Is the demise of the AL East being greatly exaggerated?

Many readers on this and other blogs have mentioned two things that fuel their optimism for the Orioles in 2011: The O's have improved while several American League East teams have not.

While I, like most of you, feel the Orioles can be much improved with their additions in the field, their young pitching, their strong finish and a full season with Buck Showalter, I am not yet willing to concede that this division is starting to lose its clout.

No doubt, right now, Boston is the clear favorite. They lost Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, but added elite talents in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. I don't see that as close to a wash as some have said.

I don't think Boston will miss Beltre or Martinez for a minute and when you add a healthy Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox look to be back on top. Were it not for the injuries, they could have won this division last year.

But some feel the other three clubs have all taken a step back. Save for re-signing Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, the Yankees, shockingly, haven't done much.

Tampa Bay's lineup has lost Carlos Pena, Crawford and Jason Bartlett, while Matt Garza is headed to the Cubs while the Blue Jays lost Sean Marcum.

But Tampa has Jeremy Hellickson ready to step into the rotation and maybe Desmond Jennings will turn into the star many say he will. The Rays have a very fertile farm system and always seem to crank out good young talent.

Toronto still has a formidable and young rotation with the likes of Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Brandon Morrow, possibly Kyle Drabek and Mark Rzepczynski, who are all around 25 or younger.

The Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee and are still waiting on Andy Pettitte to decide if he will return and continue to beat the Orioles until he's 50.

But, none of these clubs has to field a team today. New York is still plenty capable of pulling off a trade for a key starter and if doesn't happen soon, it still could in July.

I just think, while it looks like these clubs, especially Tampa, has fallen back, looks can be deceiving.

This is a division where the fourth place team won 85 games last summer. New York still has Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano in the middle of its lineup. Tampa's farm system got even better with the Garza deal. Toronto's young arms are underrated by some people.

Is the AL East still a beast? I say it is.

If these clubs are truly not as good and more vulnerable now, I'll believe it when I see it on the field.

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