Sunday, February 24, 2008

No joke, Rays lead AL East

In its Feb. 25 edition, The Sporting News ranked the teams in the American League East, and the Rays are first.

Rays? First?

Don’t get too excited, but don’t laugh, either.

The rankings reflected the offseason moves made by each team, and signing closer Troy Percival and outfielder/DH Cliff Floyd and trading for starting pitcher Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett and utility infielder Willy Aybar trumped any moves made by their division rivals.

Toronto picked up shortstop David Eckstein and third baseman Scott Rolen from the Cardinals, which may or may not help the Blue Jays.

Boston and New York didn’t do much, except re-sign their free agents.

Baltimore? Well, the Orioles continue to be the Orioles and helped their division rivals by trading their best pitcher, Erik Bedard, to Seattle and shortstop Miguel Tejada to Houston, thus wrapping up last place before the first pitcher and catcher even reported.

The Red Sox and Yankees didn’t have to do much, because both are loaded, and Toronto should improve just by staying healthy.

Barring a spring training injury or two, the Rays are putting together the best Opening Day lineup in their short history. While that’s not saying much, the team should improve over last year’s 96-loss, last-place finish.

How all of this plays out during the regular season remains to be seen.

But this is certain: The Rays did win the battle of the offseason.

Hey, it is good to be No. 1 at something.

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