It’s on. The upcoming MLB season won’t be delayed as team owners had hoped. This is an example of what happens when you start to play games, trying to go back on agreements that had already been made. The MLB Players Association (MLBPA) has rejected attempts by team owners to push the start of the season back a few weeks, arguing that those pulling the teams’ strings from behind the curtains probably should have been more willing to step up and recognize players’ contributions.
Spring Training Coming In Like A Fast Ball
MLB team owners and the MLBPA discussed potential changes to the upcoming season over the past couple of weeks, but the union didn’t like what it heard. So, instead of spring training getting started on March 22 as the owners wanted, it will start on February 17, as was originally planned. In addition, the owners struck out when they tried to move Opening Day from April 1 to April 29. Baseball fans can get ready for the balls to start flying in just a couple of weeks.
The MLBPA issued a statement that explained how they reached their conclusion, and it shows some of the same issues team owners balked at last year. That statement reads, in part, “Under the proposal, the end of the season would be delayed one week, the regular season would be shortened to 154 games and all 30 teams would be required to play several doubleheaders. Players would also be required to accept previously rejected proposals that link expanded playoffs with expansion of the designated hitter. 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.”
MLB Players Not Convinced
Last year, many team owners tried to implement different strategies to combat COVID-19 that, in the end, seemed to represent their intent to have players take bigger losses from canceled games than they would receive. Even after the collective bargaining agreement was amended to counter the coronavirus pandemic and the delayed season, the owners tried to make changes, coming close to having the season called off by a players’ strike. Based on the wording of the MLBPA’s statement, the owners still haven’t learned their lesson.
The MLB season will now begin just ten days after Super Bowl LV finds a winner. Provided there aren’t any major hiccups caused by COVID-19, that means that the sports industry might be quickly returning to normal. There have been several changes forced upon MLB, the NHL, the NBA and the NFL over the past 12 months, but, as 2020 started to draw to a close, it appeared that things were calming down.
MLB Still Might Throw A Curve Ball
Based on team owners’ reactions to last year’s changes in the season, players shouldn’t expect a completely smooth transition now. MLB seems, at least on paper, to be ready to accept the MLBPA’s rejection of the delayed season, saying in its own statement, “The offer included starting the regular season on April 29 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.”
It added, “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.”