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MLB confirms imminent launch of 2021 spring training, regular season

Major League BaseballAfter its proposal for a month delay to 2021 spring training and the regular season was rejected by the players association, MLB confirmed that the 2021 season would proceed as planned.

As you’ll recall, MLB proposed delaying spring training and the regular season by a month, with spring training launching on March 22 and the regular season beginning April 28 and ending Oct. 10, a week later than the current schedule. The current schedule has pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training around Feb. 16-17 and exhibition games beginning Feb. 27, with the regular season beginning April 1. We’d see expanded playoffs with 14 teams participating, seven-inning doubleheaders, a universal DH and a World Series running into the beginning of November.

Yesterday the Major League Baseball Players Association totally rejected the proposal, saying its members were looking forward to starting the season on time. That apparently ended public debate of the status of the 2021 season, as MLB issued the following statement:

“On the advice of medical experts, we proposed a one-month delay to the start of Spring Training and the regular season to better protect the health and safety of players and support staff. 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 currently face all sports.

“The offer included starting the regular season on April 29th and playing a 154-game schedule that would pay players in full as if playing 162 games. We also proposed two changes from the 2020 season that were overwhelmingly popular with our fans – for this season only, featuring a modified expanded Postseason (seven teams per League) and the universal designated hitter rule.

“This was a good deal that reflected the best interests of everyone involved in the sport by merely moving the calendar of the season back one month for health and safety reasons without impacting any rights either the players or the Clubs currently have under the Basic Agreement or Uniform Player’s Contract for pay and service time.

“In light of the MLBPA’s rejection of our proposal, and their refusal to counter our revised offer this afternoon, we are moving forward and instructing our Clubs to report for an on-time start to Spring Training and the Championship Season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols. Our 2020 season taught us that when the nation faces crisis, the national game is as important as ever, and there is nothing better than playing ball. We were able to complete a 2020 season through Herculean efforts and sacrifices made by our players, Club staff and MLB staff to protect one another. We will do so again, together, as we work towards playing another safe and entertaining season in 2021.”

So we are back to the original plan of players reporting Feb. 16-17, with spring training and the regular season launching on the original dates. MLB does not have the power to unilaterally impose a new 2021 season schedule.

There are plenty of accounts of the underlying dramas surrounding MLB and MLBPA negotiators; lots of talk from people not in the room where it happened. Still, it’s clear that all of this is merely a prelude to discussions regarding the next CBA–which will make for an interesting remainder of the 2021 season in professional baseball.

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