The AL East has been the power division in baseball for over a decade. They have had the epic battles between Red Sox and Yankees, with the Rays getting into the mix in recent years. In the last fourteen years, a team from the AL East has been in the ALCS ten times, represented the AL in the World Series nine times, and won the ring six times.
However, with these Winter Meetings, it is safe to say that the power division is moving from the AL East to the NL East.
Even with all the moves from the Marlins this week, the Phillies are the class of the division. They have pitching with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and newly acquire Jonathan Papelbon. As we know, pitching wins championships. The Phillies are now willing to spend and have shown that they are willing to make a big trade to add a key piece. With this mindset, they will be competitive for a very long time. But things weren’t always like this in Philadelphia.
Flashback to the offseason after the 2002 season… The Phillies were coming off an 80-81 (yes, 161 games) season and had only one winning season since they lost the 1993 World Series. The Phils knew that they had a new ballpark opening in 2004 and wanted to make a splash in free agency. On December 6, 2002 they signed Jim Thome to a 6-year $85 million contract. The slugger never helped the Phillies to the playoffs, but the Phils changed their entire culture on that day. They parlayed the momentum of this signing and carried the momentum of a new stadium into a completely different mindset. The Phillies have never looked back.
Does any of this sound familiar? How about the Miami Marlins who are taking the projected revenue of their new stadium and have signed Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and rumor is that they aren’t done! As of writing this article they are no longer bidders on Albert Pujols but are the front-runners for CJ Wilson. Whether they sign either of those guys or not, they have already changed their culture. They have created an excitement in Miami and a buzz in the baseball world. With Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, and Mike Stanton as the young talent already on the team they will be a formidable force for years to come.
The Washinton Nationals are trending upwards as well. Same story: new stadium, big spending. The Nats signed Jayson Werth for 7 years and $126 million last offseason. They have also been involved in talks with numerous free agents this season. Michael Morse, Stephen Strasburg, and Bryce Harper are all on the verge of super-stardom. Don’t expect the Nationals to be the whipping boys of the NL East for too much longer.
So that leaves the Braves and the Mets. Well, New York will always have the money to spend, so it won’t be long before they are competitive again. The Braves are a well-run organization that knows how to win.
This division should pan out to be the most competitive division in baseball for the foreseeable future.