By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Every major league team will play each other in the same season for the first time next year as the sport switches to its first balanced schedule since 2000.
As a result of the format switch agreed to in the March lockout settlement, high-profile games between division rivals such as Yankees-Red Sox, Dodgers-Giants and Cubs-Cardinals will be reduced from 19. Intradivision games will drop from 47% to 32%.
A team will host all of the other 29 clubs at least once every two seasons.
“I think it’s great for the fans,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m so tired of playing the same people.”
Major League Baseball said Wednesday it will open the 2023 season on March 30 and again will try to have every team start on the same day, which last occurred in 1968.
A team will play 13 games against each division rival for a total of 52 and six or seven against each other club in its league for a total of 64. The remaining 46 games are against interleague opponents: a home and road two-game series against a so-called natural rival and a single three-game series against each of the 14 other clubs in the opposite league.
“This new format creates more common opponents, both in the division and among your league opponents, so that typically when you’re competing for the wild card, there’s a much higher percentage of common opponents across divisions,” said Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer. “And we think that equity is good for the competition on the field.
“On the marketing side, we think that the new schedule gives our fans more opponents at home, so they get to see a broader array of clubs in their ballpark,” Marinak said. “And probably more importantly, it gives us a chance for our star players to get exposure more nationally and be seen in more places throughout the season.”
The American League used a balanced schedule from 1977-2000 and the National League from 1993-2000, with interleague play starting in 1997 and limited to 15-18 games per season for each team. Then-Commissioner Bud Selig had pushed for a return to an unbalanced schedule.
AL openers have Baltimore at Boston, the Chicago White Sox at Houston, Minnesota at Kansas City, the Los Angeles Angels at Oakland, Cleveland at Seattle and Detroit at Tampa Bay.
NL openers are Milwaukee at the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, Arizona at the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Mets at Miami, Colorado at San Diego and Atlanta at Washington.
Interleague openers have San Francisco at the New York Yankees, Toronto at St. Louis and Philadelphia at Texas.
Other home openers are the Giants at the White Sox and the Mets at Milwaukee on April 3; San Diego at Atlanta, the Dodgers at Arizona, the Yankees at Baltimore, Boston at Detroit, Houston at Minnesota, Miami at the Mets and Cincinnati at Philadelphia on April 6, and Seattle at Cleveland, Washington at Colorado, Toronto at the Angels, the White Sox at Pittsburgh and Kansas City at San Francisco on April 7.
Toronto opens with 10 road games before hosting Detroit on April 11, a request made by the Blue Jays because of construction at Rogers Centre.
The schedule usually is updated with game times during the winter.
Next year’s start is the earliest since 2019. The season will revert to 186 days from the 182 it was shortened to this year due to the lockout.
Natural interleague rivals include Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox, Dodgers-Angels, Giants-Athletics, Reds-Indians, Marlins-Rays, Orioles-Nationals, Royals-Cardinals and Brewers-Twins.
Among the teams with no geographic interleague rivals, MLB paired Red Sox-Braves, Pirates-Tigers, Phillies-Blue Jays, Rangers-Diamondbacks, Astros-Rockies and Padres-Mariners.
Travel is roughly the same as the prior format, which had teams play 76 games against division foes, 66 against other clubs in the league (seven vs. six teams and six against four teams) and 20 interleague.
“The bulk of what dictates your travel is the number of trips you take, and this doesn’t change the number of trips,” said Chuck Torres, MLB’s senior director of scheduling and broadcasting.
Other than within its own division, a team can host or visit a maximum of three teams from another division.
To combat exhaustion, each team was scheduled for seven off days among its last 67 days, three among its last 32 and one in its last 10.
MLB tried to have all 30 clubs play on the same opening day for four of the past five seasons.
Pittsburgh at Detroit and Washington at Cincinnati were rained out in 2018. For 2019, Seattle and Oakland started ahead of other teams with a two-game series in Tokyo.
In 2020, the season’s start was delayed to July 23 because of the pandemic, and the only game on opening night had the Yankees at Washington. In 2021, the Mets’ game at Washington and Baltimore’s game at Boston were postponed.
This year’s start was delayed from March 31 to April 7 because of the 99-day lockout that ended on March 10, and only seven games were scheduled for opening day.
Every team is scheduled to play on Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, which falls on a Saturday.
The All-Star Game will be at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park on July 11, eight days earlier than this year’s game at Dodger Stadium. Then called Safeco Field, the ballpark hosted the 2001 All-Star Game.
No games are scheduled on the two days after the All-Star Game, creating a four-day break and leaving the second half to start July 14. The regular season ends Oct. 1.
There are two scheduled day-night doubleheaders: the Padres at Philadelphia on July 16 and the Dodgers at Colorado on Sept. 26. This year’s original schedule had one doubleheader but 30 twinbills were added in the revisions caused the lockout.
The Cubs and Cardinals play a two-game series at London’s Olympic Stadium in June 24-25, and the Phillies and Nationals play in the Little League Classic at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 20.
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