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Tumultuous offseason over, MLB steps into 2012 campaign

Big names like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder switching teams. A PED suspension offered, and then overturned, on reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun. A (quietly attained) collective bargaining agreement and labor peace. The Marlins now have the Miami moniker and a real ballpark to play in.

One more playoff spot offered for each league, and a one-game playoff that pits the two wild cards, adding value to winning a division title. Magic Johnson fronts a group that wants to purchase the L.A. Dodgers.

Other than that, nothing much happened in the Major League Baseball offseason. And now that two games have been played in Tokyo, it’s high time to assess the scene again, division by division.

AL East – Strange times in the land of accumulated wealth. The Yankees mostly minimized headlines and focused on making sensible baseball trades based on need (what a concept!), while the Red Sox created far too many needless headlines and handed the keys to Bobby Valentine, which could prove to be genius or disaster, no in between.

Ironically, Tampa Bay might prove better than either of them, thanks to a strong rotation and rare lineup stability. Toronto stays close behind, always a player or pitcher away from a serious charge. Baltimore is much, much further away, the Orioles now turning to one-time Boston GM Dan Duquette as an architect of a possible turnaround.

AL Central – Even before getting Fielder, Detroit loomed above the division, but this only makes it more lopsided. Adding any extra pop was significant enough for the Tigers of Justin Verlander, but Fielder can give you 40 homers and 120 RBIs on a regular basis.

This happened as Cleveland had to settle for much smaller acquisitions and the White Sox started to dump some of its bloated payroll, the latter hoping that Adam Dunn resembles a competent hitter again.

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