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article imageThe Toronto Blue Jays and the mystery of the AL East

By Ben Morris     Jun 1, 2014 in Sports
Toronto - For more than a decade it has been the most difficult division in the Major Leagues. With the Toronto Blue Jays leading the AL East, a new champion could be crowned.
The Toronto Blue Jays, who haven't made the playoffs since winning back to back World Series titles since 1992-93, currently sit on top of the American League East. Leading a division two months into a season doesn't guarantee anything, but the Jays have capitalized on issues their divisional foes are currently facing.
Defending champion Boston Red Sox currently sit 2.5 games up on the Tampa Bay Rays in 4th place, a surprising start for a team that climbed to the mountain after a disasterous season with manager Bobby Valentine. Their troubles can be attributed to pitching, and offense. John Lackey leads the Red Soxs with 6 wins, but has an ERA over three. Their star hurler has pitched even worse. Clay Buchholz is 2-4 with an ERA of 7.02, while giving up 24 walks. He has since been placed on the D.L in what one sports journalist called, "handy excuse," used by the Sox to, "get his mechanics straight," and fix his lack of confidence.
Pitching is not their only problem. As a team they are batting just .245, placing them 12th in the American League, while the division leading Toronto Blue Jays are collectively hitting .265, and lead the entire majors in home runs. The top three teams in the division sit in the top 5 of league hitting, showing the importance of offense in claiming the division.
Boston has won three championships in the last 10 years, claiming the title of what many would consider a dynasty, but the division has been dominated by the Bronx Bombers, who have won 13 division crowns since the 1994 strike year, including nine straight from 1998 to 2006. Consistently near the top of the division, the Yankees will be around in September.
The Yankees have been hit with the injury bug that cost them Mark Tiexeira, Carlos Beltran, for a stretch, while C.C Sabathia is still on the mend. Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka is the only starter on the rotation who has consistently sent batters to the dugout in shame. The injuries, and spotty pitching have given the Jays an extra hand to capture the divisional lead, but with a never closing wallet, and the drive to always be in contention, the New York Yankees sit just 2.5 back of the Jays, and had the divisional lead earlier in the year.
The question of whether the Jays can maintain their lead and win the division will depend on many factors, including their pitching.Mark Buehrle leads the majors in wins, but the rest of the pitching staff have had up and down seasons. Drew Hutchison, R.A Hickey, and J.A Happ have been inconsistent, Brandon Morrow has not been the same hurler since he was injured last year, and currently sits on the D.L. If the bats stop swinging the Jays could be knocked off their perch.
Rumors regarding the acquisition of a pitcher hitting newspapers, the Jays seem to be in play for a major move. A reported trade with the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija fell through in the winter when Chicago asked for Hutchison, and one of either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman. Now, a player like James Shields appears to be on the radar, the hunt is on for Alex Anthopoulos to pick up an arm to help a bi-polar staff that is key in a division with strong rotations.
Tampa Bay has lost Matt Moore for the year, and has a team batting average identical to the Red Sox. Boston lost Jacoby Ellsbury in the off season, and his replacement Jackie Bradley Jr. is batting only .207 with 20 R.B.I.
The Blue Jays have their doubters who believe players like Francisco,Lind Tolleson, and Lawrie will cool off, but Matt Snyder wrote for CBS Sports, "The Blue Jays are the best team in the AL East in 2014 based upon their own performance and there are plenty of reasons to believe it will continue." Inconsistencies and injuries in their division, as well as their strong defensive play, and hitting, could spell the end of a 21-year playoff drought.
More about MLB, American League East, Toronto blue jays, New York Yankees, Boston red sox
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