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Things are gonna get scary in 2012 (or so...)

Forget the end of the world stuff.

But I have a feeling that 2012 might be the beginning of the end for baseball's current landscape. We heard stories this week about MLB "considering", however unlikely it is, some radical re-alignment plan that would allow teams to jump divisions depending on whether or not they hoped to compete that year. It'd didn't seem very logical, to be honest, and I'm going to hope that idea just sort of goes away. Of course, there is a more reasonable solution to the incredible difficulties team like the Orioles, Rays and Jays have - just balancing the schedules, letting all the teams in each league play each other equally, and just taking the best four records. But that, of course, would reduce the number of Yankees vs. Red Sox games that ESPN and Fox love, and hurt the chances the teams meet in the playoffs.

However, I don't think we're too far away from seeing MLB's hand forced a bit. 

The Red Sox and Yankees are always going to be the class of the AL East. They just have greater resources than anybody, and that lets them sport much higher payrolls, sign the draft picks over-slot, and devote great resources to player development.

Certainly though, after 10-years of being completely terrible, the Rays have gotten themselves into the picture, and with one the game's best farm systems, might just keep getting better and better. While Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford may be out the door after this season, the Rays have the pipeline stacked to replace them. They added first basemen Leslie Anderson out of Cuba earlier this week, and he'll have a chance to join highly-touted up and comers like mega-prospect Desmond Jennings, shortstops/infielders Reid Brignac and Tim Beckham, who should soon form a frightening offensive team with Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, Ben Zobrist and Jason Bartlett. Add to this three starting pitchers in the system that are described as potential number-one starters, to go along with a bunch of major-league pitchers with ace potential, and the Rays should be able to keep up in the AL East even keeping their payroll as low as they need.

The only thing is, they won't be challenging the Red Sox and Yankees alone. The Orioles look primed to get into the hunt, with 2011 looking like a legitimate time to aim their hopes high. They have another violent looking offense preparing to take on the big guns, headed by last years' mega-prospect Matt Wieters, along with solid prospects in 1B Brandon Snyder and 3B Josh Bell, to go with a strong current core of Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones. They'll have a rotation headed by Brian Matusz, who one scout recently claimed he'd trade any player on his team for, as well as Chris Tillman and more prospects and youngsters. Plus, the Orioles have showed a willingness to spend, being tied to Matt Holliday and Mark Texeira in recent off-seasons. This is clearly  another team that has potential to be a beast of the East, and not very far away.

Except... that's not all. The Blue Jays have done a miraculous job of re-stocking their farm system that was essentially empty at the start of the off-season under new general manager Alex Anthopoulos. It took trading Roy Halladay, but AA brought in three prospects with a chance to be superstars in 1B Brett Wallace, SP Kyle Drabek and C Travis D'Arnaud. He added another ace-potential young pitcher in Brandon Morrow from the Mariners, and today, spent $10M to sign highly-touted Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechevaria, who the Jays hope will in a couple of years fill the hole they've searched for a star in for so long. The Jays farm system may look dire otherwise, but that's in part because the Jays have recently promoted super-prospect Travis Snider to the majors, as well as a bunch of top pitching prospects like Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero. The Jays hope they'll form an impressive core team around Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, and of course, Vernon Wells, who they'll be stuck with. It may take a little longer than 2011, but the Jays also appear certainly willing to spend the money to get into the fight with the rest of the division.

With this abundance of talent and money willing to be thrown around, it seems like in just two years (or so...) we may be looking at an AL East sporting 5 of the best 7 or 8 teams in all of baseball. While it would make for some incredibly exciting division races, it would also allow all of these teams to beat up on each other. With only so many wins to go around, we may at this point be looking at an AL East where suddenly just 88 wins is enough to narrowly win out. Exciting, for sure, but now the likelihood of seeing an AL East team take the wild-card, where as a team in the AL West or Central may have an easier time getting to 87 or more wins, becomes unlikely. 

If the MLB saw a situation where the chances of a Red Sox-Yankees battle in the post-season became incredibly unlikely, would this finally push their hands to adjust the schedule to be more balanced? Creating a system where all teams in each league played each other the same - or very close to the same - amount of times and the best four teams in the league made the playoffs would be sure to increase the chances those prosperous Boston-New York clashes headline October for years to come.

The general belief has always been that it would take the Yankees and Red Sox embarrassing the rest of the AL East for changes to be made in baseball's format. Perhaps though, it would take the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays all fighting them tooth and nail to finally get that accomplished.