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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Major League Baseball, union at odds on whether start of 2021 season should be delayed

Major League Baseball executives and owners, wanting players to be vaccinated before arriving to spring training, would like the 2021 season to be delayed until May, even if it means shortening the season to 140 or fewer games.

The Major League Baseball Players Association, believing it proved a year ago that teams can safely adapt to protocols, wants the season to start on time, playing all 162 games with full pay.

And here we are, with just two months before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report for spring training, and no one has any idea what will happen.

COVID-19 cases are raging across the country this winter, but the vaccine is starting to be distributed, giving hope that by mid-summer, most everyone will have access to the immunization.

Yet, the issue that could further erode the trust between the two groups is whether owners take the stance that the season should be delayed until every player and staff member gets the vaccine.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 15, 2020 at 12:00 PM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: coronavirus, labor issues

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   1. JRVJ Posted: December 15, 2020 at 12:14 PM (#5994283)
This is the type of story that completely sets me off about both MLB and MLBPA.

Of course it's difficult to know if and when Spring Training should start, during this da*mn pandemic.

Of course both sides have to be nimble as to what they will have to do.

Yeah, playing deep into November is a pain for Northern teams, but it is what it is (having the WS in a fixed, warmer location is not a terrible option, BTW).

It's the job of MLB and MLBPA to solve these issues. Yes, they have constituencies (owners on one side, players on the other), but the fact that there is a pandemic is outside of the control of either side. The vaccination schedules are also out of the control of either party, as are local restrictions (should they happen) in Arizona and Florida.
   2. John Northey Posted: December 15, 2020 at 12:17 PM (#5994285)
Very predictable. Owners should offer a carrot of some kind - expanded rosters, higher ML minimum salary, something like that which would help many players but still let them cut the season down and probably reduce overall costs. Given playoffs should be safe now since the vaccines should be out fully by the fall, even stretching out the season a bit could be done. I'd say, go with a 28 man roster (60 more jobs for ML players) and expanded playoffs ala last year - both sides get something and a reduced schedule starting May 1st instead of April 1st thus increasing the odds of full stadiums on day one.
   3. jmurph Posted: December 15, 2020 at 12:24 PM (#5994289)
Owners want a delay because they want as many fans in seats as possible, yes? Which looks likely to be towards later spring/early summer based on the timelines I've seen for vaccines to normals. Which honestly seems like a totally fair stance to me. So why are owners pretending it's about vaccines for players? That's just transparently BS. I mean I think the union is a mess, too, but I'm just saying the negotiations might be more fruitful if the owners/league weren't so willing to lie, transparently, in the press.
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 15, 2020 at 12:59 PM (#5994298)
Which honestly seems like a totally fair stance to me. So why are owners pretending it's about vaccines for players?


I don't know how they can say this with a straight face considering they just played a 60 game season with no vaccine.
   5. bfan Posted: December 15, 2020 at 01:01 PM (#5994299)
so the union, which was so worried about covid 19 that they negotiated an opt out right for players not to play at all (which I am fine with), now says let's go with the protocols (which worked okay, but not great as to some teams, such as Miami and St. Louis), so we can play 162 games? It strikes me that the players are being a tad inconsistent here.

Will the union support a ban from play imposed by any team, for any player or coach who will not take the vaccine?
   6. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 15, 2020 at 01:01 PM (#5994300)
I don't know how they can say this with a straight face considering they just played a 60 game season with no vaccine.

Presumably they don't want to lose money two years in a row.
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 15, 2020 at 01:09 PM (#5994301)
Owners want a delay because they want as many fans in seats as possible, yes? Which looks likely to be towards later spring/early summer based on the timelines I've seen for vaccines to normals. Which honestly seems like a totally fair stance to me. So why are owners pretending it's about vaccines for players? That's just transparently BS.
"WE WANT MORE MONEY!!"

so the union, which was so worried about covid 19 that they negotiated an opt out right for players not to play at all (which I am fine with), now says let's go with the protocols (which worked okay, but not great as to some teams, such as Miami and St. Louis), so we can play 162 games? It strikes me that the players are being a tad inconsistent here.
"NO, WE WANT MORE MONEY!!"

Sad that no matter what rationale is offered to the public, it always, always boils down to this. Even a pandemic is nothing more than pretense these days.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 15, 2020 at 01:15 PM (#5994303)

so the union, which was so worried about covid 19 that they negotiated an opt out right for players not to play at all (which I am fine with), now says let's go with the protocols (which worked okay, but not great as to some teams, such as Miami and St. Louis), so we can play 162 games? It strikes me that the players are being a tad inconsistent here.


I think it is entirely consistent to say "I don't know how well protocols will work or how dangerous this virus is" back in May, and to say now "the protocols seemed to work okay, and things will likely be a lot safer this spring as more people get vaccinated"

Presumably they don't want to lose money two years in a row.


Of course. They should just be upfront about that, honestly I think most people are a tiny bit sympathetic about that, just don't give us this BS about any concern about player safety being the reason to delay things.
   9. jmurph Posted: December 15, 2020 at 01:27 PM (#5994308)
Presumably they don't want to lose money two years in a row.

Right so this is not engaging with the point. They don't lose money from a middle reliever testing positive for COVID in May, they lose money because states aren't letting fans in seats in May. So again, the (transparent) lying about players needing the vaccine is just bad form.

EDIT: Coke to RoyalsRetro
   10. jmurph Posted: December 15, 2020 at 01:28 PM (#5994309)
"NO, WE WANT MORE MONEY!!"

Sad that no matter what rationale is offered to the public, it always, always boils down to this. Even a pandemic is nothing more than pretense these days.

I don't really think it's unseemly for either side to want their money.
   11. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 15, 2020 at 01:50 PM (#5994316)
Right so this is not engaging with the point. They don't lose money from a middle reliever testing positive for COVID in May, they lose money because states aren't letting fans in seats in May. So again, the (transparent) lying about players needing the vaccine is just bad form.

Surely their private discussions with the Union are different from their public/leaked statements. I don't have a problem with them playing the safety card in public while focusing on the dollars in private negotiations.
   12. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: December 15, 2020 at 01:57 PM (#5994321)
I don't really think it's unseemly for either side to want their money.


The problem is PR people don't agree with you and I don't think they are wrong. While a lot of people understand this listen to sports radio or watch the various ESPN and Fox talking heads and they seem to think loyalty and all that BS actually matters.
   13. jmurph Posted: December 15, 2020 at 02:00 PM (#5994323)
I think loyalty matters, too! I just think it's fair for teams to want as many butts in seats as possible, and I think it's fair for players to want as many games as possible. I don't think either party is selfish for wanting those things, both stances are totally understandable to me.
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 15, 2020 at 02:02 PM (#5994324)
I don't really think it's unseemly for either side to want their money.
In general, no. But in a pandemic that is also (because of our terrible government) causing terrible economic harm to a lot of ordinary people (including fans), I do think there's a certain gaucheness.
   15. The Duke Posted: December 15, 2020 at 02:25 PM (#5994330)
This is about money which is well said by 7.

Putting that aside, there are a lot of logistical issues. All the northeasterners and midwestwrners are fleeing to Arizona and Florida so both locations are likely to have bad winters as the snowbirds on steroids show up. So, is it at all reasonable to expect spring training to start in the middle of this? Probably not. Ahh, but what about the vaccines?

Who knows. Are we likely to know by Feb/March whether the vaccine is getting out there in high percentages ? Not likely.

Who cares - play spring training in a bubble with no fans ! Well, now we are back to last years battle. The owners don’t want to play any games without fans
They are getting killed financially.

So, they will slow roll spring training and shoot for a Memorial Day start which feels like a 100 game season to me. Maybe 120, maybe 80. I’m guessing 100.
   16. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: December 15, 2020 at 02:29 PM (#5994331)
This is the type of story that completely sets me off about both MLB and MLBPA.

Bill James said it best: "They all wanted the money, and they all wanted it all."
   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 15, 2020 at 02:52 PM (#5994339)
Who cares - play spring training in a bubble with no fans ! Well, now we are back to last years battle. The owners don’t want to play any games without fans
They are getting killed financially.


FWIW, players aren't paid during the spring training season.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: December 15, 2020 at 04:09 PM (#5994352)
#5 ... in addition to what #8 said, recall that the MLBPA was always proposing to play more games than the owners. At pro-rated salaries of course (i.e. more money) but it's consistent for them to be proposing more games now. Who knows, they might even negotiate again for some sort of opt-out for players.
   19. JRVJ Posted: December 15, 2020 at 05:42 PM (#5994367)
18, MLBPA was proposing to play games deep into November.

MLB responded that the pandemic projections for November looked awful... and they were even worse than that.
   20. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: December 15, 2020 at 06:35 PM (#5994374)
[19] Heck, we barely avoided a nightmare situation as it was. Had Urias blown the save in game 6 there would have been big questions as to whether to postpone game 7 given that a player who tested positive played in game 6. Fortunately, the Dodgers closed it out and made it a moot point.
   21. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 15, 2020 at 06:57 PM (#5994379)
Who cares - play spring training in a bubble with no fans!
If Spring Training is pushed back to April, the other option is to allow spectators with proof of vaccination. Spring Training crowds skew old, and by then a considerable number of seniors should be vaccinated. Require masks, social distancing, and reduced capacity, too - a belt & suspenders approach that might be needed to get government approval. Might be beneficial to get some experience on a smaller scale before attempting to resume regular season games with spectators.
   22. Brian C Posted: December 15, 2020 at 07:38 PM (#5994390)
Regardless of motives, the players' side makes perfect sense here - just assume that the season will start as planned until that proves unfeasible. Despite the hyperventilating in TFA about there being "only two months!!" left, two months is kind of a long time under the circumstances. It actually would be silly, I think, to try and figure things out RIGHT THIS MINUTE given that we only have vague guesses about what conditions will be like two months from now. Why expend the effort to negotiate a million different contingencies that may not even come to pass, especially when there's tension between the two sides already?

What the 2020 season taught us more than anything, I feel, is that MLB is perfectly capable of ramping up very quickly even under extremely trying circumstances. No reason to think that the two sides can't wait a month (or even two!) and just see how things are.
   23. Hank Gillette Posted: December 16, 2020 at 03:00 AM (#5994428)
I would not be too upset if they moved MLB players, umpires, manager, coaches, and limited support staff up in priority to get vaccinated (after medical personnel and those most at risk, of course). What are we talking about, a thousand people or so? Even with the limited amount of vaccine that is expected in the next few months (20 million doses or so), that would be a tiny drop in the bucket.

Under the best of circumstances, it is going to be well into summer before the majority of Americans have a chance to be vaccinated. Assuming that the owners are willing to have games with limited live attendance, it would help the wait if I could watch baseball and know that the players are not putting themselves at risk just for my entertainment.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: December 16, 2020 at 06:33 AM (#5994430)
#18, I didn't say MLBPA was wise last year, I said that them pushing for more games now is consistent with them pushing for more games last year. #5 claimed the MLBPA's stance this year was inconsistent with last year.

If you want on opinion ... sure playing into Nov last year was a bad idea at the time and looks worse in hindsight and playing a full 162 this year seems optimistic although not yet impossible. I'll guess the owners will do much the same as in 2020 -- drag out the negotiations until it's nearly impossible to play more games than the owners want to play and I suspect they'll have a reasonable case for pushing things back at least a month.
   25. depletion Posted: December 16, 2020 at 07:38 AM (#5994432)
IMHO it’s a bad idea to plan for February or March baseball. The population of the country has not demonstrated the discipline necessary to defeat covid on its own, so we are depending on a very complete vaccine rollout. If we had a dictatorship or people who understood non-linear dynamics, I’d go for it. I live in a very liberal, very well educated town, and the people are clueless about mask wearing.
   26. JRVJ Posted: December 16, 2020 at 11:03 AM (#5994464)
24, being consistent with actions that were risky at the time and which have been proven to have wrong in hindsight would not be a course of action I would espouse.

At this time, one would hope MLBPA is INconsistent in its actions. The pandemic is still raging, it's killed over 300K people in the U.S. (and about 1.6MM worldwide), and it will keep on killing people during 2021.

   27. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 16, 2020 at 11:15 AM (#5994468)
Regardless of motives, the players' side makes perfect sense here
I don't think FanGraphs is hiring right now. ;)
   28. manchestermets Posted: December 16, 2020 at 03:27 PM (#5994523)
Regardless of the rights and wrongs, if the players are ready and willing to play, but the owners decline to arrange the games do the owners then have any grounds not to pay the players in full?
   29. Zach Posted: December 16, 2020 at 07:37 PM (#5994578)
Ugh, same dispute as last summer.

Owners don't want to pay the full rate for games without fans in the stands.

Players want to play as many games as possible, but insist on being paid the full rate.

Such a simple dispute, but such an ugly one, too.
   30. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 16, 2020 at 10:39 PM (#5994597)
Tim Brown: Owners informally asked union to delay season by a month, were denied

The union has been adamant that a full, 162-game season is not only achievable, but required under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement. When the league proposed the season be delayed, the union asked if players would be paid for a full season. The answer was no, that they would be paid on a pro rata basis.
   31. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 16, 2020 at 10:56 PM (#5994599)
Owners don't want to pay the full rate for games without fans in the stands.

Players want to play as many games as possible, but insist on being paid the full rate.


This one seems to have a somewhat obvious - if not entirely precise - middle ground. Owners don't particularly want to start the season before fans can be allowed in and players want to play as many games as possible. The solution is to have everybody ready to go the moment fans can be allowed in. So you play spring training in a bubble with no fans and hopefully you don't have to push Opening Day back too far if vaccinations have started putting a dent in infection rates by early-to-mid April. I think what the players most don't want is a situation where the owners say, "Well, we can't start playing in front of fans before April 15th. But then we'll need a month of spring training, so we can't start the regular season until May 15th." Screw that, start spring training without fans and get as close to 162 as possible.
   32. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: December 17, 2020 at 08:13 AM (#5994608)
The fact that baseball's CBA expires at the end of the 2021 season is also looming over all the discussions. Both sides are (rightfully) using the negotiations now in order to soften the ground for those negotiations. They would be idiots not to do that.

So remember, all this - as complex as it is - is not just about 2021, it is also about the next negotiation which is right around the corner.
   33. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: December 17, 2020 at 08:48 AM (#5994614)
One obvious problem here is that nobody knows when it will be safe to have significant numbers of fans going to games. As has been the case for about a year now, even the smartest people in the field acknowledge there are all kinds of things they are learning on a weekly/monthly basis about COVID-19. I mean, just this morning, those implementing the vaccinations "on the ground" discovered that each five-pack of vaccinations actually carries enough vaccine to provide a sixth vaccination, and this appears to have been confirmed as safe and consistently true. This is, basically, a 20% increase in the number of people who can be vaccinated, which is pretty amazing.

This was unknown a few days ago, and it will fundamentally impact the math of how many people can be vaccinated, how quickly.

The idea that a bunch of baseball players, representatives, owners, and labor lawyers can make billion-dollar decisions based on "Will it be safe on April 15th, or May 15th?" at this time is hopeless, and will just make it harder to reach a new contract agreement next year.

To me, they should agree to start the season basically on time (maybe a few weeks late, to maximize the number of games with fans), acknowledging the season will almost certainly start - for an indefinite period of time - without fans, or without a lot of fans. Then, as soon as they can get fans in safely, they do it. Near the end of the season, the sport figures out how much money was generated from the 2021 season, and adjust compensation accordingly. You err on the side of lower compensation early in the year, but by August you're going to know the 2021 number, pretty much.

This all, of course, requires some degree of trust between the parties - which does not currently exist. So I get that this is not going to happen.
   34. Biscuit_pants Posted: December 17, 2020 at 10:04 AM (#5994628)
This one seems to have a somewhat obvious - if not entirely precise - middle ground.
Double headers?

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