A look ahead
by Ed Botti
November 13, 2022
Now that 2022 baseball season is firmly in our rear view mirror and Yankee fans had to suffer through, yet again, the traditional, annual, obligatory, solemn post season press conferences from Cashman and Boone, what does 2023 look like?
We have plenty of time to debate what went wrong in 2022 and how to fix it. So, instead of pontificating on who should be on the roster and who should be removed from the roster, I thought we would put that aside for today and take a macro look into 2023 baseball.
We all know there will be some rule changes from Commissioner Manfred. How could there not be? He loves to change the game. I wonder if he even likes the game.
In his view, the game is somewhat broken and in need of some changes, most notably outlawing the ridiculous shift, adding bigger bases, and the new pitch clock.
I applaud the shift rule. The shift was a terrible strategy and approach, made worse by the MLB analytic nerds, who for some reason have the ears of many GM’s throughout the league.
That is a big rule change for sure. Now, a line drive to short right field will actually be, drum roll please….. a base hit!
But the biggest change coming in 2023 is not actually on the field of play, it is actually to the schedule.
Let’s take a deeper dive into what Manfred has cooked up in his laboratory.
The schedule is still 162 games (at least for now) however March 30 through October 1 will look different this coming season.
A new “balanced” schedule will be implemented.
Each MLB team will square off against each of the 29 other teams during the regular season.
You heard that right. Go get your tickets for the Yankees crucial series against the Rockies this coming August!
No longer will we have almost 3 full weeks, spread out over 6 months, of Yankees vs. Red Sox. Yankees vs. Rays, Yankees vs. Blue Jays, etc.…
The MLB schedule has been led by divisional matchups since it went through another change over two decades ago.
Beginning in 2001, each team began playing up to 20 games a season against each divisional opponent, making up nearly half of each team’s regular season schedule.
Manfred’s latest change comes a year after he implemented a new playoff format. The postseason has expanded from 10 teams in 2021 to 12 teams under the new collective bargaining agreement.
By “balancing” the schedule for all 30 teams, strength of schedule within one team’s division becomes less of a factor in determining which teams will play October playoff baseball.
I was never in favor of expanded playoffs. I think it minimizes the importance of the regular season, and it also puts teams in the post season that in my opinion have no right to be there.
But, modern sport's revenue streams are significantly enhanced by the post season, so they added on to it.
Like it or not, it is what it is.
So it does make sense to restructure the schedule since they have expanded the playoffs, more on that below.
MLB, to deflect from the real reason they changed the schedule tries to convince us that there is a certain charm in seeing its stars across baseball match up against every team at least once.
Personally, I’d rather watch Yankees vs. Red Sox or Cardinals vs. Cubs, then seeing Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto play Detroit on a Tuesday night in June !
Does anyone actually care?
But, I will be open minded and give it a chance. At the end of the day, a good baseball game is still a good baseball game.
Why are they doing this?
As we say in my business; Follow the Money.
In order for their watered down playoff structure to work, it has become vital for teams across each league to play more comparable schedules. All wins and losses are regarded the same, so a more balanced schedule feasibly limits the advantage a team from a weak division has over a team from a stronger division in the expanded Wild Card structure.
The thinking is, if every team plays every other team it levels the field to a degree.
So, is the 2023 schedule actually “balanced”?
No. I would use the word "neutral" instead of balanced.
Teams will still play more games and series against teams within their division than against teams from other divisions. Nevertheless, the schedule is not nearly as slanted in favor of divisional play as it was in previous seasons, therefore neutralizing the benefit a team in a weak division can get over a team in a stronger division.
The number of divisional games for each team will decrease by 24 games (31.5%), from 76 to 52.
Each team will face their divisional opponents 13 times across four series for a total of 52 inter- divisional games. The 52 games will also be divided up evenly between home and road games. Since they play only 13 times there will be some minor imbalance within each individual matchup (i.e. seven home games and six road games, or vice-versa).
There will be negligible modifications to the number of games against non-division teams from the same league.
The 2023 schedule will be comprised of 64 non-divisional games for each team, down from 66.
Each team will play six games against 6 of their league opponents and seven games against 4 of their league opponents.
Where that formula come from and the logic behind it, I do not know.
For those of you that are not in love with inter-league games (such as yours truly), sorry to tell you but inter-league games are the principal change to the schedule.
They will increase from 20 games to 46 games, a 130% increase.
Digging a little deeper we ascertained that 4 of those games will come against each team’s “natural rival,” which is defined in geographical terms. A “natural rival” is another team from the other league in a neighboring geographic vicinity.
Natural rivalry games will be 4 games played via home and home series (similar to the NHL and NBA) and the other 42 games will be played against other inter-league opponents. The 42 games will be split evenly comprising 7 three game series at home and 7 three game series on the road.
At least they got rid of almost all of those 2 game series!
Here are MLB’s manufactured “Natural Rivals”.
Angels-Dodgers - Seems reasonable.
Astros-Rockies - Makes no sense.
Athletics-Giants - Seems reasonable.
Blue Jays-Phillies - Makes no sense.
Guardians-Reds - Seems reasonable.
Mariners-Padres - Makes no sense.
Orioles-Nationals - Seems reasonable.
Rangers-Diamondbacks - Makes no sense.
Rays-Marlins - Seems reasonable.
Red Sox-Braves - I guess if you are an old Boston Braves fan.
Royals-Cardinals - Seems reasonable.
Tigers-Pirates - Makes no sense.
Twins-Brewers - Seems reasonable.
White Sox-Cubs - Seems reasonable.
Yankees-Mets - Seems reasonable.
Some quick observations.
It seems to me that players will be accruing more frequent flyer miles under the “more” balanced schedule.
Rescheduling rainouts against non-division teams might be a problem.
It is possible that the new schedule may influence how team’s General Managers shape their rosters and even pursue trade deadline deals.
Since there will be 24 fewer divisional games played, GM’s will now have to mull over whether or not to trade for a player that might have helped them based on how their team matched up with a particular division rival or how they play in particular ballparks within the division.
For example, in the past if the Red Sox or Orioles were in a pennant race with the Yankees, they might have added a lefty power hitter or lefty pitcher to take advantage of the games played at Yankees Stadium. Now with less head to head games, they may not be inclined to do so.
It is more neutral now.
What else do we have in store for 2023?
Opening Day is set for March 30 and will be the first Opening Day since 1968 in which every MLB team opens on the same day.
The Yankees open the 2023 season at home against the San Francisco Giants, very odd. But, it could be very interesting if Aaron Judge decides to go "home" and sign with the Giants, as is speculated by many.
By the way, just to clarify something regarding Aaron Judge going "home". He was raised in Linden, California which is about 100 miles from the Bay Area. He also moved to Tampa, Florida years ago. So, "home" may very well be on the East Coast.
Regardless of the apparent popularity of MLB's "Field of Dreams" game, there will be no game there in 2023.
The San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres are scheduled to play a two-game series in Mexico City on April 29–30.
The Cardinals and Cubs have a 2 game series across the pond in London (June 24-25).
All 30 teams will play on the Fourth of July.
The Phillies and Nationals will play in the 2023 Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa., on August 20.
The 2023 All Star Game will be played on July 11 in Seattle.
This should be an interesting offseason. Many free agents, many opt-outs, many decisions to be made.
For a variety of reasons, the entire league is holding their collective breaths to see what happens with the Yankees and Aaron Judge.
I am sure all of you reading this are just as anxious to find out what the best player on the Yankees decides to do.
Before forming on opinion on Judge, one way or the other, remember this; he is entitled to test free agency, he earned that right, and he gave the Yankees plenty of time to sign him to an extension. They waited, as is their right, made an offer (I felt it was fair) and he turned it down.
That’s the way the business works.
Now, they have to compete in the open market to retain him.
Time will tell.
Personally, I like the Atlanta Braves strategy of signing their young core players (not named Freddy Freeman) years before they become free agents.
It has been a week or so since the aforementioned traditional, annual, obligatory, solemn post season press conferences from Cashman and Boone, and two statements from that press conference still bother me, and should bother the ownership group.
From Mr. Cashman:
“I know in the postseason the better team doesn’t always win, but in that series, it did. I wish we gave them a better go of it, but we didn’t. Ultimately the goal is to find a way. I think we did a lot to move from a one-game knockout at Fenway Park last year to the ALCS, but we got swept by a team that has wreaked havoc on us the last number of years.”
OK, let me understand this, getting swept in the ALCS is “a lot to move from a one-game knockout at Fenway Park last year”.
Is that somehow an improvement? In my opinion, that is a loser’s mentality.
“Ultimately the goal is to find a way”.
You have not found a way to even reach the World Series since 2009, yet your team has the highest or one of the top three highest payrolls in professional sports. How can that be?
Somehow that question wasn’t asked by the hand-picked media during the press conference. I would have liked to have heard his answer.
As John McEnroe famously stated “You cannot be serious”!
Man, has the bar been lowered.
To put things into perspective regarding Mr. Cashman, this week it was announced that Astros General Manager James Click has turned down what he felt was an insulting 1 year contract extension. To his point, he took over the scandal scarred Astros, hired a winning and experienced manager, built up his minor league system (despite losing first & second round picks in 2020 and 2021), lost many key players, and delivered two World Series appearances in 3 years, winning 1 of them.
That is getting the job done! I will go out on a limb, and suggest he will not be unemployed very long.
From Mr. Boone:
“….part of that is luck – it’s a tournament of the league’s best teams, so you try and construct a roster to get there,”
They didn’t get swept by the “better team” solely because of roster construction.
He mentions luck?
He was lucky his bullpen bungling didn’t cost him in the Cleveland series as he went into a 2-1 hole against a team with nine rookies on it.
He was lucky that his failure to make obvious and elementary defensive replacements in left field late in games didn’t cost him the series.
His luck ran out when he went head to head and was schooled in 4 straight games by a Dusty Baker. He used 3 different shortstops in a 4 game sweep. He took his ace out in the 5th inning after 96 pitches with the bases loaded and replaced him with arguably the 4th best reliever on the team (and I am being nice to Trevino).
In other words, one mistake after another.
Luck? Yes, he is lucky to keep his job.
As English poet John Milton (and later attributed to Brooklyn Dodger executive Branch Rickey) famously stated: “Luck Is the Residue of Design”.
As stated here on the pages of Start Spreading the News in March of 2022, this team was poorly constructed (again) by the GM and led by a Manager that is best suited to be a broadcaster.
Both, I imagine, are very nice men, but Hal Steinbrenner has to be kidding us or delusional when he claims “I believe he is a very good manager”.
Was he watching the same games we were?
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say: “Enough is enough.” – Lance Armstrong.
Today is Sunday, enjoy the day. We have about three months left until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa.
Todays Fact: in 1999, Derek Jeter had at least one hit in 135 games, matching the MLB record now held by five players. It was originally set by Rogers Hornsby in 1922.