MLB, union at odds over 2021 season start date

Owners want players to be vaccinated before reporting to spring training, would like the 2021 season to be delayed until May. The MLBPA wants the season to start on time, playing all 162 games with full pay.

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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball executives and owners, wanting players to be vaccinated before reporting to spring training, would like the 2021 season to be delayed until May, even if it means shortening the season to 140 or fewer games.

The Major League Baseball Players Association, believing it proved a year ago that teams can safely adapt to protocols, wants the season to start on time, playing all 162 games with full pay.

And here we are, with just two months before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report for spring training, and no one has any idea what will happen.

COVID-19 cases are raging across the country this winter, but the vaccine is starting to be distributed, giving hope that by mid-summer, most everyone will have access to the immunization.

“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. “I think there will be significant pressure for players to get the vaccine first before they go to spring training, and 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.”

Yet, with every day lost on the schedule, players will lose about $25 million in salaries. A year ago, in a 60-game season that started July 23, they were paid just 33% of their salaries. The union doesn’t have the appetite for another pay cut, saying it proved last year they can abide by the safety protocols.

The ideal scenario, several players say, would be to delay the season for everyone to be vaccinated, but to extend it a month where a full season can be played with everyone still receiving their full salary. Yet, owners call it unrealistic to play a World Series in late November or December, and that it would still result in massive revenue losses for teams with restricted or no fans.

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