around at some point. They would surely go away eventually, remember? Only they didn't. And they haven't since.
Thirty games is only 18.5 percent of the season. That's a small sample, but it isn't tiny. It cannot be ignored. It's time to give the Orioles respect in the topsy-turvy AL East. Because while they might be the 2011 Indians -- with a ridiculously good division, to boot -- it's possible they're the 2011 D-Backs or 2008 Rays.
Oh, while we're here: Ranking the AL East teams high up isn't East Coast bias. It is merit. Note their collective 51-35 record against everyone else. That's a .593 winning percentage, one that would see an individual team go 96-66 over the course of 162 games. Again, this is an entire division, not just the top teams.
Stats, comments and rankings are through Tuesday.