ST. PETERSBURG -- It took a lot longer than originally anticipated, but the Blue Jays can finally count themselves as one of the contending teams in the American League East.
Toronto recently became the first team since the Indians in 1979 to use at least a 10-game winning streak to surpass the .500 mark. The only problem is that every other team in the AL East also has a winning record.
That's not entirely surprising considering how competitive the division was projected to be this season, but it will make securing a spot in a postseason a daunting task for any of those organizations.
"Going into the season, I think everybody looked at it that way," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Until two weeks ago, it wasn't. I think every team is good in the division."
The biggest obstacle any team in the AL East must overcome to qualify for the postseason is that Major League Baseball uses an unbalanced schedule. Each of those teams must face each other 18 times a year, compared to just six or seven games against their counterparts in the AL Central and AL West.
That has the potential to create a lot of parity within the AL East but comes with the danger of those teams beating up on each other and costing a shot at one of the two Wild Cards.
"It definitely hurts you in an unbalanced schedule, when you play [AL East teams] 18 times, but that's the way it is," Gibbons said. "Personally, I think it should be a balanced schedule -- that's the fairest way to do it."