By Tyler King
Here is something you’ve probably never heard a Blue Jays fan say:
“Thank God we’re in the American League East!”
We fans have been cursing this division basically since 1977 (back when there were seven teams to complain about rather than five).
But if the Jays end up turning this season around we’ll likely have the AL East to thank. For once.
Honestly, I had given up checking the standings over a week ago, as even a glance at the morning paper was enough to ruin my day.
But with back-to-back wins Sunday and Monday (including starting pitcher Drew Hutchinson’s complete game gem) I was finally feeling brave enough to take a peak.
And was I ever shocked by what I saw...
The Blue Jays are only 3.5 games back of the division lead.
What? How? It can’t be... no way. It’s not possible!
When you consider our record is 21-26 heading into the second game of the Chicago White Sox series, you can’t help but think there’s been some sort of mistake.
After all, we’re dead last in the AL East. THE AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST PEOPLE! The so-called “toughest division in sports!” The scapegoat for much of our recent struggles!
(Well I think we’ll have to table that excuse for the time being).
Upon seeing all this, I stared at my computer screen for a good 4-5 minutes. I finally snapped out of it, splashed some water on my face, and pinched myself for good measure. Then I checked again.
Somehow the Tampa Bay Rays are leading the East despite being a mere three games over .500 (24-21).
If the Jays were in either the AL West or the AL Central we’d currently be 8.5 games back, and on the brink of kissing the season goodbye (you’re typically dead once you hit that devastating 10 game mark).
And if you really want to fry your brain, try and wrap your ahead around this one:
Every team in the AL East is further back from the wild card than they are from the division.
(I’ll let that sink in for a moment).
The AL West leading Houston Astros are 29-17. The AL Central leading Kansas City Royals are 28-16. Put the Jays’ record below either of those teams’ and it’s enough to make me want to throw my laptop through the window.
But when you put our record below the Tampa Bay Rays’? ‘Ok, OK! ... we’ve got a real shot here... it’s not great, but this is definitely doable.
Oh the difference a division can make! (Not to mention a year).
On May 25th of 2014 the AL East leader was seven games over .500 - and yes it was the Toronto Blue Jays (oh happy days).
What we have here in 2015 is a good old fashioned logjam. A dogfight, as they say - something that rarely happens when you have to compete with big spenders like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
Somewhere there has to be an explanation for all this. Poor play and devastated rosters are obvious factors, but there is yet another glaring reason for this newfound parity.
The division is flat-out beating up on each other.
Against AL East teams Toronto is .500 (14-14), Tampa and New York are both 16-13, Boston is 10-15, and the Baltimore Orioles are 14-15. As you can see, there’s not much imbalance there.
When the Orioles won the division last season, they had a 47-29 record against AL East opponents.
I know it’s early, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see such a harmony (of inconsistency) for quite some time.
So, I guess there are two ways the Jays can go from here.
Option one: they keep trying to hover around that 3-4 games back mark until Bautista, Navarro, Saunders, and Travis return from injury. (Not preferable).
Option two: they go on a deep run now while they’re actually getting some decent starting pitching. (Preferable)!
Of course, there is always a third option...
But with a couple recent wins on the board, let’s not even go there.
Follow Tyler and his Section 108 column on twitter: @tylerjoseph108