In case you hadn't noticed, the 2012 Yankees have been pulling a 2011 Red Sox--just one month early.
On July 18, the Yankees held a 10-game lead in the AL East over the Baltimore Orioles. They had just taken 8-of-10 to improve to 57-34 on the season, and appeared to be ready to end any semblance of competition remaining in the division.
Since that point, they are 20-26. Their division lead gone the way of the Dodo, with the Orioles now receiving the graphical (alphabetical?) nod over on MLB.com despite their identical records.
In any given year, such a dramatic demise of a Yankees team would be beautiful to behold. And, indeed, it still is. But the AL East is no longer a Red Sox - Yankees battle year-after-year, and with added competition has come added enmity. This brings me to the fact that, unfortunately, somebody has to win the division every year, even if it's not the Red Sox.
So let's reconcile ourselves with that, and hope for some miracles. The two contenders for the East outside of the Yankees are, of course, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. Frankly, either one of those teams having success is a bit...irksome...But we'd do well to remind ourselves that their success is certainly preferable to that of the Yankees.
The Rays, in fact, would not be half as bothersome were it not for our interaction with a sample of their fans likely unrepresentative of the whole. Player-wise, were it not for The Abomination That Is Luke Scott, there's not a lot to really hate down there. Mostly just a bunch of guys who play good defense and make no sense on a 75-62 team, curious but not exactly offensive. Still, there is the past to think about. The 2008 ALCS to start, and let's not forget that last year they were the ones to overtake us in the end.
As for the Orioles, the problem there really lies in what they did to us last year, ending our playoff hopes and actively celebrating our misery. Frankly, if Robert Andino were gone, it would be easy enough to look past that. Really, if we can, the Orioles become the easy team to root for. They're in the midst of a bizarre, fun Cinderella run to the postseason, and given the way they're going about it (with a negative run differential and a lot of 1-run wins), it would not be surprising if they were gone by the time the Sox found themselves back in contention.
I'd say, then, that the Orioles would have to be the obvious choice for a Red Sox fan to win the division. The Rays come in second, and the Yankees a distant third. But that's not all we have to consider--there's also the wild card race.
As it stands, the Athletics are in very good position to grab one of the two spots, with the Rays, Angels, and Tigers trailing them and the AL East leaders by 2-4 games.
Now, it goes without saying that if the Orioles win the division, we'd certainly like to see the Athletics and any team not named the Yankees get those playoff spots. But who do you turn to? The obvious pick would the the Tigers, since there's no enmity there. We actually have done fairly well against them of late, aside from the awful 0-3 start to this season, and while there are some questionable characters on the squad, nobody really approaches The Abomination That Is Luke Scott.
If the Tigers can't mount that comeback, though, we're left asking ourselves: Angels or Rays?
Both have become rivals with the Red Sox. We've had some very negative interactions with both teams' communities here at Over The Monster. We have come up holding the short end of the stick against each in recent years.
My choice here might be the Rays simply because I don't see them doing anything in the postseason if they make it. Yes, they've got an exceptional pitching staff, and pitching wins games, but they'd be hurt by having their rotation thrown out of whack in a one-game playoff, and I just can't see that lineup winning postseason games.
The Angels, on the other hand, can strike an impressive balance when they're not in a complete funk. We've seen them get really hot for an extended period of time, and with talent like Weaver, Wilson, Pujols, and Trout, there's the core there that just needs one or two players to get hot and help out, ala the 2011 Cardinals.
To sum up, then, these are the official endorsements of Over The Monster for the 2012 postseason.
A.L. East Division Winner: Baltimore Orioles
A.L. Wild Card Winners:
- Oakland Athletics
- Detroit Tigers
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Los Angeles Angels
- Any team not named the New York Yankees*