AL East shakeup will define this season

When was the last time the Red Sox entered a season with every other team in the AL East as a playoff contender? Not just the Yankees, not just the Rays, but the Blue Jays and Orioles too. The Rays finally established themselves as a force to reckoned with in 2008 when they made the playoffs for the first time, then beat the Red Sox in the ALCS en route to a World Series appearance.

After years of division dominance by the Sox and Yankees, the two powerhouses had a new foe with the Rays. For the years that followed, it was a three-way race for the playoffs, but the Blue Jays and Orioles still were not viewed as serious threats at this point. Maybe they could steal a series here and there, but there was no way they would be in the hunt for a playoff birth.

Things are different now... Last season the Orioles seemed to come out of nowhere. After a strong start to the season, most baseball fans assumed that their hot streak would eventually cool down and the Orioles would simply fall back to fourth or fifth place as they had for over a decade. They didn't, and then qualified for a Wild Card playoff birth; their first trip to the playoffs since 1997.

The Blue Jays are a different story; with a plethora of new star players and fresh faces, they have division title aspirations. Key players including Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, RA Dickey, Mike Aviles, and Melky Cabrera. Now, of course there are no guarantees, but with a revamped roster the Blue Jays will surely prove to cause headaches for the rest of the AL East.

You could rearrange the AL East standings in any way you want, and it would be a possibility. Anybody could win the division and anybody could come in last. With a playoff appearance the furthest thing from a guarantee for any of these teams, one thing is for sure; this is going to be a wild season.

Anthony Aidonidis