MLB proposes shorter, later season over Covid concern: reports
02 February, 2021, 15:43
Major League Baseball is aiming for an on-time start to the 2021 season after the MLB Players Association rejected the league's proposal for a 154-game season on Monday evening.
A day before the plan was presented, Commissioner Rob Manfred said he would like to know by his regular Monday call with owners if the union had interest in delaying the start of spring training.
Major League Baseball proposed pushing back the start of spring training to late March, with a 154-game regular season slated to start in late April.
Opening day would be pushed back 27 days from its now scheduled April 1 and the regular season would end October 10 instead of October 3. The rejected proposal also included a universal designated hitter and a 14-team postseason field, so for now the 2021 season will be played with no DH in the National League and 10 teams in the playoffs.
"We do not make this decision lightly", the MLBPA said.
Team camps are scheduled to open February 17, and Opening Day is set for April 1, as long as agreements are reached on health and safety protocols. "We look forward to promptly finalizing enhanced health and safety protocols that will help players and clubs meet these challenges". Under the proposal, MLBPA says the end of the season would be pushed back by one week, the regular season would be shortened to 154 games and it would require several doubleheaders from all 30 teams.
The long-playing distrust between owners and players torpedoed what appeared to be a win-win-win scenario: A later start could allow more time for the winter coronavirus surges to dissipate and for players and fans to get vaccinated, making it likely that more fans could be in attendance and a full 162-game season still could be played. Manfred considered suspending the season past year, amid outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, but ultimately the season was played to completion and players were paid for every scheduled game.
"Our 2020 season taught us that when the nation faces crisis, the national game is an important as ever, and there is nothing better than playing ball". Further, it would delay the minor league season approximately one month. A delay of the season would allow for the level of COVID-19 infection rates to decrease and additional time for the distribution of vaccinations, as well as minimizing potential disruptions to the 2021 season that now face all sports. "We will do so again, together, as we work towards playing another safe and entertaining season in 2021".
The MLBPA rejected the proposal, citing the lack of salary or service-time protections in the event of any delays or cancellations due to COVID-19, while advocating for an on-time start.
The regular season would have ended on October 10 with the World Series ending as late as November 10.
As part of the plan, owners would guarantee a postseason players' pool of 60% of the gate of the first two first-round games plus $80 million for the remainder of the postseason, matching the 2019 pool.
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