We’re a little surprised this is considered news, as we’ve been reporting on the likelihood for weeks, but here goes: the MiLB season will likely be delayed due to a variety of factors, with spring training to be held in shifts and a final PDL not expected until February.
Flash back to November 3, 2020, when we reported that spring training would likely be held in shifts, with a tentative plan to have MLB and Triple-A players arriving in February, and remaining minor leaguers reporting in April, resulting in a later start to the 2021 MiLB season:
The possibility of two separate spring-training sessions cuts down on the number of players in camp in any given time. Right now the major leaguers report for duty in mid-February, along with select minor leagues and camp invitees. After the beginning of March minor leaguers report to camp, where they embark on their own training schedules and games. When everyone is in camp, it can make for a lot of players spending a lot of time in very close quarters, depending on the team arrangement. One-location camps like Camelback Ranch-Glendale or JetBlue Park force a lot of interactions between players when the camps are at capacity, but it’s not clear that teams with separate minor-league facilities fare any better: We know a Yankees farmhand was diagnosed with COVID-19 after training at the New York minor-league camp….
Minor leaguers, however, would not report to camps until the major leaguers break camp for the April 1 season start. Games could be played in front of fans at the spring-training ballparks. This wouldn’t be an extended spring as has been held in the past; this would be a second phase of spring training. It’s also done in service of a potential shift of the Minor League Baseball season opening to the beginning of May. Generally, no one is a huge fan of games starting in early April: the weather in most of the country is chilly and unpredictable, and no owner will shed a tear in losing those April games, especially if the season is extended past Labor Day.
Heck, we even headlined the story, “Expanded spring training could delay 2021 MiLB season opener.”
MLB has confirmed this possibility in a mail to MiLB owners. But availability of vaccines isn’t the only reason why the MiLB season will likely be delayed: another huge factor, which apparently AP doesn’t know about, has to do with the current schedule for the final negotiations of Player Development Licenses (PDLs) governing the agreement between MLB and MiLB teams. No one expects a final PDL until well into February, which means we’re well until March before we have a framework for a season.
MLB has told the chosen 120 MiLB teams that based on feedback to a summary, changes to the proposed PDL will be considered. Look for the full PDL in Jan, followed by 30-day review period. Delays could push 2021 MiLB season launch well into May. So much up in the air, though.— Ballpark Digest (@ballparkdigest) December 23, 2020
So yeah, no one is expecting the MiLB season will begin until May at the earliest. Hardly news.
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