MLB teams to play all 29 opponents under 2023 balanced sked

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NEW YORK — 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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.