At the time of the blockbuster trade between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays that saw the old foes north of the border receive players like Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, and Jose Reyes, many baseball experts said that the AL East became an even tougher division to play in.
New York Yankees fans everywhere simply groaned collectively. The Yankees are now going to have to compete with another tough division opponent – something fans did not want after a 2012 season that saw both the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays make solid efforts to play in the postseason. Despite all of this, the AL East becoming a tougher division is actually a good thing.
If you watched the Yankees at any point during the 2012 season, you would see them play lazy baseball. They had a multitude of problems that were overshadowed by the fact that they got hot at the right time. They blew a ten game lead in the AL East in September, and had to keep pace with the Orioles to make sure that they stayed atop the division. They could also not hit with runners in scoring position, and when a hitter went into a slump, they looked terrible. The Yankees were simply getting by on the fact that they were able to build up a lead at the right time and never fall more than a half a game back down the stretch.
A challenging division would expose the Yankees’ flaws, and that is a very good thing. If the flaws are exposed by losing games, the Yankees will feel pressured to fix them – thus leading to a possibly better team. When I say “fix their problems,” I do not mean going out and trading for players and signing free agents, rather having coaches spend more time with struggling players to fix their problems, or changing their style of play completely. A tough division will light a fire underneath the Yankees’ behinds and hopefully force them to play well – for management surely knows that the fans will be at their throats if the Yankees do not succeed.
This offseason has already been an exciting one, and it is good for the game of baseball. There is no doubt that the AL East will be a fun division to watch as it will provide a lot of drama. Just like last year too, the division could be decided within the last few games of the season. However, we will all have to wait and see.
Follow Hunter Farman on Twitter @hfarman1