One of the changes included in the new MLB/MLBPA collective-bargaining agreement was an increase in the length of the regular season from 183 days to 187. This is an attempt to give players more off days, thus reducing fatigue, something that was a real concern for players.
Another minor change to schedules was announced late Monday:
Spring training will be shortened by two days starting in 2018, when new restrictions in Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement take effect on game times for regular-season getaway days.
The voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players will be 43 days before the major league opener instead of 45, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press. For other players, the date will be 38 days ahead instead of 40.
So this will give players a couple of extra days over the winter. It’s not much, but at least it’s something. Don’t expect this to reduce the actual number of spring-training games, because MLB teams have begun to view these as a profit center, as you can see by this list of Cubs spring ticket prices.
There were some other changes noted in the link above that will change starting times for certain games:
Starting in 2018, the latest possible start time on getaway days when either team is traveling to a game in another city the next day or a home off day will be calculated by subtracting the time of the flight over 2½ hours from 7 p.m.
There are cutouts for Sunday night games broadcast by ESPN and games after June 1 at Texas' current home ballpark — where the Rangers avoid afternoons for much of the season because of the heat.
Another new rule for 2018 says no game in the original schedule may be set for before 5 p.m. when a team played the previous night in another city starting 7 p.m. or later. There are exceptions involving flights of 90 minutes or less for home openers and holiday weekends. Current cutouts are carried over for up to six exceptions each season at Chicago's Wrigley Field and rescheduled games involving flights of 90 minutes or less.
The six exceptions are likely for series that begin on Fridays at Wrigley, where the Cubs are not permitted to play night games. As I’ve written before, this is just silly. At a point where the Cubs are playing somewhere around 40 night games a year (depending on how many are asked for by national TV networks), and more in the postseason (there were eight postseason night games at Wrigley in 2016, all of them on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night), it’s ridiculous for the city of Chicago to keep the Friday night home-game ban. The Chicago city council should revisit this.
The article above also notes that as a result of these changes, there could be a regular-season game scheduled on the Thursday after the All-Star break. The season had resumed on that day through 2013, when the break was lengthened to include the extra day.
Speaking of spring training, 13 of the Cubs’ 17 spring training games are now sold out. Tickets remain for Tuesday, February 28 (Angels), Tuesday, March 7 (Team Italy from the World Baseball Classic), Thursday, March 9 (Mariners, lawn only) and Saturday, March 18 (Asia team from the WBC, one of Japan, Cuba, China, Australia, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Israel or the Netherlands). I’d think those WBC games would actually be really interesting to attend; quite a number of MLB players will be on all those teams and for the March 18 game, it would be a team getting ready to play in the championship round.
It’s not very long until baseball is back this year: the first Cubs spring game is one month from tomorrow!