As the year 2020 comes to a close, distribution of vaccines for COVID-19 have begun. The initial doses are going to health-care workers and high risk population, but as more doses become available, they will start going out to the general population. Eventually, it will be available for the general public, and teams will be able to get doses for their players and employees. The main question right now is how much longer it will be before they can get doses, and the timeline suggests it won’t be until after Spring Training begins.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that because of this timeline, owners and executives are pushing for a delay to the 2021 season, so their staff can be vaccinated before camp begins. In the report, two different MLB owners say that there’s no chance of the season beginning on time, and if it means delaying the season to get everyone protected, then that’s what needs to happen. In addition, it would be another reduced season, versus pushing back the whole schedule, because that would push the World Series back to November or even December. Teams are also looking at empty stadiums to start the season, and delaying means a better chance to play games with at least some fans in the stands.
On the other side, players want to play the full season. A reduced season would mean lost salaries, and after losing 67% of their salaries in 2020, they don’t want to do that again in 2021. Also, they played with protocols in 2020 and were successful, so they have proven that they can handle a full season. However, it’s also unknown if all players and staff feel the same way. Some players, such as Lorenzo Cain, chose to sit out the season for safety. If the season goes forward without a delay, that may mean some players and staff will also sit out part of the 2021 season.
This may also be a decision that isn’t left up to the teams, and local governments could end up making the decision for the teams. In California, the government put a ban on all contact sports for 3 weeks, and not even the major teams, such as the San Francisco 49ers, were able to get an exemption to the ban. If cases are still spiking in many areas, such as Arizona and Florida, they may stop baseball from conducting a Spring Training season.
With the planned start of camps just two months away, decisions need to be made soon so everyone can make plans for the upcoming season. Many questions still linger for the 2021 season, and players and teams are delaying decisions until the season is set. However, both sides would have to agree to any changes to the season, and after last season, neither side wants to give up anything. This could lead to another battie between the two sides, with the end of the current CBA also looming in the distance.
Fans already had to deal with a shortened 2020 season. Depending on what is decided, a shortened 2021 season may also happen. It’s another situation to watch as the next two months of the offseason continue.