MLB Owners Want to Delay the Start of the 2021 Season, Per Report; MLBPA says players plan to start on time

In a replay of the run-up to the 2020 Major League season, MLB owners and players are poised for conflict over the upcoming 2021 season. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports MLB team owners want players to be vaccinated before spring practice begins, and that a heavy logistics lift coupled with the limited availability of vaccines would mean that spring training camps would not open on time.

That, in turn, would mean that the regular season wouldn’t start until May, and the 2021 regular season would only cover 140 games instead of the usual 162. The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) disagrees, Nightengale said. with this timeline and insists on playing a full 162-game slate.

Ahead of the 2020 regular season, players agreed to lower their paychecks based on the number of games played. After owners pushed for salary concessions above that pro rata, the stalemate produced a regular season of 60 games. Obviously, players would not prefer less than their full salary for a second year in a row, while owners would rather not pay those full salaries.

Speaking of this potential point of contention, here’s what a NL owner said to Nightengale:

“Hell, I don’t see a chance that spring training can begin with the protocols in force. I think there will be significant pressure on players to get the vaccine first before going to spring training, and if that should be pushed back. April and play 130 games, so be it.

“Having only 162 games and starting spring practice at the normal time without any players being vaccinated, that’s just crazy.”

An AL owner echoed those sentiments in Nightengale’s piece, saying spring training “zero chance” begins in February.

Elsewhere in baseball, a number of team managers seem to have different ideas about how likely a full season is:

On the player side, Bruce Meyer, MLBPA’s senior director of collective bargaining and legal affairs, said the following in a statement to The Athletic on Tuesday night:

“We’ve seen anonymous quotes attributed to club sources that cast doubt on the start date and length of the season. To be clear, and as we’ve made clear to the league, players plan to show up in time for spring practice for a full season of 162 games as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement and the league’s previously issued schedule. ”

Although the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered, supply numbers have been limited for some time and higher priority populations are on the line to be the first to receive those limited doses. If vaccination for the entire competition becomes a prerequisite for the start of the spring training, then it indeed seems likely that it will not start on time. However, this is all subject to negotiation. That means the situation remains volatile even as the calendar makes its way into the early days of February, when pitchers and catchers typically report.

In addition to controlling things like the status of the universal DH and the post-season structure for 2021, MLB and the MLBPA must also agree on what season they will play and how they will respond to the ongoing pandemic. There is still a lot of work to be done before the real deal of baseball begins.