Unlike in the NFL or the NBA, the MLB has no salary cap (instead relying on a “luxury tax” system.) This allows teams with more resources to dominate the free agent market and “farm” players from teams with less resources.
Whether this is unfair or not is a hotly debated topic. What is unfair, though, is the way that the MLB’s division system works. There’s really no argument to be made that playing in the lowly NL East gives a team an advantage of playing in the powerhouse AL East, at least in terms of playoff chances. There are some people who suggest removing divisions all together and instead just take the best teams from each league to that year’s playoffs. While I think there is some merit to that theory, that’s a different article completely..
So, which MLB division has actually been the best this season? A couple of contenders come to mind early. The AL East, for example, has typically been the best division in baseball, with the Yankees and Red Sox usually duking it out and easily exceeding 90 wins a piece. The AL East continues to be a force this year, as every team in the AL East is now over .500, thanks to the Blue Jays’ 11 game winning streak. There really are no weak spots in that division, as every team is capable of putting up a ton of runs on the board. The division is so powerful that the 5th place team, Toronto, has a better record than every team besides the D’Backs in the NL West.
Another division that has been surprisingly powerful this season would be the NL Central. The 3 best records in all of baseball belong to, in order, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. These teams also happen to all come from the same division. The fact that the Reds are in third place with a 45-32 record is absolutely insane. In fact, the Reds’ record is better than the first place team in every other division, except for their own, where they are third.
The 2 clear choices are the NL Central and the AL East, and the answer is a bit of a coin flip. The NL Central is definitely superior at the top, but is a bit topheavy with the Cubs (31-42) and Brewers (31-43) resting at the bottom. The AL East is just strong all around, with no gaps whatsoever. If I had to pick the absolute toughest, I’d have to go with the AL East, but it would be really close. The East is just full of teams that traditionally dominate in October, and are very likely to retain their success. Nevertheless, the NL Central is a close second.