With Opening Day nearing, division races look tight

Tigers have owned AL Central of late; Jays, Royals, Mariners hoping to end long droughts

With Opening Day nearing, division races look tight

Even if a team like the 2014 Giants can ride a Wild Card bid all the way to a World Series victory, every Major League team's sights remain fixed -- even more acutely the past few years -- on winning a division title. As the 2015 regular season revs up and heads for the starting line, becoming the best in the division will be the focus until a magic number is reached.

The reigning champion of division champions as 2015 begins: The Detroit Tigers, who have four consecutive American League Central titles to their credit. Other than that, no team has gone more than back-to-back with those precious six division honors available each year.

Here's a breakdown of each division and its title history heading into 2015:

AL East
What once was the domain of the Yankees has been passed around a bit the last few years. The Yanks won nine consecutive titles and took the AL East 13 times in the first 20 years of the three-division format. But it's the Baltimore Orioles who are defending the crown in 2015, their first since 1997.

In the past five seasons dating back to the Rays' title in 2010 and including the Red Sox in '13 and Yankees in '11-12, four teams have won the division. If the Blue Jays manage to capture their first division flag since 1993, and they just might, we'd be looking at all five teams in six years. Parity in the AL East. Who knew?

High Heat: 2015 AL East

AL Central
The Tigers' four-year reign atop their division is long enough that it dates back to when the Minnesota Twins were last in a position to win 98 games and take a second straight title (2009-10). The White Sox ('08) and Indians ('07) have also won the AL Central, but the Royals' last division title was in 1985, when they won the seven-team AL West en route to their lone World Series victory.

AL West
After missing the playoffs for four consecutive years, the Angels regained the AL West throne they'd held from 2007-09, part of a span of five in six years. The A's won the previous two and the Rangers the two before that, but it's been since their 116-win season in 2001 that the Mariners have been at the top of the West. The Astros, meanwhile, last won a division title when they took the National League Central in 2001.

NL East
This division was the domain of the Atlanta Braves for so very long, the Braves running off the first 11 titles once the three-division system began, and that after three in a row in the NL West. After the Mets took one in 2006, the Phillies went on a five-year string of titles, including their 2009 World Series year. The Nationals won their second title in three years last year, and they're pegged by many as favorites to repeat in 2015. The Marlins have two World Series titles to their credit, but no division titles entering their 23rd year of existence.

NL Central
The Cardinals are working on back-to-back titles and have taken nine of the NL Central's top honors since its existence. The Cubs (2003, '07, '08), Reds (2010, '12 and 1995) and Brewers (2011) have won the NL Central. However, despite their consecutive trips back to the postseason, the Pirates have yet to win an NL Central title. They did win nine NL East titles when there were two divisions.

Previewing the 2015 NL Central

NL West
This historically has been the poster division for parity. The Dodgers spent plenty of time atop the NL West before it was this NL West, and they've taken two straight for six total since 1995. But right behind them with five apiece are the Giants (last 2012) and the D-backs (last 2011), with the Padres having won four (last 2006). That leaves the Colorado Rockies as the only team in the division without a title, despite three Wild Card entries and a trip to the 2007 World Series.

With the bell about to ring for 2015, all six divisions are up for grabs. That includes the one the Tigers have held so close the past few years, and it includes the rest that have been spread around, from team to team and year to year.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.