Over the last 20 years or so, has there been a tougher division than the AL East?
For the longest time, I'd say 10-15 years, it was only the Yankees and Red Sox battling it out every year. They were baseball's two superpowers and every season they were both going to the playoffs. Then the don't-call-me-Devil Rays joined the mix in 2008, and in 2012 the Orioles got in on the action as well.
The Blue Jays have joined the fray in 2014, except now the division is full of mediocrity. Toronto has the AL East's best record at 35-24, and their +41 run differential is the best by a mile. The other four teams are a combined 108-122 with a -77 run differential. Tampa Bay is really skewing that (23-36, -41), but trust me, the other three clubs are hardly lighting it up.
What happened? Well, for starters the Yankees just flat out got old. The Red Sox perhaps underestimated how much production they were losing when Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were allowed to walk away. The Rays? Everything's gone wrong. Players are underperforming and their pitchers are hurt. For the first time in a very long time, the AL East is not the undisputed toughest division in baseball.
Which division holds that title now? I think that's up for debate, really. It's definitely not the AL Central, I know that much. The NL East race is tight, but the first place team (Braves) have the worst record among the six division leaders. The Athletics are starting to run away with the AL West and I think it's only a matter of time before the Dodgers join the Giants to make the NL West a two-horse race.
That leaves the NL Central, where the Brewers have been able to sustain their hot start and hang onto first place. The Cardinals give off that "they'll figure it out eventually" vibe, which might not be deserved. I still have a hard time counting them out. I'm not sure any of the other three teams are good enough to make that division battle more intense.
Point is, baseball is chock full of parity right now, which is just a fancy way of saying mediocrity. At one point Tuesday night, after some games were complete while others were still going, the stars aligned perfectly so that 15 of the 30 teams were within two games of .500. Half the league right around the break-even mark. I happened to look at the standings at exactly the right moment. Is this good for the game? There's a lot of bland teams out there right now.
I'm filling in for Matt Snyder this week, so please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MikeAxisa) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep in mind these were posted the morning of Wednesday, June 4. Also realize that there usually isn't much of a difference between two teams ranked side-by-side. They're often interchangeable.