There's still plenty of meaningful baseball to be played in 2012, but everyone received a chance to look toward next year when Major League Baseball released its 2013 schedule on Tuesday afternoon.
Now, the debut of a new schedule is always a curiosity for fans looking to get a head start on next summer's road trip or ticket budget. This year's release, though, comes with an added layer of curiosity because baseball's realignment has created a different set of challenges for the schedulemakers as well as a schedule we've never seen before. With the Houston Astros moving to the AL West next year and creating two even 15-team leagues, interleague play will be an everyday necessity. And the "traditional" interleague rivalries (i.e., Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs) have been cut down from six games to four with each team hosting back-to-back two-game sets at their home parks.
Here's a quick look at what stood out to us after an initial glance.
What are you excited for? Concerned about?
• After staging opening day on a Thursday and Friday the past two seasons, baseball will again start on a Monday. April 1 currently features a robust schedule of 12 games, though we're presuming one will get pulled back to Sunday night for the traditional ESPN opener. The bad news is that the NCAA basketball title game is scheduled for Monday, April 8 so we'll again be deprived of what used to be the best sports day of the year.
• Each team will now play the same breakdown of games as everyone else: 76 contests against division rivals, 66 against non-division league teams and 20 interleague games.
• Eleven of the final regular-season series feature divisional play, but the Yankees are strangely scheduled to play three against the lowly Houston Astros. Conspiracy theory!
• Speaking of the Astros, they will begin life in the American League with a home series against the Texas Rangers before introducing themselves to the rest of the AL West in the three series after that. They won't experience a clean break with the NL Central, however, as they have series scheduled against all five teams in 2013.
• The Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds receive the honor of being the first daily interleague series when they open the season in the Queen City on April 1. The Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins, meanwhile, will close the season at the end of September as the only teams crossing the aisle. As ESPN's Jayson Stark notes, three American League teams — Detroit, Seattle and Toronto — will lose the DH when they visit National League parks in September.
• In terms of interesting homecomings, there are a couple as Ozzie Guillen returns to Chicago's South Side with the Marlins in May while Don Mattingly and the Los Angeles Dodgers head to the Bronx for their first-ever interleague trip. (It's actually insane that the Dodgers have never played at either of the Yankee Stadiums since interleague play has started. That's definitely a black mark.) Albert Pujols and the Angels are scheduled to play the Cardinals, though the series will be held in Anaheim.