Yankees Tickets for the Series of the Weekend!

The New York Yankees are heading into the weekend trying to widen the gap between themselves and the Boston Red Sox at the top of the AL East with a pivotal four-game series with the third place Tampa Bay Rays from July 7th to July 10th. This is the first meeting between the two division rivals.

50 Games and Five Pennant Races

Fifty games left in the MLB season and we are lucky enough to have five pennant races remaining. The only division that is all but statistically won is the AL West, where the Texas Rangers have pulled themselves out of the middle of the pack and nearly out of bankruptcy.

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are dueling in the AL East. This will be the division race receiving the most attention over these next couple of months and with good reason – these are the two best teams in baseball. They sit one and two in winning percentage (.624 and .609) and in scoring differential (+134 and +123). Yankees tickets and Rays tickets will both available for the postseason.

The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins are in a very good fight in the AL Central. The winner of this division will be playing the winner in the AL East, so, most likely, the winner of this division gets the honor of losing in the ALDS. Both teams have good bats and good pitching, but not great team hitting and pitching. I expect the annual second half run by the Twins to knock the White Sox out of first, probably within the last week of the season.

The Atlanta Braves hold a couple game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. The Phillies have been maligned with some sort plague weakening their stars’ defenses and landing them on the DL. The Braves were a number of experts’ pick at the beginning of the season and they will likely be correct. This Braves team has a good balance, with a decently potent offense and stingy enough pitching to make good postseason run. However, the Braves are really only displaying that excellent balance at home. They are a sub-.500 team on the road, which means the Phillies have a chance to catch them (especially with the recent addition of Roy Oswalt and despite the question at closer).

The Cincinnati Reds are overcoming their own youthfulness and holding off the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. The Cardinals are the best home team in the entire MLB, but a sub-par team on the road. This does not bode well for La Russa’s ball club. The Reds have a decent three-man playoff rotation in place, but have a questionable closer in Francisco Cordero (4.11 ERA, six blown saves in 36 opportunities). Joey Votto and Scott Rolen are carrying the offense despite its impressive offensive rank (sixth in runs in the MLB), so a slump by one of those two could allow a veteran Cardinals team to steal first.

The San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants are locked in war in the NL West. They are pretty much the same team after looking at the most basic stats, with the Padres having a slightly better pitching staff and the Giants having a slightly better offense. A closer look reveals the Padres have a good starting rotation, but the Giants have a better rotation. The Padres Matt Latos is the only starter with an ERA below 3.50, while the Giants have four (Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez). Conversely, the Giants have a very good bullpen, but the Padres have a great bullpen. San Francisco three setup men and a closer with an ERA below 3.00, but San Diego has four setup men and a closer with an ERA below 3.00. This is a toss up and will be one of the most fun races to watch.

Burrell Shakes Up the AL and NL East

The American League East just got a little more interesting. The Tampa Bay Rays are well on their way to completing a deal that will bring Pat Burrell to Florida for just $16 million over two seasons.

All those worried that the New York Yankees were about to buy their way back into the postseason after acquiring Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett seem a little alarmist now.

The Yankees upgraded their top two pitching spots and added another bat to a lineup that looked uncharacteristically weak for the inaugural season at New Yankee Stadium. Remember, this was a struggling team last season, so the offseason simply got them back to contention. The Rays have a strong one through three in the starting rotation too and the offense has been upgraded with the additions of Burrell and Matt Joyce.

Burrell’s departure from Philadelphia also has to make a different breed of New York fans happy. The New York Mets have been chasing the Philadelphia Phillies for the past two seasons. New Phillies third baseman Pedro Feliz is not going to replace Burrell’s 33 home runs and neither is new outfielder Raul Ibanez. In fact combined they might hit 25 home runs. This may be the best offseason moment for the Mets, who have bee rather quiet this year after signing Johan Santana last offseason.

In the AL East it is important not to forget about the Boston Red Sox. Their best offseason move came in the regular season last year when they participated in the annual Pittsburgh Pirates garage sale and picked up a gem in Jason Bay.

If anything is for sure after this offseason, it is that the most competitive MLB tickets are definitely being sold on the East Coast and not in the middle of the country or on the West Coast.

The AL East Is the Place To Be This Summer

So I am writing the 2009 MLB Season Previews. I know it might be a little early, but apart from the always entertaining Manny Ramirez sweepstakes that apparently nobody is buying into, many of the major pieces are already in place. Yes a few worthy pitchers are left and a few good bats are there, so maybe we can call this an early, early season preview.

Anyway, I have made my way through the American League East and Central. I am thoroughly unimpressed with the Central. It looks like the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins will fight for the top spot again. Cleveland could contend, but after last season’s debacle I do not want to go out on a limb. Kansas City actually has a shot at getting to .500, but history is not on their side. Kind of like pitching is not on the Tigers side.

The American League East looks like the Central last year. I hope this is not as huge as a bust. I mean the New York Yankees are looking to kick off the inaugural season at New Yankee Stadium with a team loaded with the new stars. Mark Teixeira , C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett are the new faces that could end the glee in Boston.

Meanwhile over in Bostonia the Red Sox tickets should not come with any doubt. This is a team that got rid of the aforementioned Manny Ramirez. Sure, Ramirez single-handedly took the Dodgers from NL West wannabes to West champions. He can jumpstart an offense, but he can also drag down a locker room, which is exactly what he was doing in Boston. They survived the talent fallout and entered the playoffs as the wild card. Not bad.

The team is largely intact. The pitching is still there. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and now Brad Penny give the team enough talent on the mound to handle just about any lineup. The Red Sox still have David Ortiz. The also have a seeming replacement for Ramirez in Kevin Youkilis and an MVP in Dustin Pedroia. The playoff team is still there and this time they could take the top spot from last years champions.

I do not know if the Tampa Bay Rays are going to stick around at the top of the pack. Will they pull a White Sox move and disappear the next year. The hitters could stand to make a little more contact, but the speed on the base paths (B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford) and the rally players (Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena). I think that the real decider of the Rays fate is in the hands of Akinori Iwamura. Iwamura led the team in hitting with a .274 average. He also seemed to come up with the right hits at the right time. If his average dips below .250 then I think Tampa can count out another potential postseason surprise.

The pitching is there too. James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and Andy Sonnanstine are quality starters that need to have a tremendous year. Also, the team has a new closer in Dan Wheeler. Wheeler was a very good setup man, but Troy Percival is gone now and the close games lay in his right hand.

Those are the top three that everyone knows about. The bottom two, the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays, are far from bottom feeders. Orioles tickets may have been a huge bust last season at Oriole Park at Camden Yard. The team has the mid-level veteran talent to win 80 games if they can come up with some chemistry. Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff bring power and contact to the plate.

Pitching could be a problem. Jeremy Guthrie is the only solid starters. The rest are young and could have an incredible break through seasons. George Sherrill is a rare lefty closer who has a good save percentage, but an awful ERA. If the staff can hold teams to a few runs less per game, they could be more than a few guaranteed wins for the rest of the tough competition.

The Toronto Blue Jays are my favorite dark horse so far. The staff lost A.J. Burnett to the Yanks, but the Blue Jays season is far from over. Roy Halladay is still a Hall of Fame class pitcher. Jesse Litsch is a good replacement for Burnett as the number two in the rotation. Having two bullpen guys step up as starters could deplete the bullpen and ruin games late. Dustin McGowan is a real starting pitcher, but the Blue Jays could use a pitcher from the free agent list to solidify the rotation.

The bats were quiet last year, but Vernon Wells was injured and never really got the team back on track. Lyle Overbay and Alex Rios are far from heavy hitters, but they can be dangerous as Wells supporting cast.

I think if there is any division to buy MLB tickets for, it is the American League East.