Watching the American League East standings this season is akin to watching the scoreboard Hot Dog Races at Camden Yards. Mustard establishes a narrow lead only to be overtaken by Relish, who relinquishes to Ketchup, setting up a photo finish. None of them is very good and the winnerâ€™s a toss-up.
The Orioles led the division for a while, with the Yankees and Toronto in lukewarm pursuit. After Wednesdayâ€™s games, NYY and TOR are tied, with BAL half a game back. All three are hanging a few games over .500, but hardly lighting up the league.
If those three are the divisionâ€™s most common frankfurter condiments, then Boston and Tampa Bay are chopped onions and chili sauce, dripping down the divisionâ€™s arm and falling onto its shirt.
Tampa Bay â€¦ go figure. No offense whatsoever. Pretty shaky pitching. Not very good on the road. Terrible at home. Hereâ€™s everything you need to know about the Tampas: on Wednesday, Brandon Guyer (.204, .220, .286) hit cleanup against Oakland. He went 0 for 3 until Joe Maddon pinch hit for him. Again, weâ€™re talking about the number-4 hitter. Then, a defensive meltdown combined with a couple walks and made for an ugly second inning. Erik Bedard ate the loss.
The Red Sox canâ€™t hit, canâ€™t score and canâ€™t pitch. Otherwise, they look great. The Sox needed every break, every close call, every weird hop to fall their way last year. And thatâ€™s exactly what happened. This year, Boston and Tampa are the wrinkly wieners, turning over and over on the back rollers, withering under the heat lamps.
Despite sad, shriveled Â Tampa and Boston, nobodyâ€™s out of it yet. The American League East has no Houstons, no Cubs and no Arizonas â€“ the turkey, chicken and tofu dogs of 2014. Even under the best of circumstances, nobody wants a tofu hot dog. The AL East, for all its problems, is grade-A beef and natural casing. Fall a half dozen games out and youâ€™re still in shouting distance. A fresh bun and a brief stay under the nacho cheese nozzle can work wonders.
The Yankees are old and hurt. And tied for first place.
Toronto surrenders a ton of runs. And is tied with the Yanks.
The â€śslow startâ€ť by Baltimoreâ€™s sluggers is morphing into an â€śoff-year.â€ť But there they are, half a game back.
West of here, Detroit and Oakland threaten to murderize their divisions. The Athletics have a staggering plus-99 run differential, 50 runs higher than the next-highest in baseball. Which, of course, is Detroit.
The Aâ€™s and Tigers should start printing playoff tickets. The AL East should order fries and a Coke with their dogs and settle back for a long, strange race.
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