When Major League Baseball switches to its first balanced schedule since 2000 next season, every team in baseball will play every other team in baseball at least once for the first time in history.
The switch, while cool, will have some consequences as intradivision games will drop from 47% to 32% which means fewer matchups between longtime rivals like the Yankees and Red Sox and Giants and Dodgers. But, given that MLB is trying to attract younger fans and it’s fair to question how much of them actually care about historic rivalries, perhaps making a switch like this will actually be good for the game as it guarantees a superstar like Shohei Ohtani will have at least one game against fellow stars like Juan Soto, Aaron Judge and Bryce Harper (barring injury) per season.
Intradivision games will be cut down from 19 to 13 for a total of 52 and teams will play six or seven contests against each additional ballclub in the AL or NL for a total of 64. The remaining 46 games will be interleague. Before the switch, teams played more games against their divisional opponents (76) than they did the rest of their league (66). Now that will be flipped and they’ll play 64 against the rest of their league and 52 against their division. As MLB.com points out, that should help make the wild-card race in each league a bit more balanced. “We’ve always baked in certain inequalities in our Wild Card races,” per the site. “The Orioles and Rays, for example, are usually going to have a harder time getting a Wild Card spot than the Twins or the Guardians because the AL East is generally deeper than the Central. But that issue will soon be mitigated.”
In announcing the schedule, MLB revealed Opening Day is set for March 30 and that the league will again try to have every team start on the same day, which last occurred in 1968 and probably won’t happen in 2023 due to early season weather (even though there’s an easy fix). All 30 clubs are also set to take the field on July 4.
“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 MLB chief operations and strategy officer Chris Marinak. “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. 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.”