The Big Orange Guy’s Top 5 Questions About The American League East
by Russ Blatt on January 31, 2011

The baseball season is coming.  Trades and signings are happening almost daily.  The rumors of this player going there and where this player is signing are all over the internet.   There are still many free agents out there, although those free agents with big names are off the board.  Soriano, and Pavano are off the board.  Manny and Damon are supposed to be reuniting.  Teams are starting to take shape.  I just got asked if the Yankees traded A.J. Burnett today.  Spring training is just around the corner.

The last few weeks, I have picked a division and asked five questions regarding their 2011 season.  With the divisions that have five teams, it makes it easy.  Each team has many questions facing them with the upcoming season, so I ask one per team and a little background behind the question.  This week, I look at the American League East.  This division has been a division of the haves and have-nots for the past few seasons.  Is this the year that some power changes?  Let’s ask a few questions and take a look.

So, here are The Big Orange Guy’s Top 5 Questions of the American League East.

#1 – Can the Red Sox be beat? Let’s be honest, this team is loaded.  The pitching staff is strong with Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Bobby Jenks, Jonathon Papelbon and others.  They acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  They may have lost Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, but they still have a solid core that includes Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia.  The 2010 Red Sox won 89 games even though their team seemed like a M.A.S.H. unit.  Beckett, Buchholz, Pedroia, Dice-K and nearly every single star spent time on the disabled list.  With all of those games lost, they still won nearly 90 games.  Now, they are improved as well.  Can the Red Sox be beat?

#2 – What will a full season of Buck Showalter mean to the Baltimore Orioles?  The Orioles had three managers in 2010.  David Trembley had a record of 15-39 and Juan Samuel had a record of 17-34. That is a combined record of 34-73.  Showalter’s record was 34-23.  He led the Orioles to the same number of wins and 50 less losses.  That was last year.  In the off season, the Orioles signed Derrek Lee, Cesar Itzuris, Kevin Gregg and Jeremy Accardo.  They traded for J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds.  They have new coaches with a tremendous amount of experience.  Willie Randolph is the new bench coach and Mark Connor is the new pitching coach.  These additions of coaches are because of Showalter.  Free agents signing can be possibly and partially because of Buck.  So with a full season with Showalter leading the team, how many wins will the Orioles have in 2011?

#3 – Are the Tampa Bay Rays done?  First, let’s start with the free agents that left the team.  Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate, Carl Crawford, Brad Hawpe, Carlos Pena, Chad Qualls, Rafael Soriano and Dan Wheeler are all gone.  They replaced these names with Kyle Farnsworth, J.P. Howell and rumored to have signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.  They traded Matt Garza to the Cubs.  They are loaded with young talent but is that enough to compete?  In a division where they play the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and the improved Orioles will they be able to continue their winning ways of the past three years?   Or, are they done?

#4 – Will anyone pay attention to the Toronto Blue Jays?  Everyone is talking about the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and the improved Orioles.  The Blue Jays won 85 games in 2010 and finished only 11 games behind the Rays for the division crown.  This team is undergoing a chance for 2011.  Somehow, the team was able to trade Vernon Wells and his contract to the Angels.  They have very good young pitching.  They have Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek.  They signed Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch who were both signed to help the bullpen.  They are a team with many young players.  They recently traded Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie.  They obtained Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera for Wells.  Their team is young and has a lot to prove in the American League East.  But, as October 2011 rolls around, will anyone pay attention to the Toronto Blue Jays?

#5 – Do the New York Yankees have enough pitching?  They have C.C Sabathia and Phil Hughes.  They have Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano, but what other proven commodities do they have?  A.J. Burnett pitches like Dr. Jeckyll or Mr. Hyde.  Andy Pettitte did not file retirement papers but he is still working out in Texas.  Bartolo Colon has not pitched in the majors since 2009 and the other potential starters are either named Joba, Ivan or some pitcher that does not have a proven track record.  The bullpen will have Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano, but will also have Joba (potentially), David Robertson and Damaso Marte.  Looking at the names, it is not enough.  The Yankees have young prospects to trade, expect it to happen.  So, you tell me, do the Yankees have enough pitching?

That is all for this week.  It is February soon and the baseball season is just around the corner.  As I go back outside to dig out from ANOTHER snowstorm, stay safe all.  See you on the other side.



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