Baseball cannot come soon enough. It’s been a long and arduous offseason, and I just want to relax and watch the Yankees again. Luckily, we’re almost there, with pitchers and catchers due to report in less than a week. That tangible sign of baseball’s return has had me casting my eye on the future, and thinking about New York’s path to a championship.
2023 is the first campaign played under the new balanced schedule, which has fewer division games. For a more complete rundown of what that means, see this piece Peter wrote back in August.
After spending some time rooting through the schedule, here are some things that jump out about the upcoming campaign for the Yankees.
A quiet April versus the AL East: There won’t be much happening divisionally for the Yankees in the opening month of the season after welcoming the Giants for a season-opening homestand. They only play two series against AL East foes in April. New York’s first road series takes them to Baltimore to play the Orioles on April 6th through 8th. That first look might confirm my suspicions that the O’s could be irritatingly good this season.
After that, the only other hint of the divisional rivals in the opening month is a home series against Toronto from April 21st through 23rd. After some of the chatter that has come from certain Jays players, games against them could well continue to get increasingly testy.
You can’t win the division in May, but you might lose it: New York will be well-served to bank wins in April against a bunch of non-division foes, because they run the gauntlet the following month. From May 5th through 7th, they head to the Trop to take on the Rays. After that series, Oakland visits. But as soon as the lowly A’s depart, the Rays come to the Bronx for a four-game set, and then the Bombers immediately head north for four games north of the border. 14 games in 14 days, with 11 of them against Tampa and Toronto. Buckle up.
West Coast alert: Condolences, East Coast fans. From May 29th through June 4th, sleep might be hard to come by as New York heads west. First on the docket are the Seattle Mariners, a likely American League contender again this season after clinching their first playoff spot in two decades. And then the Yankees head south to face off against the Dodgers. While the latter perhaps looks less formidable than in years past, that’s still a tough matchup, and the likes of Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman are relentless.
At least the All-Star Game is out west?: New York has a second West Coast jaunt right after the All-Star break in Seattle. They start with a weekend set at altitude in Denver, and as a Colorado resident, I selfishly cannot wait to hopefully see Judge launch one of his patented bombs into the thin air. I’ve already marked down when tickets go on sale. From Denver, they continue west to play that other other Los Angeles team, facing off with two of Judge’s perennial MVP candidate peers, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Houston kicks off the dog days of August: Technically, the Rays are the first team that New York will face after the trade deadline, with Tampa in the Bronx from July 31st through August 2nd. But as soon as they’re gone, the reigning, defending, undisputed champions of the world come to town. And after 2022, when Houston repeatedly punched the Yankees in the teeth, it’s imperative to show they won’t be bullied by Houston again. This four-game set could turn out really well, or really poorly.
One last chance against Houston: Labor Day weekend 2023 is Yankees-Astros II: The Attack of the Pinstripes. This Friday through Sunday set is New York’s last regular season opportunity to sock it to the Astros, and to hopefully set up for a playoff run with some positive vibes from taking care of business against the kings of baseball.
Closing out against the Jays: The final series of the season is actually in Kansas City, but two of the final four sets of games, including the penultimate, are against a club that should be one of the Yankees’ competitors for an AL East crown. New York hosts Toronto from the 19th through the 21st of September, then heads to the Rogers Centre from the 26th through the 28th. In a perfect world, the Yankees could be positioned to do serious damage to, if not scuttle, their divisional rivals’ playoff hopes.
There are of course, other things to note in the Yankees’ upcoming schedule. I didn’t mention Boston, or the Subway Series versus the crosstown Mets. And for Yankees fans scattered across the country, the balanced schedule might have given you a particular series to be excited about the way I am for the series against the Rockies.
At least on paper, important and interesting stretches of the season for New York jump out when looking at the schedule. Now we just need Opening Day to hurry up and arrive.