8 Biggest Takeaways from the 2014 MLB Schedule Release
As the 2013 Major League Baseball season winds down, the sport looks ahead to new beginnings in 2014.
For those who like to plan ahead, want to make that cross-country baseball excursion or just can't wait for new storylines and narratives to emerge, here are the eight biggest takeaways from the 2014 MLB schedule release.
8. Divisional Battles Mark End of Season
If multiple 2014 division races come down to the season's final day, the schedule makers will look prescient.
Outside of Mets-Astros and Rays-Indians, every single regular season finale in 2014 will be a divisional battle.
While it's hard to predict which teams will be battling for the top of each division one year from now, they'll likely be duking it out on the final day of the regular season.
7. All-Star Week at Target Field
Major League Baseball will showcase one of its newest and most beautiful stadiums during mid-July when the All-Star Game ascends on Target Field in Minnesota.
After qualifying for the postseason in the first year of the new park, the Twins have been a losing team since, taking away from attendance and denying a national audience the chance to see their dynamic downtown stadium during televised games.
From July 13-15, that will change.
6. New York's First Trip to New Busch Stadium
Despite making the postseason a combined 27 times since 1995, the Yankees and Cardinals haven't met in a World Series since the 1964 season.
The 2014 schedule doesn't promise anything about the postseason, but it does have the New York Yankees set to play in the new Busch Stadium for the first time.
Get ready for a walk down memory lane from May 26-28 when two of the most successful teams in baseball history get together in an historic baseball town.
5. Zack Greinke Returns to Kansas City
As Rany Jazayerli pointed out in Monday's Kansas City Star, the rebuilding effort in Kansas City is now over.
If the Royals come up short in their quest for a playoff berth in 2013, they must find a way to get over the hump and into October in 2014. If they don't, years of rebuilding the farm system will be for naught.
On June 23, the Los Angeles Dodgers will travel to Kansas City for a game that might feature former Royals ace Zack Greinke. If he was still with the Royals, he could be the difference between making the playoffs and missing out on a spot.
4. Australian Baseball
After previous season-opening games in Tokyo, Japan, Monterrey, Mexico and San Juan, Puerto Rico, Major League Baseball is taking its act overseas once again for the start of a season.
2014 will open on March 22 and 23 between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
If the Dodgers can roll through October and capture a championship, Australia will welcome in the defending Major League Baseball champions.
3. Ryan Braun's Return
Barring an unforeseen blockbuster trade or spring training injury, Opening Day 2014 will mark Ryan Braun's return to the Milwaukee Brewers lineup, Miller Park and the sport of baseball.
With the Brewers hosting the Braves to start the season, Braun can ease his way back into the psyche of baseball fans with a home game in front of his crowd. Of course, it remains to be seen how loyal his own fanbase will still be to him after a 65-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Prediction: If Braun hits at an MVP level, Milwaukee will come around to him very, very quickly.
2. Baseball Returns to Montreal
According to a report from Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi, baseball will return to Olympic Stadium in Montreal for the first time since the conclusion of the 2004 season.
Although it's not regular season baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets will square off at the end of March for two exhibition games in the former home of the Montreal Expos.
The game will mark the end of spring training and give baseball fans in Montreal the chance to see professional baseball for the first time since the Expos moved to Washington D.C. for the 2005 season.
1. Life Without Mariano Rivera Begins in Houston
As the 2013 New York Yankees continue to sputter in their attempt to qualify for the postseason, it's becoming increasingly likely that the end of the this regular season will double as Mariano Rivera's final game.
With retirement on the horizon, the Yankees will take the field in 2014 without their longtime closer and team leader. That journey will begin on the road in Houston against the Astros.
If New York is up in the ninth, it will be the most talked abut ninth inning in recent Opening Day memory regardless of the outcome.