Another clash between MLB, players on horizon as 2021 season could be delayed

REUTERS/Steve Nesius

More negotiations regarding the set-up of a Major League Baseball season seem to be on the horizon. For those who trudged through the talks that put together the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, that isn’t a good thing. 

Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reported on Tuesday morning that the MLB executives and owners want players to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before reporting to spring training ahead of the 2021 season, which was originally slated for April 1. 

Such a decision would delay the start of the season to May and could potentially shorten it to 140 games or fewer, allowing owners to pay players less after experiencing sizable losses — a combined $3 billion — in 2020 while pushing back the timeline for fans to get in ballparks. Obviously, getting consumers back in these venues would provide a surge of economic relief for teams.

It would also allow the league to create a normal schedule compared to the geographically-driven slate that was instituted over the summer. 

“Makes sense to me,” an MLB team owner told amNewYork Metro on Tuesday night. “Getting the players vaccinated would simplify the logistics of a season.”

The players’ union (MLBPA), however, wants the season to start on time, citing an ability to adapt to COVID protocols during the 60-game 2020 campaign to perform within the fluid situations of the pandemic. This would guarantee a full 162-game season and full pay following a year of prorated salaries in which players made just 33% of their originally-expected income.

Seeing the two sides on different pages doesn’t bode well for the fans considering how poor negotiations went over the summer just to salvage the 2020 season. 

Talks between the league and players’ union began in May as the pandemic canceled spring training and Opening Day, but the league and players’ union could not see eye-to-eye mostly because of economic parameters. 

MLB and the owners wanted players to take additional paycuts on top of their prorated salaries while the players wanted to be paid their normal dues for how many games were played. 

When talks began, there was a hope that the league could play anywhere between 82 and 114 games, but an inability to budge from either side saw talks meander into late-June, forcing the sides to settle for just 60 games — a small consolation after it appeared as though there might not be a season at all, according to league commissioner Rob Manfred

COVID-19 is currently spiking yet again across the country as the holidays approach. While the distribution of the vaccine has begun, the earliest time in which a majority of the country will be immunized is mid-summer, long after the proposed start of spring training, which is just two months away.