KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The number of games between interleague rivals such as the Yankees and Mets, Cubs and White Sox, and Dodgers and Angels will be reduced under Major League Baseball's new schedule format for 2013.Players' union head Michael Weiner said Tuesday that in most instances the rivalry games will be cut from six to either four or three. The new format was caused by next year's move of the Houston Astros to the American League, creating two 15-team circuits and the need for interleague play throughout the season."It wasn't fair to have six games against an opponent that other teams in your division didn't," Weiner said Tuesday during a question-and-answer session with the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "The Mets, for example, would say Why do we have to play the Yankees six times every single year when some of our division opponents are playing teams that aren't traditionally as strong? We understand we've got to play the Yankees every year. That's OK. Why should we play six?"'Teams in a division will play three games each against teams in another division: for example, the NL East vs. the AL Central. The interleague rivalries will be either one three-game series or a home-and-home of two games each, Weiner said.There will be an exception in years the rivals play the opposite division - for instance, the Cubs and White Sox would play six times in years the NL Central plays the AL Central.Baseball's new labor contract says teams will play up to 20 interleague games a year. Weiner says the total is likely to be close to the maximum."It may be that you can come up with a more workable schedule by moving up to the higher end of the interleague play range as opposed to the lower end," he said. "So it's not a question that 19 or 20 is much better than 18 in terms of interleague play, it's a question of how to put the pieces of the puzzle together."A draft schedule has been given to the union, which is studying it before MLB finalizes it ahead of an anticipated September release.Because of the two 15-team leagues, two clubs will have to open and close with interleague games."That's not a plus of the system, but the other plusses of the system, going to 15 and 15, were so overwhelming that we live with that," Weiner said.Interleague games will be kept to a minimum in the final four-to-six weeks of the regular season."A team could have two interleague series in September, but they wouldn't have two away interleague series, so that they wouldn't either have to add a DH or lose their DH for more than three games," he said.Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
2017 grade: B+
Level of need: Low
Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut
Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson
How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?
The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.
So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?
Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.
The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.
The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.
Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.
1. Trade chips.
The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.
The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.
The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.
2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.
Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.
It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.
3. Win the special teams battle.
In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.
The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?