In a bit of “exciting” news, the 2018 MLB schedule was released yesterday afternoon. The Red Sox are in the middle of a pennant race, David Price is on the verge of returning, and Xander Bogaerts should maybe not be starting anymore (I’m so sorry), but hey, let’s talk about the schedule! If you haven’t seen it yet, you can find the entire summer’s worth of games right here. What are some of the first things that pop out? Let’s dive in:
1. Opening Day is going to be very underwhelming.
Take this with a grain of salt, because even the worst Opening Day is still great. The Red Sox do, however, basically have the worst Opening Day. The pros? The season starts in March (March 29th, to be specific) which is nice from a patience perspective. Spring training is entirely too long, and late March always seems to drag on. Playing baseball that counts in the month of March is always a good thing, even if the team scores two runs a game while wearing sweatshirts under their jerseys for the first three weeks.
The schedulers were cruel, however, and decided that the Red Sox would be opening the 2018 season IN Tampa Bay. Not only that, but the Red Sox will begin the season with a four-game series in Tampa, before heading on to Miami for two games. That is a LOT of empty, indoor games to start the season.
2. June looks like the toughest month.
There’s obviously a lot of time between now and next year for teams to improve/get worse. This time last year, the Astros were 10 games worse than they are this year and 10.5 games back in the AL West. Things change from year to year. With that said, June’s looking like a doozy.
For starters, the big road trip of the month goes starts with three games in Baltimore, goes through Seattle for a weekend series, and ends in Minnesota. That’s a lot of frequent flier miles. The road trip is one of four three-city road trips the team takes this season, and is unquestionably the most grueling. After what will surely be a day game in Baltimore on a Wednesday, the team will turn around and play in Seattle the next day. Speaking as someone who has flown from BWI to Seattle, I can attest to just how unpleasant it is. I can’t imagine anyone will be thrilled about playing a baseball game later that day.
That is, in theory, a lot of winnable games. A September series in Atlanta and a series at home against the Mets could provide valuable opportunities to play catch up or build a comfortable lead.
3. They’re matched up the NL East next year, which is good news.
The NL East is not good this year. You have the Nationals, and that’s about it. In fact, the Nationals are the only team in the NL East that are above .500. This contradicts the point I made about teams being drastically different on a year-by-year basis, but do you really think any NL East time is going to be good next year? There’s not an overwhelming amount of optimism for the Marlins, Braves, Mets, and Phillies being much better next season. The Braves are in rebuild, the Phillies are in full-tank, the Marlins are about to slash a BUNCH of payroll for the 500th time in their 20-year history, and the Mets are the Mets. That is, in theory, a lot of winnable games. A September series in Atlanta and a series at home against the Mets could provide valuable opportunities to play catch up or build a comfortable lead.
Also, they’re playing in D.C. on 4th of July. That’s fun because 1. the Nationals are good 2. the 4th of July game in DC is always special and 3. I live in DC. This paragraph is really just me gloating about going to the 4th of July game next year.
4. The schedule is backloaded with home games…again.
Like the Boston.com article notes, the Sox will play 15 of their last 21 games at home. After the All-Star break, the team plays six series on the road and seven at home, including four of their last six series being at Fenway. Their last road trip of the year is three games in Cleveland followed by three games in New York, which could be trouble, but finishing at home is always the better option. The Red Sox currently have the 2nd-best home record (44-27) in baseball, as only the Dodgers have been better in their home park. In fact, over the last decade, the team has only had a sub-.500 record at home twice. If the season’s going to come down to the final week, I’ll take my chances with them at Fenway.
5. Giancarlo Stanton won’t have to wait long to make his first return to Miami as a member of the Red Sox.
He’ll only have to wait four days, as the Red Sox play Miami in the 2nd series of the year.
For what it’s worth, J.D. Martinez will have to wait until late July to make his return to Detroit.
Photo by Winslow Townson – USA TODAY Sports