Ranking toughest AL schedules

Updated: February 25, 2011, 11:22 AM ET
By Buster Olney

Last year, the early-season schedule that the Orioles played might as well have been renamed the "This Is What It Takes To Get A Manager Fired" slate. The O's faced a murderers' row of games against the best teams in the American League, including 12 consecutive games against the Yankees and the Red Sox.

The Cubs, on the other hand, had a really easy schedule early last season -- and didn't take advantage of it.

The first weeks of the schedule could launch a team, or take it down. They could be the difference between a team deciding it's good enough to look for additional help, or digging a hole so deep that it leads to changes -- which is what happened to the Arizona Diamondbacks last year.

Here's a look at how the early-season schedules shape up, from the toughest schedule to the easiest, starting with the AL today. And there is good news for the Royals ... but again, not so much for the Orioles.

1. Toronto Blue Jays
Games against teams which had records of .500 or better in 2010: 38 of their first 44
Home/away: After opening the season with six home games, the Blue Jays will live on the road -- 20 out of their next 25 will be out of Toronto.
Notable: Basically, the Blue Jays are staring at a month of consecutive games against contenders. From April 15 to May 17, every game Toronto plays will be against teams that were .500 or better last year, including 17 against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.