If you're sick and tired of 2018 -- or if you're just a Mets fan -- you can now start planning ahead to 2019! Next year's MLB schedule has been released and here are some of the highlights:
Back to Japan: The Mariners and A's open up in Japan on March 20-21, the first regular-season games played in Tokyo since the Mariners and A's in 2012. Oh, you heard this first: This is going to be a rematch of the American League Championship Series. That's right, the A's are going to win the AL West and the Mariners are going to surge past the Astros for the wild card. The Mariners will beat the Yankees in the wild-card game as James Paxton and Edwin Diaz combine for a no-hitter and then stun the Red Sox in the division series. Meanwhile, the A's sweep the Indians in their division series. Who wins the ALCS? I'm not telling.
Opening Day: The traditional Opening Day is Thursday, March 28 -- another early start necessitated by the additional off days added to the calendar for the 2018 season. Of course, this means weather could be a problem like it was this season, when a deep cold spell in the Northeast and Midwest hurt early-season attendance totals in April.
The best opening matchups include the Diamondbacks at the Dodgers (will Clayton Kershaw still be in a Dodgers uniform?), Braves at Phillies (Bryce Harper makes his Phillies debut) and Orioles at Yankees (Manny Machado haunts his former team with two home runs). The Rangers and Cubs are the first interleague series, playing for the inaugural Yu Darvish Trophy.
Interleague slate: The 2019 interleague schedule is AL East versus National League West, AL Central versus NL East, and AL West versus NL Central (plus the traditional rivalry series such as Yankees-Mets, Angels-Dodgers and White Sox-Cubs). So don't miss that big Royals-Marlins series in September.
Red Sox open with 10-game road trip: Boston starts with a West Coast swing to Seattle, Oakland and Arizona. Good call since Fenway still could be covered in 10 inches of snow in late March. Manny Machado goes on a tear with his new team and homers six times on the road trip.
Mexico series No. 1: The Cardinals and Reds play two games in Monterrey on April 13-14 , with both games serving as Reds home games.
Mexico series No. 2: The Astros and Angels play two games, also in Monterrey, on May 4-5. These are both Angels home games.
Big league baseball at college baseball's mecca: The Tigers and Royals will play in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 13, the first MLB regular-season game ever played in Omaha. Winner gets the College World Series champion.
Pujols returns to St. Louis: The Cardinals host the Angels from June 21-23, the first trip Albert Pujols will make back to St. Louis since signing with the Angels in 2012. Of course, that's assuming Pujols is still with the Angels. He's hitting .253/.291/.425 this season, worth 0.7 WAR -- which has actually been a big improvement from the minus-1.8 WAR he produced in 2017. He's still signed for three more seasons, including a $28 million salary in 2019, and the Angels don't seem inclined to cut him, so he'll likely still be around. And if Cardinals fans aren't excited to see their former MVP, maybe they'll be excited to see Mike Trout in person for the first time.
"I'd like a warm beer and some bangers and mash, please": That's right, baseball is coming to England! The Red Sox and Yankees play two games at London Stadium (originally Olympic Stadium) on June 29-30. The Red Sox will actually serve as the home team for both games, although there is no truth to the rumor that they will wear special Revolutionary War patches.
All-Star Game in Cleveland on July 9: Cleveland hosts the Midsummer Classic for the first time since 1997. The AL won that year 3-1 as Edgar Martinez homered off Greg Maddux (shameless plug reminding voters Edgar deserves to go in the Hall of Fame next year!) and hometown hero Sandy Alomar Jr. won MVP honors with a two-run homer off Shawn Estes in the seventh inning. This year, new Cardinals third baseman Manny Machado wins MVP honors with a home run off Yankees ace Clayton Kershaw.
Dodgers at Red Sox: A possible World Series rematch at Fenway, July 12-14. Manny Machado re-signs with the Dodgers and homers four times over the Green Monster in the series.
Little League Classic: The annual game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, has turned into one of the best days of the season, and the Pirates and Cubs will play Aug. 18.
Yankees at Dodgers: Another possible World Series rematch at Dodger Stadium, Aug. 23-25.
Final game at Globe Life Park: Unless the Rangers make the playoffs, decades of tradition -- er, 25 years of tradition -- will close in the regular-season finale between the Yankees and Rangers on Sept. 29. Let's hope Rangers greats like Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro will be honored in special ceremonies. Rangers third baseman Manny Machado wraps up MVP honors with his 46th and 47th home runs.
Regular-season finales: Some of the potential key series the final weekend include Cubs at Cardinals, Dodgers at Giants, Brewers at Rockies, Astros at Angels and, of course, your defending World Series champion Oakland A's at the Mariners.