On Tuesday, Major League Baseball released the schedule for the 2018 season, and there were plenty of small nuggets that will catch the eyes of baseball fans (aside from those looking to plan summer road trips). The three most significant changes next year are that the season begins in late March, Opening Day is on a Thursday, and that the season is four days longer, allowing three or four extra off days for each MLB team.
As mentioned, Opening Day will be on Thursday, March 29th, with all 30 MLB teams playing (yay!) instead of what we’ve seen in recent years with three nationally televised games taking place on Sunday and the rest of the league starting play on Monday. March 29th marks the earliest Opening Day in MLB history, while also making the first season since 2011 that begins on Thursday and the first season since 1968 where the entire league starts play on the same day.
There are a handful of divisional matchups on Opening Day, including a potentially feisty Giants-Dodgers game in Los Angeles. Also interesting is the fact that the teams with the six best records (as of September 12th) in the American League all open on the road, meaning that if one of these AL teams wins the World Series, they won’t begin the 2018 season in front of their hometown fans.
The season ends on September 30th (a Sunday), and, as agreed to in the latest collective bargaining agreement, will be 187 days long rather than the previous standard of 183.
There’s also a change heading into the 2018 All-Star Game. Previously, ESPN aired a Sunday Night Baseball game leading into the All-Star Break, which led to travel issues for players on the teams in that game. This year, there will be no Sunday evening game, which will hopefully allow MLB to air the Futures Game unopposed in the evening from Nationals Park. Knowing how MLB operates, however, it’ll probably still start in the afternoon and go up against all of the other live games.
There will be one nationally televised game on the Thursday after the All-Star Game, and it will pit the Cardinals against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The rest of baseball gets Thursday off, as they have in recent years.
Baseball is also going overseas in April, with the Twins “hosting” the Indians in San Juan, Puerto Rico for a pair of games on April 17th and 18th. Speaking of April 17th, the Oakland Athletics will be offering free admission to fans for their game against the Chicago White Sox on that Tuesday in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Oakland Coliseum’s first game.
The interleague/division splits remain the same as in 2017 (20 interleague games, 19 interdivisional games against each team, six or seven games against teams in other divisions), and the interleague divisional matchups this year are NL East-AL East, NL Central-AL Central, and NL West-AL West.
The major takeaway here is just how damn early Opening Day is, and the fact that the season is going to last an extra few days instead of getting cut down by a couple weeks (as many claim would be best for the game). But as long as the World Series ends before Halloween, we should be alright – baseball in November is just weird.