Thursday saw another milestone day for minor league baseball as regular season schedules were announced. The news comes just days after the new league alignments were finally set in stone thanks to all 120 affiliates signing their PDLs.
Between changes forced by COVID-19 and Major League Baseball’s hostile takeover of the minors, there is plenty to unpack with the new schedule layouts. For starters, the three-, four-, and five-gave series that were the previous norm in the minors no longer exist. Instead, teams at all levels will play six-game sets each week running Tuesday to Sunday with every Monday used as a travel/off-day.
Cubs Insider was first to report the revamped scheduling structure, though some of the details have changed since we got that info in late December.
The extra-long sets will help with the constant travel demands by cutting down on the frequency of the 6+ hour bus rides teams are sometimes forced to take. Fewer trips on commercial flights for the Triple-A level means cutting down on both costs and situations where I-Cubs players are exposed to the general public. The static off-days provide more breaks for players as the previous schedules only included two or three off-days per month.
While COVID-19 concerns may ultimately alter the schedules, an initial standardized calendar brings some calm to an otherwise chaotic minor league season. Iowa Cubs broadcaster Alex Cohen thinks this could benefit players’ mindsets throughout the year.
“I just think it brings some much-needed stability for a team,” Cohen told CI. “You know how long you are traveling, how much packing you need to do, where and when you are getting your gym and early work in for almost an entire week.
“It all being standard helps develop a routine that is difficult to do when it is 3 games here, 4 games there, 3 games at home, 4 games on the road.”
The I-Cubs and all other Triple-A teams will play a 142 game schedule starting on April 6 and concluding on September 19, assuming no delays. As crazy as it seems, this season will actually be longer than 2019, both in terms of games and days. The most recent MiLB season saw the I-Cubs play a 14- game slate spanning from April 4 to September 2.
The Tennessee Smokies, South Bend Cubs, and Myrtle Beach Pelicans, along with all other teams at their respective levels will see a much shorter season than their big brothers in Iowa. While the six-on-one-off structure stands, the season will only be 120 games long due to the lower levels holding their spring training after big league camp closes.
Opening Day for those teams will take place on the ultimate MiLB promotional day of May the Fourth (be with you) and the seasons likewise end on September 19.
- Due to unbalanced schedules, 126 of Iowa’s 142 games will be played in just four different stadiums — at home in Principal Park (72 games), Omaha (24), St. Paul (18), and Indianapolis (12).
- Tennessee will be the first-ever guest at brand new Toyota Field in Madison, Alabama as the rebranded Rocket City Trash Pandas host them on May 11.
- With the Beloit Snappers moving into their new stadium halfway through this season, South Bend will actually visit the Snappers at their old stomping ground from May 11-16 then at their new field September 7-12.
- If you were tired of hearing about how much of a pitcher’s league Myrtle Beach played in, you aren’t going to be very happy. Based on Baseball America’s park factors from 2019, their new schedule appears to be even more pitcher-friendly than the old Carolina League.