With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to ravage the nation, Major League Baseball has grown concerned with it’s current set start time for the 2021 season. However, the league’s proposal to move the start date back a month was rejected by the league’s players.
Planning for an April 1 Opening Day, the league proposed to players that it be moved to April 28. With it, the start of spring training would be pushed back from Feb. 17 to March 22. The plan included shortening the season from 162 games to 154.
Believing that the pandemic would improve during the extra month, the MLB proposed this delay with safety in mind.
Even more changes are included in the proposal, headlined by an expanded playoff. In the offer, the playoff bracket would add four more teams to the field, increasing from 14 to 10. Furthermore, the proposal includes extending the designated hitter to the National League. These moves have been hotly debated for years and add to the contention of the deal.
Despite the players officially rejecting the deal, many in the media believe it is best to postpone the season. ESPN’s Buster Olney expressed why he believes it makes sense to go through with the season delay.
Olney mentions that playing later can be beneficial as many will be vaccinated by the fall. While very far in the future, this forward thinking by the MLB can help the league get through the season in this uncertain climate.
The Players’ Vote
Olney explains that the universal DH and playoff debates spring the major issues with this deal’s agreements.
Neither side was willing to give an inch causing the plan to fall through.
"We are moving forward and instructing out 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." pic.twitter.com/etbuS2viBa
— Jordan McPherson (@J_McPherson1126) February 2, 2021
In their statement, the MLB called the deal “overwhelmingly popular with our fans.” Referring to an expanded playoff, the league believes this will carry many benefits for them and fans. With more teams in the Postseason, more fans will be invested for longer driving more attention to baseball. However, this and the universal DH was a deal breaker for players.
Another major aspect of the proposal worried players and the MLB Players’ Association. Expanded powers for Commissioner Rob Manfred allow him to step in and interrupt the season if needed for COVID-19 safety.
What This Means and What’s Next
This rejection from the MLBPA just adds to the shattered relationship between the league and players association. Olney explains how the on-going turmoil has contributed to the lack of agreement between the two sides.
This now marks the second major deal that has failed to be agreed upon in the last eighth months.
Looking ahead, the league and players must quickly look to find a path towards agreement because the collective bargaining agreement expires in December. Many fear that failure to agree could lead to a strike.