SARASOTA, Fla. — For most of the past two decades, the American League East has been considered the toughest division in baseball, primarily because it contained the sport's two financial behemoths, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
Each year since the wild-card spot was created in 1995, one of those two has made the playoffs. Eight times in those 17 years they've done it together.
Ever so slightly, though, things have been shifting in the AL East.
In 2008, the low-budget Tampa Bay Rays emerged from a franchise-spanning slumber to win the division while the Yankees failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the strike-shortened 1994 season.