It looks like MLB players and owners are going at it again. Two months before teams are scheduled to report to spring training, there appears to be some friction between the two. Owners apparently are expecting a delayed start to the season, while the players insist on a 162-game schedule. The coronavirus (COVID-19) is at the heart of the argument that may cause tons of animosity heading into the 2001 season.
The 2020 MLB season had a whole new look
Like all sports in 2020, MLB was affected by COVID-19. The baseball season was cut down to 60 regular-season games after the virus pushed the start of the season into late July. The 162-game schedule had been set to begin on March 26.
Spring training began July 1. A revamped schedule forced teams to play games against teams that were somewhat close geographically to limit travel. The Canadian government wouldn’t allow the Toronto Blue Jays to play home games so they were forced to play their games in Buffalo. No fans were allowed to attend any MLB games during the regular season.
The MLB All-Star Game, scheduled to be held at Dodger Stadium, was canceled. The playoffs were expanded to 16 teams. After the opening round, games were played at neutral sites. The Los Angeles Dodgers ended the season by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series, winning in six games.
Players, owners have different views heading into 2021
According to USA TODAY, there is already an issue between MLB owners and players. The owners want the players to get the COVID-19 vaccination prior to spring training even if that means pushing the start back again. If it means shortening the season, the owners will take it. Players, however, want to play a 162-game season in hopes of getting their full salaries.
Are the owners hoping for a shortened season with the likelihood the season will begin with very limited or no fans as COVID-19 cases continue to spike? According to the USA TODAY story, published Tuesday, MLB can’t shorten the season without the players’ union approval. Union officials have told players to expect a 162-game season and to show up for spring training at the scheduled time.
It’s unknown if fans will be able to attend games, which is likely the reason for the owners to want the season pushed back and condensed. The lost revenue from ticket sales in 2020 was damaging to owners. Paying players full salaries in 2021 without fans is something the owners won’t want to do.
MLB owner: ‘Zero chance’ spring training starts on time
While spring training is scheduled to take place in two months to kick off the 2021 MLB season, there is doubt it will begin on time. Owners want players to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before spring training begins, which may be a tough task since the vaccine just arrived in the U.S. “I don’t see a snowball’s chance in hell that spring training can start with protocols in place,’’ a National League owner told USA TODAY on condition of anonymity.
“I think there will be significant pressure for players to get the vaccine first before they go to spring training. If that has to be moved back to April and play 130 games, so be it. But to have 162 games, and start spring training at the normal time without players being vaccinated, that’s just crazy.”
An American League owner, also requesting anonymity, said there is no chance spring training will begin on time. “I don’t see any way spring training starts in February,” he said. “Zero chance of that. I don’t care if we play 140 games, 120 games, or 80 games. We have to make sure everyone is safe to do this right.”