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The AL East will be good, eventually

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The Yankees have a commanding lead in the East, but there’s reason for hope among the division rivals, at least in the future.

Arizona Fall League All Star Game Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Three-quarters of the season is in the books, and the season is beginning to wind down. The American League East has been dominated by the Yankees’ for most of the year. But while we’ve all seen a bit of the division’s other members throughout the year, it’s worth a look to see how New York’s divisional rivals have been shaping up on the whole.

Baltimore Orioles (39-84, 43 GB)

We all know the story of the 2019 Orioles. The Orioles are a team that can’t hit, can’t field, can’t play defense, and can’t win a game. Oh wait, that’s just their performance against the Yankees, against whom they went 2-17, including 16 losses in a row.

Against the rest of the league, the Orioles are merely a team that can’t hit, pitch, or play defense — they rank bottom five in the AL in OPS+ and are worst in the league in runs allowed per game and defensive runs saved. But hey, at least they won 37 games against not-the-Yankees, so that’s an improvement.

In all seriousness, the best thing that the O’s have going for them is that Trey Mancini’s breakout campaign means that he might be able to net them a few prospects in the upcoming offseason. Other than that...if somebody told me that not a single player on the 2019 Orioles is on the roster in the next year they are above .500, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s going to be a tough road back to relevance for Baltimore.

Toronto Blue Jays (52-74, 31.5 GB)

Don’t look now, but the Blue Jays have been 18-17 since the All-Star Break — and granted, while an 83-win pace isn’t exactly dominant, it’s a big jump from the 60-win pace they were on in the first half. Gone are Marcus Stroman, Eric Sogard, and Freddy Galvis; into the lineup comes 21-year-old Bo Bichette, the latest of Toronto’s young phenoms, who has lit the league on fire since his call-up on July 29th.

Toronto still has a ways to go in order to return to relevance, and will need to find a way to piece together a pitching staff. But with Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. already making a splash in the majors, the Blue Jays have a strong offensive core around which to build a lineup that will be feared for years.

Boston Red Sox (66-59, 17 GB)

Following a 16-11 month of May and a stretch where they went 20-12 at the end of June and beginning of July, it looked like Boston might actually make a strong push for the playoffs. After peaking at 59-47 on July 27, however, the Red Sox have gone just 7-12, including back-to-back sweeps against the Rays and Yankees, burying them in the division race and putting them 6.5 games out of the second wild card spot.

The Red Sox have not been bad, strictly speaking — they are, after all, on an 85-win pace, and their 5.7 runs per game is third best in the American League. But for a team that simply bulldozed over the American League last season en route to 108 wins and (bleh) a World Series championship, a 23-game drop-off (which wouldn’t even be their worst of the decade, as they dropped 26 games between 2013 and 2014) must be considered a hugely disappointing season.

While it’s still too early to talk offseason, the Red Sox front office will likely do some soul-searching this winter as they try to turn things around. Even if J.D. Martinez opts out and David Dombroski goes full David Gettleman and trades Mookie Betts, Boston has a young core offensively with Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, and Michael Chavis. But their pitching staff has struggled this year, and with Chris Sale hitting the IL with an elbow injury and seeking a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, they may need even more reinforcements than expected.

The Red Sox aren’t out of the playoff hunt just yet, but virtually no matter what happens, this will be a disappointing season in Boston.

Tampa Bay Rays (72-52, 10.5 GB)

Yes, they Yankees are 10.5 games in front of the Rays, with only two games between them left. Yes, the Rays would have to go 28-10 the rest of the way to win the division if the Yankees only play .500 ball the rest of the way. But that does not mean the Rays are not a dangerous team, in prime position for a postseason run, and with a 10-4 record so far in August, starting to get hot.

The Rays have one of the best pitching staffs in the league, even with last year’s Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell underperforming and injured, thanks in large part to the dominance of Charlie Morton and a deep bullpen that has allowed them to withstand injuries to multiple starters. On offense, their team OPS+ is exactly 100 — not on the level of the Yankees, Twins, or Astros, but more than sufficient to win ballgames with a stout run prevention unit. Trade deadline acquisition Eric Sogard has given the lineup a needed boost, as they await reinforcement from rehabbing second baseman Brandon Lowe.

Tampa Bay may be far out of the divisional race, but they remain a threat in the American League.