We’re about 10 games into the 2014 MLB season, and the smell of freshly cut stadium grass and hopefulness is still abounding in every corner of your favorite team’s clubhouse. Sure, some teams are more hopeful to make progress toward the ultimate goal and avoid another 100-loss season, but everyone who’s lacing a set of cleats day in and day out is looking toward October and wondering, “What if?”

Old veterans are happy to have Spring Training behind them and cross their fingers for one more chance at their league’s pennant, whether they’re on a division champ or one of the wild cards destined for an exciting one-and-done shot at the playoffs. Rookies are desperate for more than just a cup of coffee with their squad, eager to prove that they belong in The Bigs and learning the tricks of the trade that lead to a long, professional career at the highest level. Every playoff-caliber team has a mix of these players and hopes in its clubhouse, and those lineups and bullpens are fueled by their fans’ fervor from the spectacle of Opening Day through the dog days of summer and into the cool, October nights.

In the American League, everyone’s looking at the remarkable one-year turnaround of the Boston Red Sox from dysfunctional basement dwellers in 2012 to World Series champs last season. Sure, the Sox have a ton of cash and previous Fall Classic experience on their roster, but a youth movement in Beantown also helped the squad push past the equally-balanced St. Louis Cardinals last October. Now, those late-season call-ups are with the Red Sox from day one. They’ll need all the help that they can get, as challenges are sure to come from the retooled Detroit Tigers, a triple-threat of teams in the competitive West, and their own division features perhaps the most talented team in the entire league. First-week hiccups don’t ruin a season, but they give us the chance to check in on how the offseason potential within all three divisions is starting to manifest itself.

American League East Preview

We’ve discussed the hopes of the Boston Red Sox to repeat as AL East champs, if not more, and ultimately they’re our pick to win the division. While the Tampa Bay Rays may have the deepest and richest talent pool in the league – hello, full season of phenom Wil Myers and continued Cy Young-caliber pitching from the not (yet) traded David Price – the early-season injury to Matt Moore will be a challenge for their pitching staff. The Orioles could threaten for a wild card spot if they regain their close-game success rate of 2012, but doing so without closer Jim Johnson (traded to Oakland) seems difficult. The Yankees are old and thin, but still rich and loaded with free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann who have had All-Star seasons in the past. They’re capable of acquiring more if needed and dictated by a bit of early-season luck. And Toronto, the victim of so many injuries last season, has been looming to compete for years. They’re in first place for the moment – could this be the year?

Boston Red Sox Tickets

Boston Red Sox Are Back to Defend Title

AL East Standings – 2013

Team Record Postseason Result
Boston Red Sox 97-65 Won World Series v. St. Louis
Tampa Bay Rays 92-71 Lost to Boston, ALDS
Baltimore Orioles 85-77
New York Yankees 85-77
Toronto Blue Jays 74-88

American League Central Preview

Their manager retired, they traded away two of their notable performers, and their defensive ace of a shortstop is out for the year with an injury. But riddle me this: who do you think can outlast Miguel Cabrera and the strikeout machine that is the pitching staff of the Detroit Tigers? Cabrera’s an all-world talent at the plate, and the departure of fellow slugger Prince Fielder, traded to Texas for new second baseman Ian Kinsler, helps limit Miggy’s defensive limitations by moving him off the hot corner and to first base. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have won two of the last three Cy Young awards, so good luck to the upstart rosters of the Indians and Royals when it comes to seizing the AL Central throne. The Chicago White Sox have their own ace in Chris Sale and an exciting rookie first baseman in Jose Abreu, but there’s simply too much ground for these Sox or the Twins to make up in hopes of challenging for a playoff spot. Their time, sad to say, is not now.

Detroit Tigers Tickets

Tigers Send Prince to Texas for Kinsler

AL Central Standings – 2013

Team Record Postseason Result
Detroit Tigers 93-69 Lost to Boston, ALCS
Cleveland Indians 92-70 Lost to Tampa, Wild Card
Kansas City Royals 86-76
Minnesota Twins 66-96
Chicago White Sox 63-99

American League West Preview

The big money’s been spent in Anaheim and Texas for the last few years, but it’s been the Oakland A’s, in all their Moneyball glory, who have captured two consecutive AL West titles. Texas made two straight World Series appearances without winning it all and also lost slugger Josh Hamilton to the Angels in free agency. Those Los Angeles Angels, despite the other-worldliness of young Mike Trout, have not been able to leverage the signings of Hamilton, Albert Pujols, or CJ Wilson into a postseason berth quite yet. So it is the A’s, with breakout stars like Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, and Sonny Gray, and a full compliment of capable platoons and then some, who have risen as the class of the division. It’s hard seeing anything other than a three-peat for the A’s, especially when the depth of both the Angels (Hamilton’s out for two months with a bad thumb) and Rangers (Yu Darvish remains as the ace, but the rest of their pitching staff is perpetually hurt) is constantly under siege. The Mariners now have Robinson Cano, King Felix, and an Opening Series beatdown of the Angels to their credit, but it doesn’t seem to be sustainable all season. And the Astros, oh those Astros. George Springer and plenty more are building their legends on the farm, but fans in Houston have another year or two before they see a respectable product on the diamond.

Oakland A’s Tickets

Mike Trout Does All The Things

AL West Standings – 2013

Team Record Postseason Result
Oakland A’s 96-66 Lost to Detroit, ALDS
Texas Rangers 91-72
LA Angels 78-84
Seattle Mariners 71-91
Houston Astros 51-111