We are less than two weeks from opening day in the Pacific Coast League (that’s April 3rd, people), so let’s go over one of the big changes in the league this season: division realignment.
With the move of the Tucson franchise to El Paso, the league decided to shake up the divisions to create a better geographical alignment.
As you know if you have been following this circuit, the league plays an unbalanced schedule because it is so expansive that travel can be problematic.
Tacoma plays in the Pacific Conference. The Rainiers play the other Pacific Conference teams 16 times a season (eight home, eight away). That part is a simple home-and-home.
Tacoma plays each of the eight American Conference teams for just one four-game series each. Half of the teams visit Tacoma, and the Rainiers travel to the other half. The following season, the roles flip-flop. Tacoma fans will see the Iowa Cubs, for example, at Cheney Stadium once every two seasons.
That schedule format remains unchanged. However, the divisions are different. Here are the new divisions:
- Las Vegas
- Salt Lake
- El Paso (formerly Tucson)
- Colorado Springs
- Oklahoma City
- New Orleans
- Round Rock
The big change here, from the Tacoma perspective, is that the schedule essentially swaps Colorado Springs for Albuquerque.
Instead of playing the Sky Sox 16 times a season, the Rainiers will play them only four times. In their place come the Albuquerque Isotopes, who we used to see for just four games but now will face 16 times. The Isotopes are the Dodgers affiliate and they will be at Cheney Stadium on opening day.
In terms of the opponent on the field, the Tucson-to-El Paso franchise move doesn’t really affect the Rainiers: they are still playing against the San Diego Padres affiliate, and will face many of the same players we saw last year. It’s just a different city the Rainiers will be visiting on the road.
One other change as a result of the realignment is the end of Tacoma’s long-standing rivalry with Salt Lake. The Rainiers have been battling the Bees for the division title for years, but now Tacoma has to compete with the always dangerous Sacramento River Cats.
On Monday morning I fly to spring training and we’re going to have a busy week on the blog. The first spring training report will be the next blog update, and it’s coming in the evening on Monday.
Here’s my Monday schedule: go to SeaTac airport before dawn, fly to Arizona, rent a car, go to In N Out (I have my priorities) then straight to the Mariners-Royals Triple-A game (i.e. Tacoma vs. Omaha), watch it and take some notes, meet new manager Roy Howell, check in to hotel, write a blog post, then go to dinner and watch the Cal NIT game while Daren Brown makes fun of me the whole time. That’s the plan, anyway.
- So far, nobody is concerned about Corey Hart‘s slow spring training. Bob Dutton explains why.
- Dutton has an excellent piece on Zach Miner, who clearly has the proper mental outlook to be the Mariners long reliever.
- Bob Condotta took a look at the Mariners starting pitching depth.
- Exhibition round-up: Yesterday Erasmo Ramirez was dealing, delivering six shutout innings in a 3-0 win over the Cubs… Blake Beavan and Ramon Ramirez had rough outings on Wednesday in a 9-7 loss to the Brewers.
- The Detroit Tigers are sniffing around Nick Franklin, according to professional rumor-spreader Jon Heyman.
- My buddies at Baseball Prospectus are offering a Free Friday today for their subscription website – you can check it out right here.
- SB Nation has a piece saying Brad Miller would be a lot more famous if he didn’t have such an ordinary name.
- Good news in the PCL: the Colorado Springs Sky Sox have a brand-new playing surface at Security Service Field. (That video includes exclusive footage of a man raking). However, the Rainiers do not go there this season due to the divisional alignment.
- Wait a second. Did somebody say beer shakes?
Have a great weekend, and enjoy National Corndog Day tomorrow – always a treat!