As expected, the Major League Baseball Players Association rejected MLB’s proposal for a 154-game schedule with full pay and to begin the season a month later, giving a green light to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training Feb. 17.
The White Sox will open the regular season at the Los Angeles Angels and the Cubs will host the Pirates at Wrigley Field on April 1.
As usual, though, there is tension and mistrust between the two sides, who must iron out a new collective bargaining agreement when the current one expires Dec. 1.
But for now, following an abbreviated 60-game season in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic in which expanded playoffs and a universal designated hitter was in place, the game will go back to the way it was and there will be baseball, as scheduled.
Both sides released statements Monday night.
“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,’’ MLB said. “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 players union cited the relative success of getting through 60 games under extremely challenging conditions to support their desire to take on 162 games without delay.
“We do not make this decision lightly,’’ the union stated. “Players know first-hand the efforts that were required to complete the abbreviated 2020 season, and we appreciate that significant challenges lie ahead. We look forward to promptly finalizing enhanced health and safety protocols that will help players and clubs meet these challenges.’’
Experimental rules for seven-inning doubleheaders and starting extra innings with a runner on second base would have continued under the MLB proposal, as well as expansion of the playoffs from 10 teams to 14 and the DH implemented in the NL as well as the AL.
The MLB plan for full pay for 154 games if all 154 games were played also would have given commissioner Rob Manfred the right to stop spring training, the regular season or the postseason for pandemic-related reasons.
“Although player salaries would not be initially prorated to a 154-game regular season, MLB’s proposal offers no salary or service time protections in the event of further delays, interruptions, or cancellation of the season,’’ the union’s statement said. “The MLBPA Executive Board and Player leadership reviewed and discussed the owners’ proposal throughout the weekend and [Monday]. The clear-cut result of these deliberations is that players will not accept MLB’s proposal, will instead continue preparations for an on-time start to the 2021 season, and will accept MLB’s commitment to again direct its clubs to prepare for an on-time start.’’
“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,’’ the MLB statement read, “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.”