The Tuesday Discussion: The New BIG EAST?
This week we asked:
If baseball comes back using the proposed new alignment (essentially the American League and National East teams will be playing in the same division) which club will be the one that competes with the Yankees for first place?
Our writers responded:
Derek McAdam – The Tampa Bay Rays have been a tough team for the Yankees to play over the past few seasons, and they would be a team to watch out for in MLB’s new alignment. The Washington Nationals seem like the obvious choice, since they won the World Series last year and are able to get extended rest since the season has been suspended for the time being. But Tampa seems to find ways to make it work. They seem to get better and better year after year and are not signing top free agents. The pitching staff is solid and they have a very nice lineup of hitters. Washington has a great team too, but they also had a much improved second half of the season. Remember, Dave Martinez was on the verge of being fired of manager of the team around June. Just five months later, he would be celebrating a World Series championship. They will be the team under the microscope this upcoming season to build on the highest success possible, which may get to some of the players. For now, Tampa seems like the team that is willing to give the Yankees a run for first place.
Patrick Gunn – If played under this new alignment, the Nationals, Rays, and (potentially) the Mets would give the Yankees the most trouble. All three have great rotations and have young, explosive talent up and down their lineups. If I had to pick one team, I’d go with the Nationals because of their proven star power. Also, their bullpen is improved with the Harris signing and it held up well last post season.
Mike Whiteman – While I’m a bit of a traditionalist and was never a big proponent of Interleague play, I’m a bit intrigued by this proposed arrangement. In a short season, I could see the Yanks, Rays, Braves, Nationals and Phillies with a chance at the division title. If there is a true incentive to with the division, this could be a fun season even if abbreviated.
Lincoln Mitchell – And if I build a cage for my unicorn should the freemus be facing east or west? In other words, this plan is extremely unlikely to be implemented, but I would most fear the Nationals. They won it all last year and excellent front-line starting pitching and even without Anthony Rendon, enough offense to be very good.
Paul Semendinger – I see the Phillies as super good. Didi might have that extra edge to show-up his old team. Bryce Harper will one day soon have a year for the ages. Joe Girardi will want to win…badly. The Nationals are the champions. They’ll be tough. But, and this is not rational, I most fear the Mets. I just don’t want the Yankees to finish behind the Mets. I think the Mets will give the Yankees a run for the money.
Matthew Cohen – I’m going with the Nationals. They had the highest run differential in the NL East last year. They have a ridiculous 1-2-3 with Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin. And they scored the second most runs in the NL.
Andy Singer – First of all, I think the realignment idea is a lot of fun in addition to being the most practical plan posited thus far to actually play MLB games this year. Under this alignment, I think that the “East” division is incredibly top-heavy. The Yankees may be the cream of the crop, but the Rays, Nationals, Phillies, Braves, and even the Mets have solid rosters.
The Rays have the most flexible lineup of that group, and assuming good health, can likely find a combination of pitching plans and platoons to be competitive against most lineups. The Nationals have possibly the best starting rotation in baseball, with some excellent talent around the diamond, but the bullpen is a perennial question mark, and there are weaknesses in the lineup. The Phillies are relatively well-rounded, with pop throughout the lineup, decent team defense, and a good pitching staff, but there isn’t a ton of depth. The Braves are similarly well-rounded, with young stars everywhere you look, and more depth on the pitching staff and around the diamond. Lastly, the Mets may have lost Noah Syndergaard, but it’s still a decent rotation, with an improved bullpen, and good lineup.
My answer will likely surprise many of you, but I have to go with my gut: the Braves are the most dangerous team in a realigned “East” division behind the Yankees. The Braves’ pitching staff is sneaky good, with versatile pitchers that can be deployed in a number of ways with a lineup that is scary when everyone is clicking on all cylinders. I really hope the realignment happens for this year – I think 10+ games against the Braves would be a lot of fun.