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Challenging start, finish to White Sox 2017 schedule

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Season opens with home-heavy April, closes with just one off day in September

When last year’s schedule came out, I wrote, "One of these years, you're going to get mad at me for talking about the White Sox' 2016 schedule with three-plus weeks of the season remaining. This is not one of those years."

One of these years, I won’t be able to refer to that lede when writing about next year’s schedule.

Anyway, Major League Baseball released its initial 2017 schedule for next season on Wednesday. The White Sox were about 10 minutes behind other teams in issuing the press release, which gave me enough time to get my hopes up using the first-available schedule on whitesox.com:

Rather than #disrupting the MLB schedule #space with 161 home games, the White Sox instead settled for the status quo — 81 home, 81 away. They had a chance to #thinkfluence and they blew it.

Anyway, let’s look at the distinguishing features of next year’s slate:

*Lots of April off days: The White Sox only had one off day in April in 2016, and maybe the league’s schedule-makers were tired of hearing Hawk Harrelson pulverize the remains of this horse to explain the White Sox’ bullpen failures, rather than "a terrible offense" or "regression to the mean" or "injuries" or "catchers" or "Robin Ventura’s bad habits," because the Sox will have four of them in April 2017, even if they come at a cost.

*Lots of April division games: The schedule opens with 25 divisional games out of the first 28, with only a road series against the Yankees in April breaking it up. Of those 25 games, 19 are against the Indians-Tigers-Royals troika that has given the White Sox fits over the last few seasons. They may as well play them as soon as possible, because as they showed this season, backloading the divisional schedule can end up raising false hopes.

*Another four-day Crosstown series: It’s July 24-27, with the first two at Wrigley. Despite the midweek setup, nobody will have to worry about thousands of seats remaining.

*NL West teams: Interleague road trips include three games in Arizona (May 22-24), Colorado (July 7-9) and Los Angeles (Aug. 15-16), with home series against the Padres (May 12-14), Dodgers (July 18-19) and Giants (Sept. 8-10).

*A well-rested All-Star break: The White Sox have an off day before the final series of the first half in Colorado, followed by the four-day All-Star break, followed by two off days the following week, with idle days bookending the two-game set in Dodgers Stadium.

*A hectic September: The White Sox finish the season with 33 games in 34 days, and only one open date on Sept. 18. That off date falls between road series in Detroit and Houston, so I imagine they’re going to try like hell to keep that from being filled by a postponed game from the first two months.

For instance, next Monday, the White Sox and Royals will make up their game from May 26 in Kansas City. The White Sox don’t have much to play for, but it wouldn’t have hurt them if they did, because the makeup game only takes up one of two scheduled off days next week (with the odd two-game set in Philadelphia in between).

It seems far more advantageous to have the season’s two-game NL trip take place in September, rather than the week after the All-Star break. I’m guessing that’ll be the pain point Harrelson repeatedly refers to next season, assuming anybody in a position to feel anything by the final month.