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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Sox and Yanks the favorites; Rays may surprise in AL East

Published: March 21, 2008
Section: Sports

Sports fans rejoice! Winter is over and spring has come! In a matter of days, the sun shall rise upon a new baseball season. At 6 a.m. EST, on March 25, the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox will duke it out with the Oakland Athletics in Japan. This event marks the beginning of the year and the end of a tumultuos offseason which saw a massive retooling of the five teams in the AL East.

First, a look at the hometown Boston Red Sox is in order. The Red Sox won the 2008 World Series by defeating the hot Colorado Rockies, but that was last year. This is this year, and they will have to attempt to repeat without the bloody sock.

That’s right; Curt Schilling is out for at least half the season with shoulder problems. Also, Eric Gagne has left for more money in Milwaukee. But the Red Sox can still win the division with their core of talent returning and a young nucleus of stars, awaiting more fame and glory.

Knocking on Boston’s door are the New York Yankees. The winter of every Yankee fan was spent praying for their stars to return to pinstripes. Their prayers were answered, as Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera all re-signed with the team. The Yanks will be mostly the same, although with a younger starting rotation. Only time will tell if the rotation has what it takes to make Yankee Stadium’s encore season a winner or a loser.

Finishing in the middle of the pack last year were the Toronto Blue Jays. They chose to make some moves to improve their team. The team signed David Eckstein, who may be baseball’s version of mighty mouse, to a deal and traded Troy Glaus for the disgruntled Scott Rolen. Also, closer B.J. Ryan is returning from elbow surgery. The team has a chance to turn some heads this season.

Last year, the Baltimore Orioles won 69 games. They won’t repeat that. Sorry Orioles fans. The team chose to trade away Miguel Tejada a few years past his prime value and Erik Bedard for prospects. Young closer Chris Ray is out for most of the season. But all is not grim; Nick Markakis is a future superstar and will be fun to watch this season.

The worst team in the majors last season was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This year they will be the surprise of the nation. Their off season saw wholesale changes in almost every department. First, they are no longer the Devil Rays; they are the Tampa Bay Rays. Their uniforms have changed as well.

On the field, the team traded young star Delmon Young for a top-notch starter in Matt Garza and a baseball-smart shortstop in Jason Bartlett, in addition to signing Cliff Floyd and Troy Percival to give the team a veteran presence. Throw in the debut of top prospect Evan Longoria at third base this season, and this is a team that should have its first winning season in franchise history. If everything goes right, the Rays will even be in playoff contention the final week of the season. This is the team with the best record in spring training after all.