The Toronto Blue Jays could be baseball's perfect team in 1986 -- great starting pitching, one of the game's best defenses and a batting order that averages less than 30 years per man.
The Blue Jays also have a chance to be a tremendous flop. Tony Fernandez is limping around on a bad ankle, the catching situation is not good and the bullpen is thin.
All this would be a cause for worry except that in the American League East in 1986, Toronto's situation is the rule, not the exception. Welcome to baseball's best/worst division.
"Several of us have some big questions," Blue Jays General Manager Pat Gillick said today. "I guess that's what makes it interesting."
For instance, the New York Yankees. No one's offense is better, but no one's starting pitching may be worse.
And the Detroit Tigers, who needed a leadoff hitter, another starting pitcher and a third baseman last season, got all three this winter and have now watched helplessly this spring as shortstop Alan Trammell nursed a sore shoulder.
As spring training rushed to an end, four or five teams appeared to be capable of winning, but at least three teams were still trying to make major moves. Much will depend on which teams win the Tom Seaver Sweepstakes and what the price is.
But in early April, here's what the East may look like in 1986:
*Toronto: Don't underestimate the Blue Jays. The starting outfielders are all 26, the starting rotation is the best in the league and the kid shortstop (Fernandez) is a future all-star (the Blue Jays hope his ankle will be healed enough to allow him to play by opening day).
The Blue Jays do have problems: Relievers Bill Caudill (shoulder) and Gary Lavelle (elbow) may be finished, and the catchers may be the fifth- or sixth-best in the division. The Blue Jays believe that Tom Henke, who was 13 for 15 in save opportunities the last six weeks of last season, is better than Caudill anyway, and that someone (Steve Davis?) can take up the slack left by Lavelle. But the starters will keep them in the race even if everything else fails.
*Baltimore: The Orioles and Yankees are similar in that both have terrific everyday lineups and several big questions about the starting pitching.
The difference is that the Orioles' questions all have good track records: Left-handers Scott McGregor and Mike Flanagan appear back on track, and second-year man Ken Dixon could be a future star. Another problem will be Mike Boddicker's ability to readjust to a league that has adjusted to his breaking pitches, and Storm Davis' inconsistency.
Otherwise, the offense should score 800 runs, and the bullpen may be the best the Orioles have had in years, if left-hander Tippy Martinez and right-hander Don Aase stay healthy.
*New York: You know you're in trouble when you replace one pitcher with a degenerative hip problem (Britt Burns) with another pitcher with a degenerative hip problem (John Montefusco).
The Yankees may have the best everyday lineup in the league, and probably the best bullpen, with Dave Righetti, Brian Fisher and Rod Scurry. The problem is the starting rotation: Ron Guidry is an easy bet, but after that there's Joe Niekro, 41, Tommy John, 42, Ed Whitson, who is one game under .500 for his career and rookie Bob Tewksbury. Will Righetti and Fisher be burnt out by September?
*Detroit: Everything should have been perfect. Dave Collins' speed and on-base percentage at the top of the lineup are perfect for the Kirk Gibson-Lance Parrish power. New pitcher Dave LaPoint could become the American League's answer to John Tudor. New third baseman Darnell Coles would finally get a chance to play every day.
Late in spring training, Coles is the only new addition having problems (10 errors), but it's all the things the Tigers didn't expect that are hurting.
Trammell is having to relearn the position, and even he fears he may never be the player he once was. If he can't play shortstop, Manager Sparky Anderson says he won't play.
*Boston: As their winter trades have fallen apart, the Red Sox are busily trying to patch up their pitching staff and are still trying to get Tom Seaver from the Chicago White Sox.
He'd be an important addition, since Calvin Schiraldi and Wes Gardner, picked up in the Bobby Ojeda deal with the Mets, haven't looked good, and Sammy Stewart, who came from the Orioles, has been terrible. Add Oil Can Boyd's odd spring and the Red Sox are desperate for pitching.
*Milwaukee: The Brewers have turned the corner. The farm system had a .586 winning percentage last season, and even if it doesn't show up in the standings this year, the organization has a reason to hope.
The best of the young arms is left-hander Ted Higuera, who went 15-8 last year in his rookie season, but, before the year is over, there should be three more: left-handers Juan Nieves and Dan Plesac and right-hander Bill Wegman.
Nieves brings a 33-9 minor-league record to the majors, and Plesac was 29-14. Plesac has also been clocked at well over 90 mph.
The hitters are not nearly as ready, although Billy Joe Robidoux will play every day, after hitting 23 homers and driving in 132 runs at El Paso last season. If Robin Yount and Paul Molitor stay healthy and Cecil Cooper squeezes another season from his 36-year-old body, the Brewers will have a few moments of excitement.
*Cleveland: Which is more than the Indians can say. The everyday lineup isn't bad, and the defense is decent. But what will kill the Indians is a starting rotation that's worse than awful.