The Cincinnati Reds are looking at a whole new ballgame.
Major League Baseball released its 2023 season schedule Aug. 24, and it comes with a big twist – each team will meet each other on the field at least once. In addition, all 30 franchises are scheduled to play opening day on March 30 – the first time every team will do so on the same date since 1968.
More interleague play, fewer division gamesFor 2023, the Cincinnati Reds will take on each of the other 29 MLB franchises at various points during the season, including all teams in the American League. As a National League team, the Reds typically have played just 20 games a season against American League teams; in 2023, that number will increase to 46.
Teams will play a total of four games against their "natural" interleague rival, which is a team from the opposite league that's within close distance. For the Reds, that means taking on the Cleveland Guardians from the AL.
"The new balanced schedule will feature all 30 Clubs playing each other for at least one series in 2023,” MLB chief operations and strategy officer Chris Marinak says in a release. "This new format creates more consistent opponent matchups as clubs compete for postseason berths, particularly in the recently expanded wild card round. Additionally, this fan-friendly format provides fans with the opportunity to see more opponent matchups, with a particular focus on dramatically expanding our most exciting interleague matchups, and offers more national exposure to the star players throughout our game."
The 162-game season will become more "balanced," as Marinak says, by moving away from heavy division play. In 2023, the Reds will play 52 games against other NL Central teams instead of the 76 division games they have now. They'll meet each Central opponent 13 times (for four series total), down from 19 games per division opponent now. The Reds will have 26 division home games and 26 division away games.
The Reds still will play National League teams outside of the Central, but those are slightly decreasing in number, too. Cincinnati will face off 64 times against non-Central opponents within the NL, down from 66. They'll have six games against six NL opponents and seven games against four NL opponents. Previously, teams had done the reverse: six against four and seven against six. See the Reds' 2023 schedule.
The changes "rebalance" the previous division-heavy schedule that was implemented in 2001, MLB says. For more than two decades, division opponents typically have taken up nearly half of each team's schedule.
Shaking up the postseasonNow that the MLB has moved to an expanded postseason format, the schedule shake-up may help even out which clubs get to make a World Series run. For the 2022 postseason, which begins in October, there will be 12 teams (six per league) in the hunt instead of 10. There are now three NL division winners, three AL division winners and three wild card teams from each league. Tiebreaker games (game 163) have been eliminated, with standings and stats used instead.
In addition, the single-elimination wild card game is gone, replaced with a best-of-three series, and teams are now seeded in a bracket-style postseason.
Changes to the wild card could have altered the Reds' potential postseason in 2021, had they been implemented then.
The Reds ended the 2021 season with an 83-79 record, third place in the NL Central, and did not make the playoffs. But, the Sporting News argues, under the MLB's new expanded format for 2022, that 2021 Cincinnati team would have been one of the six NL franchises in the postseason run. Would the Reds have come out on top? Probably not. But they would have been one step closer.
Changes to the postseason length and format came about due to the five-year collective bargaining agreement that the Major League Baseball Players Association and MLB team owners adopted in March. Until then, MLB had been in hibernation since December, when team owners forced a player lockout after the old five-year CBA expired. During a lockout, free agency is frozen, players can't use team facilities and practices or games go unplayed. Any work stoppage can affect free agency eligibility for certain players or cause other issues the following season, depending on how long the stoppage lasts.
The 2022 season opened on April 7 instead of on March 31 as originally scheduled. After initially cancelling the first week, MLB squeezed all 162 games into teams' schedules.
The 99-day lockout was the first work stoppage since the 1994-1995 players' strike, which doomed the 1994 World Series. It was the ninth stoppage ever and just the fifth that had canceled regular-season games.
Highlights for the Reds' 2023 seasonThe Cincinnati Reds will kickstart the 2023 season with a home opener against NL Central opponent the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 30 at Great American Ball Park. The teams will have March 31 off before continuing the series April 1 and 2. The Reds then immediately will welcome division opponents the Chicago Cubs for a three-game series April 3-5.
The Reds will take on "natural" interleague rival the Cleveland Guardians in Cincinnati Aug. 15 and 16. The teams will meet again in Cleveland Sept. 26-27 for a series billed as the Ohio Cup.
Other AL opponents fans can see at Great American Ball Park include the Tampa Bay Rays (April 17-19), Texas Rangers (April 24-26), Chicago White Sox (May 5-7) and New York Yankees (May 19-21), Toronto Blue Jays (Aug. 18-20), Seattle Mariners (Sept. 4-6) and Minnesota Twins (Sept. 18-20).
The Reds will be part of an MLB-wide celebration of Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, facing the Philadelphia Phillies in Cincinnati. The team will get patriotic on July 4 when it visits the Washington Nationals in the nation's capital for Independence Day.
All MLB teams will take a mid-summer break for the 93rd All-Star Game, scheduled for July 11 at T-Mobile Park, home of the Seattle Mariners (former Reds pitcher Luis Castillo was Cincinnati's sole designee for the All-Star Game in 2022; he was traded to Seattle less than two weeks after that).
Amid all this news, the MLB did not announce a 2023 Field of Dreams game, the homage to the 1989 Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. The event has been played for two consecutive years to big crowds in a specially constructed stadium next to the filming site, with the Reds battling the Cubs in Dyersville, Iowa, this year and losing 4-2. The Des Moines Register reported earlier in August that the anticipated lack of a 2023 Field of Dreams game could be due to the construction of an adjacent youth complex. However, MLB will send the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals to London Stadium in June for a two-game series in an effort to expand the league's global fan base.
Will Joey Votto be at the Reds' home opener?The real question is, will Joey Votto be ready to play in 2023? The longtime Cincinnati Reds’ first baseman had surgery on his left rotator cuff and bicep on Aug. 19 after not appearing in a game since Aug. 16 and being placed on the 60-day injured list. Reds medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek performed the surgery at Beacon Orthopaedics in Cincinnati.
Reds general manager Nick Krall recently said that even though Votto is out for 2022, he's expected to be ready for the new season, including spring training, which typically begins in February.
"The surgery was a little more than expected. The injury definitely limited the use of his left shoulder and affected his performance, but we expect he will be able to participate in spring training and be ready for the 2023 season," Krall said.
Doctors emphasized that the surgery needed to happen in order for the Reds to have Votto back in time for next season, Reds manager David Bell told reporters.
On Aug. 19, Votto said, “I didn’t know I was hurt. Thought I just stunk,” on Twitter. Before undergoing surgery, Votto was hitless in his previous 22 at bats – a new career high for the slugger who has played his entire MLB career for the Reds.
Votto posted a photo of his surgery scars to his Instagram account on Aug. 23, along with a short video of his assignment for what he says was his second day of post-surgery rehab. In the video, Votto sports a sleeveless shirt, sweatpants, socks and sandals while leaning over, bracing against an exam table with his right hand and making small circles with his dangling left arm.
As of Aug. 25, the Reds are 48-74 on the 2022 season, are 22 games behind the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals and are not expected to see playoff action in October. During the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Reds made it to the Wild Card playoffs but lost the first round to the Atlanta Braves without scoring at all; before that, Cincinnati hadn't been to the postseason since 2013. The Reds have had just five winning seasons out of the last 15.