Tiger stadium, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, the new ballpark in Baltimore: The American League East has, on balance, the best stadiums in major league baseball. Alas, it also has, on balance, the worst baseball in major league stadiums. Three teams in the East lost more than 90 games last season, and three will do the same this year.
In fact the division is about as balanced as a congressman's checkbook, with the Blue Jays kiting high above the rest of the field. "This team is pretty well balanced," notes Toronto designated hitter Dave Win field. "We're deep, got experience, got youth, speed, power, defense...." Which is why the rest of the division is playing for second place.
1. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
On paper the Blue Jays have the best team in the division by a kilometer. Then again, on paper is where you train your dog to go. "You can have the best team on paper, then all of a sudden you get some injuries, your whole team falls apart, and you finish in sixth," fantasizes Boston third baseman Wade Boggs.
It is an indication of how strong the Blue Jays are that their rivals in the East are already clutching at hopeless, hypothetical straws. As Winfield says of the Red Sox and the rest: "They have to think three times about us."
The first thing they have to think about is the Blue Jays' starting rotation.
Jack Morris. For the 1991 World Series MVP, happiness is being unhappy. "Maybe he's not always the happiest person," says Detroit manager Sparky Anderson. "But I don't know that happiness makes you a better competitor." Which makes Morris the perfect man to wring clutch performances from an otherwise throat-clutching team.
Juan Guzman. Do you know me? My 10-game winning streak last season was the longest by an American League rookie since 1963. I made 20 straight starts without a loss. And I didn't make my major league debut until June 7, which is why I wasn't named Rookie of the Year and why, come to think of it, no, you haven't heard of me.
Then there are Dave Stieb, who returns from back surgery; Jimmy Key, who won the 1991 All-Star Game that Morris started; and Todd Stottlemyre, who won 15 games last season.... You have to think five times about Toronto's rotation.
And of course there's Eddie Zosky. The Jays' lineup—Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar, Devon White, Kelly Gruber—is so potent that expediency dictates we discuss its lone deficiency rather than detail its many strengths. So we pose the question: Who has had a hit more recently, 1) Toronto shortstop Manuel Lee or 2) the Captain & Tennille? The answer is 2. Last season Lee became the first player in major league history to strike out 100 times without hitting a home run. Which has something to do with why Toronto may pencil Zosky, a rookie, into his spot. Zosky will find himself last in the batting order, close to last in The Sporting News Baseball Register and first in the American League East.