Typically boring news is now cause for celebration. The MLB schedule is out, and the New York Yankees are officially slated to begin playing meaningful baseball on July 23. They’re also scheduled to play on July 25, and random Thursdays in August, and all the way through September 27 with just seven days off. For the first time since mid-March, Yankees fans can look at the calendar and know that there is baseball scheduled for almost every day.
The 60-games-in-67-days timeline is daunting, and certainly places a larger priority on each individual game. One ordinarily-regular blown save in the dog days or a flat getaway day performance could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs in just a 60-game season. It also places a higher importance on starting the season hot out of the gate. A slow start has less time than ever to course-correct, meaning an early division deficit could seriously threaten to torpedo a once-promising season.
In that respect, the Yankees have neither one of the five easiest nor hardest slates to start the year, per MLB Network. They open on the road against the defending champion Nationals, which is a difficult series. That’s followed by a four-game home-and-home with the Philadelphia Phillies, who are one of the league’s more unpredictable teams. After that, the Yankees’ first American League opponent is none other than the Red Sox, and although they are significantly weaker than in years past, they are still the Red Sox and will not roll over against the Yankees.
After that, there’s three winnable games versus the Orioles, but then six against the Rays and Braves. Although there are some gimme games in there, there aren’t many. It’s not an outright difficult first 20 games, but it’s also no cakewalk.
Luckily, things ease up for the Yankees after this point. In fact, their final third of the season is perhaps the easiest in baseball, featuring games exclusively against Baltimore, Toronto, Boston and Miami. 20 of those 23 games are against teams who had at least 95 losses last year. Although the Blue Jays and Marlins have improved, they still are unlikely to contend.
We don’t know what is going to happen in September, but the Yankees should be able to take 15+ of those 23 games. As long as the Yankees are over .500 after those first 20 games (which isn’t an unreasonable ask), that cupcake of a late-season schedule should be enough to wrap up another first-place AL East finish.
Some teams, like the Phillies, saw their schedules get moderately more difficult based on interleague play and the absence of games against other NL divisions. Others, like the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins, saw their schedules get easier for the same reason. However, the Yankees’ schedule didn’t get appreciably harder or easier. Although they don’t have to play tough teams like the Astros, Athletics, Twins or Indians, they also don’t get the chance to beat up on the Mariners, Tigers and Royals anymore.
In the end, the Yankees’ 2020 schedule is almost as normal as it could possibly be. There’s a heavy dose of AL East opponents, they still play the Mets six times, and the pacing of games fits within the usual amount of games per week (six) that MLB players are used to without having to schedule doubleheaders. Although the start of the Yankees’ season isn’t easy, it’s also not as bad as it could have been, and the generous stretch run should make up for it. No matter what happens for the Yankees this season, they won’t be able to blame the schedule.