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Question of the Day: Which is the toughest division in baseball? [Updated]

May 17, 2011 |  9:39 am

Question_275 Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss the Major League Baseball season. Check back throughout the day for more responses, vote in the poll and feel free to weigh in with a comment of your own.

Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune

There are going to be some fascinating races this season. The National League East shapes us as a genuine three-team battle between the Phillies, Braves and Marlins, and who knows what’s going to happen in either of the divisions out west?

But the best division in baseball is still the one where teams spend the most money -– the American League East. It’s such a good division that the Yankees’ $203-million payroll does not guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. Tampa Bay’s young pitching is a real threat to the Yankees and Red Sox in terms of the East title, and the strength of the Blue Jays and Orioles could make it hard for the East runner-up to pile up victories, meaning the wild card might be found elsewhere.

The East has advanced two teams 12 of 16 seasons in the wild-card era, but this year it may be too strong for its own good. 

Joseph Moskowitz, Allentown Morning Call

The mix of the old-school baseball persona and new-school raw power makes the AL East the toughest division in baseball -- still.  The Yankees and Red Sox haven’t had stellar starts, but with Cy Young-caliber pitching and power at nearly every spot in the lineup, it is only a matter of time before the two ticking time bombs explode.

The Rays, whom some counted out early, lead the division behind the arm of James Shields and the surprising bat of Matt Joyce. Even traditional lightweights Baltimore and Toronto are pulling their weight. The O’s, having added the veteran prowess of Vladimir Guerrero and the power of Mark Reynolds, are flirting with .500; and Toronto is battling the Yanks and Sox for second place.

None of these teams likely will hold baseball’s best record at season’s end, but that’s only because the division is so tough.

[Updated at 2:36 p.m.:

Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times

The offensive firepower of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and the superior rotation of the Tampa Bay Rays make the American League East the toughest division in baseball, though the National League East, with excellent teams in Philadelphia, Florida and Atlanta, is gaining ground.

What gives the AL East the edge is the seemingly endless financial resources of the Yankees and Red Sox, which make it extremely tough for any of the other three teams to win the division. The fact that the Rays won the division last season and hold a three-game lead over the Yankees and Red Sox entering Tuesday's games is a testament to their pitching and resourcefulness.

The AL East might also go four-deep this season with an improved Toronto team that entered Tuesday night with a 21-20 record and one of baseball's best hitters in Jose Bautista.

Dom Amore, Hartford Courant

If starting pitching is baseball's most important element, then one might begin and end this debate with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Josh Johnson and Jair Jurrjens? Why wait for Johan Santana and Stephen Strasburg to get healthy?

The NL East is baseball's best division at the moment. Its teams are 55-36 outside the division -- even the Mets are 8-8. The AL East, the perennial favorite here, has not yet lived up to its 2011 billing. Its teams are 62-54 against the other divisions, but the Red Sox's tough start, which included sweeps at Texas and Cleveland, is an indication that the East may not be as dominant over the Central and West as it has been in past years. The recent Yankees slide is a sign that the East also is no lock for the wild card, as it generally has been.

In the NL East, the Phillies have established a fearsome foursome in Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Yet, they are hardly running away with the division -- so good are the Braves and Marlins. This is going to be MLB's toughest race.]


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Photo: David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox talks to Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees during their game on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Al Bello / Getty Images