It seems a little early to be talking about 2013, but the schedule was released Wednesday, so a few quick thoughts:
1. Interleague play -- every day!
With the Astros moving to the American League and giving us 15 teams in each league, this of course becomes the shiny new toy of the 2013 schedule. MLB did the smart thing by giving the Astros a home opener against the Rangers, in what should become one of baseball's best rivalries -- if initially lopsided for a few years. Moving to the AL West will force the Astros to think bigger; competing against the deep pockets of the Rangers and Angels should prove to be a tougher challenge than competing in the National League Central.
2. Red Sox at Yankees! Will anyone care?
It's nothing but up for the Red Sox in 2013! They open at Yankee Stadium for a three-game series. Who will be their manager? Will David Ortiz be back? Who starts Opening Day? The Red Sox have two September series against the Yankees but finish their season with a big showdown against the ... Rockies, before finishing up in Baltimore. What, you're not excited about that 2007 World Series rematch?
3. Final-weekend duds
A lot of those final series don't appear too interesting: Yankees at Astros, Tigers at Marlins in the interleague series, Nationals at Diamondbacks, Cubs at Cardinals. We do get Angels at Rangers, Phillies at Braves and Pirates at Reds. As 2012 proves, predicting who will be in the playoff chase and who will be out isn't easy. Still, I'd like to see a few more series that have likely playoff implications (Cardinals-Reds, Yankees-Rays, Tigers-White Sox and so on).
4. Battle of the Beltway
The Orioles and Nationals play four games in late May (the 27th through the 30th) -- two in D.C., two in Baltimore -- but the schedule does cut down on the number of "natural" rivalry games. The Yankees and Mets play only on the same four dates, as do the Angels-Dodgers, White Sox-Cubs and A's-Giants. And for those keeping track, the Marlins and Twins meet June 25-26.
5. I say Brian Doyle and Bucky Dent should throw out the first pitch.
The Dodgers and Yankees have met just twice before in interleague play, in 2004 and 2010, but have two series against each other in 2013. The Yankees visit Dodger Stadium July 30-31, and the Dodgers will play their first interleague series at Yankee Stadium (old or new) June 18-19. With the NL West facing a lot of the AL East, it's not an easy interleague slate for the Dodgers: Orioles, Angels, Yankees, Blue Jays, Yankees again, Rays and Red Sox.
6. Best opening series is ...
7. Toughest April goes to ...
Maybe the Rays. Fifteen of 27 games on the road, including four-game trips to Boston and the White Sox, and three-game trips to Texas and Baltimore. Their home series are Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland and the Yankees. Of course, the Rays faced a similarly tough April this year -- Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays (before all the injuries), Angels and Rangers -- and still went 15-8.
8. When will the Pirates fade?
Just kidding, Pirates fans! But from Aug. 9 through Aug. 25, the Pirates play 13 of 16 on the road, with series at Colorado, St. Louis, San Diego and San Francisco.
9. The Brewers begin defense of their NL title ...
At home against the Rockies. Wait, see what I did there again? Hey, the Brewers are only four games out of the wild card, which means there is hope this crazy prediction can still come true! (Scroll down to that Schoenfield guy.)
10. The Mariners' miracle 2013 season and World Series championship ...
Starts with a seven-game road trip to Oakland and Chicago on which they'll go 5-2. They'll sweep the Astros at home and then take three of four from the Rangers to improve to 11-3. May will be tough with 17 games on the road, but a 10-game homestand in June against the White Sox, Yankees and Astros will push the club 15 games over .500. After the All-Star break, the Mariners play the Astros, Indians, Twins and last-place Red Sox, which sounds like a nice 10-3 stretch. The Rangers will make a late push for the division title but the M's will go 6-0 in their season-ending homestand against the Royals and A's to win 94 games and capture the division.
From there, history.
Enjoy the season, Mariners fans!