I know, I know. There’s no reason to think about next year, because the Orioles are terrible, won’t have any pitching for the rest of the millennium and will trade any good arm in their system for a bag of balls and an Under Armour T-shirt.
But, for the four of you in the Greater Baltimore area who haven’t given up on the Orioles for the rest of eternity, Major League Baseball released its 2018 schedule Tuesday.
And, as always, there are some interesting twists, including some involving the Orioles. You can print out an early Orioles’ 2018 schedule from mlb.com here.
The opener, for starters: It’s at home Thursday, March 29 against the Minnesota Twins, a team the Orioles have strangely opened up with three other times since 2007. If you are looking for good omens, the Orioles hosted the Twins for the season opener in 2016 and 2012, both postseason years for the Orioles (2014 was at home against the Boston Red Sox). The Orioles began the 2007 season in Minnesota.
You’ll have to go back 13 years for the last time the Orioles did not begin their regular season against a division rival or the Twins. The Oakland A’s came to Camden Yards in 2005.
This will be the third straight season opener for the Orioles in Baltimore. That hasn’t happened since the Orioles hosted 11 straight season openers from 1996 to 2006. The Orioles most recently opened on the road in 2015 at the Tampa Bay Rays. In fact, the last four times the Orioles didn’t open in Baltimore, their first game of the season was at Tropicana Field.
The earliest opener ever on U.S. soil: Because of the new collective bargaining agreement, which provides three to four more off days for each club in 2018, the entire season will be starting on March 29, the earliest ever for openers, not including those that were played in international markets. It’s the first time all 30 teams will be opening on the same day. The last time Opening Day had a full slate was in 1968, when there were only 20 MLB teams.
The Orioles will play March 29, have an off day the following day, a Friday, and then play the Twins again on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1 before heading on a seven-game road trip. Another good omen, if you believe in those things: The Orioles last played a March game in 2014, when they ended up in the American League Championship Series that October. Also, the Orioles are 7-0 in season openers under manager Buck Showalter.
Umbrellas in March/April: The Orioles play 30 games in March and April next year. Six are in domes (Tampa Bay) or under retractable roofs (Houston); the rest are in cold-weather, rainy-April cities: Baltimore (16), New York (4), Boston (4) and Detroit (3). Despite an inordinate amount of weather delays this year, the Orioles didn’t experience their first home rainout until last Wednesday and they’ve only had one other this season (in Washington D.C. in May).
As a betting man, I’d say they won’t be so lucky next year. One thing I will guarantee, though, is that Showalter will make a point in April to ask why they weren’t playing in warm-weather cities more during that month.
Interleague respite in second half: The Orioles will face the National League East in interleague play next year. They’ll compete with their geographic rival, the Washington Nationals, for six games instead of four (like they did this year). The Nationals come to town May 28-30 and the Orioles head down Interstate 95 from June 19-21. The Orioles also have a home-and-road with the Philadelphia Phillies: At Camden Yards on May 15 and 16 and at Citizens Bank Park on July 3 and 4. The Orioles host the New York Mets on Aug. 14 and 15 and the Miami Marlins (and potentially old pal Wei-Yin Chen) from June 15-17.
The Orioles also visit the Mets (June 5-6) and the Atlanta Braves’ new park June 22-24. Even though Showalter’s not a fan of interleague play, he has to be pleased with next year’s travel to NL parks in comparison to this year’s. This month, the Orioles’ penultimate team to visit is the NL’s Pittsburgh Pirates, meaning his pitchers will have to prepare to hit again as the season is in its last week.
In 2018, the Orioles play six of their road interleague games in a row, which Showalter prefers, and pitchers won’t have to hit after the club’s trip to Philly in July. The Orioles partake in only one interleague series after the All-Star Break, and it’s at home.
The lengthy road trips: The Orioles have three, three-city trips next year. Two are particularly brutal. The first is in May, when they play 10 games in 10 days at Boston, Chicago and Tampa Bay and don’t have an off day when they return to Camden Yards on May 28 to start a six-game homestand against the Nationals and New York Yankees. Ouch. To make matters worse, the day they return from that trip is Memorial Day, so they’ll likely be playing in the afternoon.
The Orioles’ have a three-city trip to end July and begin August. They go to New York, Texas and Tampa Bay and play nine games in 10 days. The final three-city jaunt may be the most daunting. From Aug, 31 to Sept. 9 they play nine games in 10 days at Kansas City, Seattle and Tampa Bay. They get an off day in between Seattle and Tampa Bay and one after the Rays’ series. But, that’s three cities, three time zones, one trip.
Finishing up: The Orioles end 2018 with 13 of their final 19 games at home. And that’s a positive. But here are their last three opponents: at the Yankees, at the Red Sox and home for four against the Houston Astros. Given their ages and current rosters, those three clubs project to be among the best AL teams in 2018 (although we know that can change dramatically).
What won’t change is the bizarre scheduling against the Astros, the first team the Orioles face on the road in April and the last team they play against at home in September. From April 5 until Sept. 26, the Orioles and Astros won’t play each other. Another scheduling quirk brought to you by the MLB office.