As the Red Sox try not to forget there are other teams to play besides the Yankees, a look at the standings might refresh that point as they play Toronto after the sweep in New York.
Heading into Friday’s games, the AL East was as close from top to bottom as it has ever been since division play was introduced in 1994.
The Sox lead over the last-place Orioles is only six games. The rest are bunched together, as they have been since the start of the season.
On this date in 1994, the Yankees were in first, separated from the last-place Jays by 6 1/2 games. That is the second-closest race to this date.
The Sox have led the division before at this time of year in tight-race years. In 2008, Boston was up by seven over last-place Toronto.
In 1995, the Red Sox had a 10 1/2-game lead over the Yankees, who were last.
The history of division play shows that teams in first place on June 1 make the playoffs 50 percent of the time, and that could be as a wild-card team. Tight races in all the divisions this year could alter that number.
Already forgotten is Boston’s awful start, the moans that the “greatest team ever” was doomed and that the division standings were exactly upside down in April compared to today.
The Yankees are two back and trying to not be old. Manager Joe Girardi will have to manage the heck out of the rest of the year for the Yankees to make the postseason.
Tampa Bay is three out and riding its starting pitching. The walks Rays’ batters get are down a third from last year, affecting the on-base percentage that they live by to score runs.
Toronto is 4 1/2 out, but the Jays have Adam Lind back. Not only can he hit, but he provides the hitter behind slugger Jose Bautista that might give Bautista better pitches and more of them to hit.
The Orioles (for whom I broadcast) are riding the roller coaster of young starting pitching, but if these youngsters can grow with the season, they will not be an easy foe.
First and foremost, teams must stay healthy to win. There are two All-Star teams’ worth of players on the DL on a daily basis this year.
There is a growing tendency by players, agents and teams to go the safe route when any injury surfaces. That means not only heading to the DL, but staying there longer.
The concussion problem that is prominent in all sports is a prime example of this trend.
Make no mistake, agents tell their clients, especially the young and talented, not to take risks with injuries. Lots of dollars are on the line for future contracts.
Major league baseball is big business and is run that way not only by the teams, but by the players as well.
All of this means that at least for the moment, there are no guarantees for any team regarding the postseason. That should be good for fans with the resulting increase in games that have meaning being played deep into the season.