With the season starting in just a couple of months, it’s time to take a look at the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers schedule.
This is the first year of the 140-game era for the Pacific Coast League. The league has been working off a 144-game schedule since the 1980s, but Major League Baseball wants all of its full-season minor leagues to play no more than 140 games. 2017 was an in-between year, with the league shortening from 144 to 142 games, and now 2018 is the first season of the 140-game schedule.
Surprisingly, the league cut the four games off from the cross-conference portion of the schedule, and not the opposing division. It is not known why they elected to do this, but it creates a competitive imbalance which could easily be resolved.
The basics are still the same: Tacoma will play its three Pacific-North Division rivals (Reno, Sacramento, Fresno) 16 times each, eight games home and eight away.
The Rainiers will play each of the Pacific-South Division clubs 16 times, eight home and eight away.
The imbalance comes in the cross-conference play. This season the American-North teams will visit Tacoma: Iowa and Colorado Springs will play four games in Tacoma, while Oklahoma City and Omaha will play three games each. Tacoma does not visit those cities this year.
We travel to the American-South division: Memphis and Round Rock for three games, and Nashville and New Orleans for four games.
It’s an opposite situation for Tacoma’s travel partner and division rival, Reno. Let’s say Tacoma and Reno are neck-and-neck in a pennant race the last week of July, when the two teams do the New Orleans – Round Rock road trip. Tacoma plays four at New Orleans and three at Round Rock – while Reno plays four games at Round Rock and three at New Orleans. If one of those teams is terrible and the other is really good, the imbalance of games could sway the race.
The simple solution would be to continue playing the American Conference teams in a four-game series, and play one game fewer against the Pacific-South teams. If the Pac-North played 16 games against its own division, 15 against the Pac-South, and four each against the American Conference we would have 140 games and a competitively balanced schedule.
Again, not sure why they did this – the travel cost washes out as the same either way. And it seems kind of silly for, say, Reno to fly all the way to New Orleans for just three games.
Some thoughts on the Rainiers schedule, from a guy who
has gets to travel it:
- Tacoma opens at home on Thursday, April 5th against Sacramento, and finishes the season on Labor Day (September 3) at El Paso. The final road trip is a seven-gamer – Tacoma’s last home game falls on August 27.
- It’s 140 games in 152 days, including the three-day all-star break in July. The added off-days created by contracting to 140 games should help with the league-wide fatigue problem.
- There is only one off-day in April, and one in May. This is good, in my opinion. We always have a couple of rain outs (home and away) early in the season, and everyone is invigorated and ready to play at the beginning. The remaining ten off-days are scattered over the final three months of the season – when we actually need them. Well done, PCL.
- The first thing I always look at is to see if we play El Paso and Albuquerque on the same road trip. Both are long flights – El Paso in particular, because there is zero chance of a direct flight from SeaTac – and flying on the game day is a challenge. It’s a three-hour bus trip from El Paso to Albuquerque, so you really want to knock ’em out in one road trip… but this year we do not visit both cities on the same road trip.
- Tacoma plays one long road trip: a 12-game, three-city jaunt that starts in Reno for four games, moves to El Paso for four, and then finishes with four games in Sacramento. Thanks to a well-placed getaway afternoon game on a Monday in Reno, I’m told this is not the travel nightmare I originally thought it would be.
- On the flip side, the Rainiers have a wonderful 11-game, 12-day homestand in late August when the weather should be fantastic. The August 16-27 run features two weekends, a pair of Sunday afternoon games, and eight potentially key match-ups against division rivals Fresno and Reno.
- As usual we are home on July 3rd, and hit the road (to Albuquerque) on the Fourth of July. The Rainiers prefer this, thanks to our long-standing tradition of July 3rd Fireworks at Cheney Stadium.
- For the first time in decades the all-star break in the Triple-A leagues does not match up with the major league all-star break. We’re off July 9-11, with the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11 in Columbus. But the MLB all-star break is July 16-19, with their All-Star Game in Washington, DC on July 17th. I have no idea how this happened, but it definitely is a bummer that the Triple-A All-Star Game will be competing with a full slate of major league regular season games on July 11, instead of having the baseball exclusive on that date as in the past. Could negatively impact the national TV situation, too.
- The PCL needs to implement a rule that they have in the major leagues: teams must schedule a day game on the Sunday before the all-star break.
- Fun stuff: we have a day game on a Sunday followed by a Monday night game in both New Orleans and Las Vegas, meaning we get Sunday evening off for fine dining in the Big Easy and fun & games in Vegas. No such luck on the Memphis trip, though – you can really eat well there after a day game.
- Our first Vegas trip is the same weekend as the Punk Rock Bowling festival next door to our hotel. A very different crowd than the time we were there during the Electric Daisy Carnival, to be sure. Maybe I can catch At The Drive In…
This post made me start to get excited about the season. We’ll continue on Thursday with the first edition of our pre-spring training positional breakdown of potential Rainiers players.
- Bad news: Mariners prospect Eric Filia has been suspended for the first 50 games of the 2018 season after testing positive for ‘drugs of abuse.’ In Minor League Baseball, ‘drugs of abuse’ include substances that are legal in most of the western United States. Still, everyone knows the rules, and he’s gonna sit out 50. Filia was slotted to start the season at Double-A Arkansas.
- Good news: John McGrath writes that Mike Zunino is trending in the right direction.
- Pitcher Tyler Cloyd – a member of the 2017 Rainiers – signed as a free agent with the Miami Marlins.
- Former Rainiers first baseman Ji-Man Choi signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, meaning he’ll probably be back in the PCL playing for Colorado Springs.
- The Mariners are really average, Matt Calkins writes.