Rob Manfred tells MLB teams to plan for full season, on-time spring training

MLB Opening Week
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The logistical plan surrounding the 2021 Major League Baseball season is still very much in the air, mostly because of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to grip the United States, killing an average of 3,000 people per day in its second wave. 

On Monday, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has told teams to prepare for a full 162-game season, which would begin on April 1.

This came hours after a source informed amNewYork Metro that an American League club was preparing for the 2021 season to start around Memorial Day, ensuring enough time is given for players, coaches, and staff to receive the COVID vaccine amid the unpredictable spike across the country.

That aligned with a report back in December by  Nightengale, who revealed the league and club owners wanted to push back the start of the season to ensure proper vaccination before spring training. For now, pitchers and catchers are expected to report to spring training around Feb. 16 with games beginning on Feb. 27. That would leave the league just over a month to get everyone vaccinated when the distribution of said vaccination has been inconsistent.

An MLB owner told amNewYork Metro at the time that the idea of pushing things back is a plan “makes the most sense.”

“Getting the players vaccinated would simplify the logistics of the season,” he said.

It would have offered as much time as possible to get a season of anywhere near 140 games together while providing some promise of getting fans in the stands. While MLB played out its 60-game regular season in 2020 with no fans in attendance, a limited number of spectators were allowed to view postseason events, most notably the World Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX. 

Fans at the ballpark — even if not at full capacity — offers more revenue for the league and its clubs, who lost a combined $3 billion last season playing in empty stadiums over the 60-game slate. 

According to Nightengale, however, the players’ union “vigorously fought,” the notion of pushing the season back. The league does not have the legal right to delay the start of the season without the approval from the MLBPA, which made it clear that it would not accept anything less than 100% pay in 2021.

Last season saw the players paid their full prorated salaries, but a 60-game season yielded just 37% of their normal annual paychecks.

The MLBPA did not answer amNewYork Metro’s request for comment by the time of this article’s publishing.