Citing research predicting a much lower rate of Maricopa County COVID-19 infections by mid-March, Cactus League city and tribal officials have asked for a month delay to the start of 2021 spring training.
The letter isn’t confrontational and notes that loccalmofficials have been working with MLB on implementing COVID-19 mitigation measures, including social distancing, reduced ballpark capacities and altered concessions. The letter comes at a time when MLB teams have reiterated the plan to begin spring training with games in late February running through the end of March, with several in the Cactus League releasing game times and setting forth season-ticket sales information. (We wrote about these plans in Spring Training Online this morning.)
Here’s the letter sent to Manfred:
As noted, MLB doesn’t have the power to unilaterally delay and possibly cut back on the 2021 season; that decision need to be worked out with players. But the fact that MLB has been very tentative about committing to specific 2021 dates indicates that everything is up for negotiation, ranging from the number of players in camp to a split schedule with MLB and AAA players in the first part of camp and AA/A MiLB players reporting after that. There’s still a lot to be determined about the 2021 MLB season, ranging from roster sizes to the use of the DH in the National League, so we might as well as a specific opening date and schedule to the mix.
UPDATE: Doesn’t sound like the players are too thrilled with the potential delay to the season, according to a statement issue by the union:
“While we, of course, share the goals of a safe Spring Training and regular season, MLB has repeatedly assured us that it has instructed its teams to be prepared for an on time start to Spring Training and the Regular Season, and we continue to devote all our efforts to making sure that that takes place as safely as possible.”