Over the next two seasons, the number of games in the Class AAA circuits will be gradually reduced, as the International and Pacific Coast leagues will begin playing 140-game schedules by 2018.
Among the full-season levels, the Low A and High A leagues have typically adhered to a 140-game slate, with schedule steadily increasing up the ranks. The class AA Eastern League has traditionally kept to 142-game seasons, with the Class AAA leagues bumping that number to 144.
That standard is about to change, as Major League Baseball has stated its preference that every full-season league follow a 140-game slate. Some of this stems from the concern of injuries, as players in the AAA ranks tend to have fewer off days than their contemporaries in the lower levels. In some cases, it means that teams can go as much as three weeks or more without a scheduled off day.
To ease the transition, the schedule will be reduced in phases in both the International and Pacific Coast leagues. Next season will feature a 142-game schedule, with the full transition to a 140-game slate to be complete by the start of 2018. According to International League president Randy Mobley, MLB’s directives were the ultimate factor in the decision. More from the Pawtucket Times:
“The rule for a lot of years has been 140 games, but you have to ask permission if you want more. The majority of the farm directors have to approve it and it got to the point that the 144-game schedule was always approved,” said Mobley. “Now the commissioner’s office is putting more emphasis on player’s rest. They strongly suggested that it would be in everyone’s best interest to trim this down and get back to the rule itself.”
The change from 144 games to 140 games will also affect the International League’s Triple-A counterpart out west, the Pacific Coast League. Since this is a mandate across the minor-league scope, the Double-A Eastern League will be asked to cut from its current 142-game regular-season format.
“We didn’t necessarily go all that willingly. It’s not something that we would have done voluntarily or on our own,” said Mobley. “We were strongly encouraged to do it.”
As that story notes, the Pawtucket Red Sox have a total of eight off days this year, but that number drops to five when the league All-Star break is removed from the equation. According to Mobley, the 2017 schedule is complete and work for the 2018 slate is underway.
One detail to note is that these leagues will still follow the minor league custom of concluding the regular season on Labor Day. This may lead to more changes early in the year, with the possibility of opening the season on a Friday rather than a Thursday already being discussed.