In September, Major League Baseball announced that for the first time since expanding to 30 teams in 1998, every team would be on the field for Opening Day 2018. Further research tells us that it will mark the first time since 1968 that every team in the league has been scheduled for an Opening Day, so it will be a truly rare, if not historical occurrence.
Until Wednesday, the only other details we knew were that Opening Day would take place on Thursday, March, 29. Now though, we know the full schedule and where and when each game will take place. That makes it feel a lot more real, and gives another reason to turn up the excitement even as the news cycle remains quiet.
With all 30 teams playing, that means we’ll have 15 games to digest. Each will have their own set of storylines going in. And honestly, once the winter activity finally picks up, we’ll have a better idea of what the biggest storylines will be. With that in mind though, there are some games that jump off the schedule right now. We’re going to highlight the five most interesting on the schedule as things stand in early January.
Cubs @ Marlins (12:40 p.m. ET)
The Derek Jeter era opens with a home game against a World Series contender that will very likely have more fans in the ballpark than the home team. It many ways, that feels fitting given how this offseason has played out for Jeter’s group. That many would say the Cubs are currently among the model franchises not just currently in baseball, but all sports, rubs it in just a little more.
The Marlins are a long, long way from even being a respected franchise, let alone one other franchises will aim to pattern themselves after. As such, the reaction to Jeter will be overwhelmingly negative on this day and many days to follow. If there’s one thing he can hang his hat on though, it’s that the Cubs presence can bring hope too. Chicago was in a similar position less than a decade ago, and has completely turned things around. It can be done.
Astros @ Rangers (3:35 p.m. ET)
The Astros start their championship defense on the road, against their in-state rivals. That will certainly to an interesting atmosphere at Globe Life Park. The Astros will be the team to beat again with basically their entire lineup coming back. The only question might be which of their aces is starting. Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. are the current options. Gerrit Cole could be another in due time. If the Rangers happen to bring back Yu Darvish, the intensity would only go up another notch.
Yankees @ Blue Jays (3:37 p.m. ET)
Health permitting, this will be our first chance to see what the Yankees lineup looks like with Giancarlo Stanton joining young sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Who knows, Manny Machado could be there too if the Yankees wild offseason continues. Even still, the Yankees will be facing a tough task if the Blue Jays send Marcus Stroman to the hill. Toronto’s ace seems to be at his best when the spotlight shines brightest, meaning this could be an Opening Day classic.
Angels @ A’s (4:05 p.m. ET)
Will Shohei Ohtani be in the Opening Day lineup? That alone gives this game some serious intrigue. If he’s not on the pitching mound, it seems like there would be no better time to test his offensive skills by giving him a start at designated hitter. Either way, this will be our first chance to watch Mike Trout in the new season, and to check out the other Angels additions. Remember, they’ve beefed up their lineup by signing Zack Cozart and acquiring Ian Kinsler in a trade with Detroit.
As for the A’s, well, they’re still the A’s.
Rockies @ Diamondbacks (10:10 p.m. ET)
A rematch of the 2017 Postseason’s forgotten classic. Arizona topped Colorado 11-8 to win the NL Wild Card and advance to the NLDS, where they were swept by the Dodgers.
Both teams will be chasing the dominant Dodgers again and will be looking to get their season off on the right foot. The Rockies will be bringing a reloaded bullpen led by Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw. The Diamondbacks, like most teams, have been quiet this winter. Still, they have a strong team that figures to contend for a postseason spot again. This should be a game worth staying up late to watch.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –