Roger Hornsby said it best.
“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
When spring finally arrives, will baseball arrive along with the fresh wave of allergies and inconsistent weather?
According to the Tampa Bay Rays Manager, Kevin Cash, Major League Baseball is giving indications that spring training and the presumably the regular season are on pace to start at their usual pre-pandemic times with the Rays staff planning to report to Port Charlotte in mid-February. Opening Day as of now, is still scheduled for April 1st with the Rays playing in Miami against the Marlins.
#Rays MGR Kevin Cash said MLB MGRs had call with commissioner's office Tuesday and that "from everything I’m hearing, they’re still shooting for spring training to start on time ... that message has been consistent. We’ll continue to prepare and play until we’re told otherwise."— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) December 16, 2020
However, nothing has been announced or made official and according to reporting from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the MLB Players Association and the Commissioner’s Office (i.e. the owners) are in a disagreement over when the season should actually start. The players are contending that if they stick with the same protocols as they did during the shortened 60 game season in 2020, they proved they can play a full schedule.
However the owners are wanting each player to be vaccinated before the game can return, which likely means that the season wouldn’t commence until May. One owner speaking in anonymity has gone as far to say that there is a ZERO PERCENT chance of spring training starting in February.
“I don’t see any way spring training starts in February. Zero chance of that. I don’t care if we play 140 games, 120 games or 80 games, we have to make sure everyone is safe to do this right.’’
- Anonymous American League team owner
Following the cancellation and postponement of the regular season in 2020, the MLBPA and owners went through very messy and sometimes public negotiations eventually leading to an agreement that had the players receive prorated salaries and a shortened 60 game season.
After a few hiccups early on, the game didn’t really see any coronavirus related issues; at least until Justin Turner tested positive during game six of the World Series and then went back out onto the field to celebrate the title with his teammates immediately following the game. There were even fans allowed in attendance during the National League Championship Series and the World Series.
But, during the regular season, baseball was played in empty stadiums and this caused teams across the league to hemorrhage money with The Athletic reporting that the league lost $3.1 Billion due to the pandemic. Thus, the owners want each player and coach vaccinated to ensure they won’t suffer any COVID outbreaks in 2021... and also I suppose for the benefit of everyone’s health, but also so they won’t fail to rake in $3.1 Billion again.
Meanwhile, the players of course want to play as many games as possible with them making just 33% of what their guaranteed salaries were prior to the season’s cancellation.
Alas the two sides remain in negotiations on when the season will actually start, but an agreement doesn’t appear to be in the near future. Will baseball start on time? Will Spring Training be delayed until April? Will it happen in Spring at all?
Wait and see.