MLB, Players Union Forge Ahead With On-Time Start to ’21 Season

The union rejected a proposal for a 154-game season with full pay that would start in May

MLB baseball with a COVID mask
The MLB season is a go, even though health and safety protocols have not been set.
Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

After rejecting a proposal for a 154-game season with full pay that would start in May, the MLB players union is planning to “continue preparations for an on-time start to the 2021 season” even though details like health and safety protocols haven’t been finalized.

“That’s certainly created a little bit more of a challenge than you would normally have,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said in a video conference Friday, according to The New York Times. “Obviously the number of players, what protocols are or not going to be in place, how does that affect things, getting guys into camp and what are the quarantine rules — those are all things that we’re working through and being finalized. But I also feel like we’re very much in a position to be ready to roll right now. As late as yesterday, we’re told we’re on time still.”

As MLB has no more avenues to negotiate, the league and the union are now working on a full 162-game schedule with normal travel plans that will start April 1. As part of the schedule in the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires on December 1, pitchers, catchers and injured players will voluntarily report to spring training on February 17 with other players reporting on the 22nd. The mandatory reporting date for all players is the 27th of this month.

“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,” MLB said in a statement. “We were able to complete a 2020 season through Herculean efforts and sacrifices made by our players, club staff and MLB staff to protect one another. We will do so again, together, as we work towards playing another safe and entertaining season in 2021.”

Last year, the two sides argued for months over starting the season before finally going ahead with a 60-game schedule. Just before the season opener in July, MLB and the MLBPA reached a separate agreement to expand the playoffs to 16 teams.

Such an agreement hasn’t been made this year and the playoffs, for now, are back to normal. However, since an expanded postseason would mean increased TV revenue, expect the two sides to revisit the possibility of allowing more playoff teams again.

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