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The Major League Baseball Players’ Association is considering a proposal from the MLB to delay the start of the 2021 season, and unless the league makes a counteroffer early next week, spring training will likely begin as scheduled in mid-February, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.
After months of disjointed talks, the parties found themselves in a situation similar to that of last year when the coronavirus pandemic ended the season: They couldn’t agree on the right track. The league’s proposal to move the start of spring training to late March and the start of the season to late April implies a schedule of 154 games that would pay players a full 162-game salary, according to sources.
The proposal affects the MLBPA on several fronts, actors and union sources told ESPN. With pitchers around 17. Around February, they are in no hurry to start spring training in time for the proposed start of spring on the 22nd. stop and start again, which some sources say was March 28. Early April is planned. In addition, the players believe that the wording of the proposal would give Commissioner Rob Manfred more power than he currently has to cancel games, which could reduce players’ salaries.
The League does not agree with this interpretation. Whereas Manfred, in accordance with the agreement of the 26th. March between the holidays after the pandemic began last year, he had the right to cancel games or close the sport – which he thought was possible during the initial outbreaks – but never did once the season started. According to League sources, the proposal is intended to protect MLB from a worsening situation in the country, whether it is a vaccine-resistant variant of COVID-19 or an unexpected increase in the number of cases.
According to some sources, this wording gives Manfred the power to act when state restrictions prevent more than five teams from playing at once, when freedom of movement is restricted, or when the integrity of opponents is undermined by players behind COWID-19. According to the sources, both parties reserve the right to take the matter to court. The disagreement over the scope of the language could be changed if the parties negotiated further.
The MLB’s desire to move the season is based, according to league sources, on the recommendation of health experts and the likelihood that it will result in a 2021 season with fewer cases of COVID-19 – particularly in Arizona, which currently has the highest rates in the country and where half the league has spring training. The number of cases in Arizona and Florida has fallen recently, and health officials predict it will fall even further by the time the proposal takes effect.
An agreement is possible, but the animosity and mistrust between the parties is so deep that sources doubt the likelihood of a deal. Something as simple as the timing of the offer is controversial. League officials were disappointed when the league rejected the possibility of a postponement in December if players were not paid for 162 games, which the league would have accepted in its proposal. In messages sent on Sunday by representatives of players in the ranks of the unions and obtained by ESPN, they described the offer so close to spring training as a tactic by the MLB.
The last deal negotiated by the two sides resulted in months of back and forth between the start of the 2020 season and the end of a 60-game season in which Manfred was unable to reach an agreement. Both sides accused each other of bad faith, and the failure of this negotiation is still being felt as baseball is determining what the 2021 season will look like.
The league’s board of directors, which consists of eight players and player representatives, was informed of the offer, which was reportedly presented on Friday, and was skeptical about how an agreement could be reached. Given that they are paid for 162 games by collective bargaining agreement, they believe that the terms of the proposal – which included an expansion of the postseason from 10 to 14 teams and the addition of a designated hitter in the National League – are insufficient to suspend the season.
If no agreement is reached, there are two options.
According to some sources, the first and most congenial thing would be for teams and players to show up at spring training sites and follow the program on the day of the report. The other option is for Manfred to invoke the collective bargaining clause for national emergencies and suspend the collegiate agreement – a possibility, but one that would ensure the parties would face each other in court – a prospect that, according to some sources, is not disputable by either party.
MLB’s desire to cancel the season has been clear for months. There are now almost twice as many cases of COVID-19 per day as there were on the 24th. July 2020, start of MLB’s 60-game season. The possibility of an outbreak affecting individual teams remains acute. The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals missed long stretches last year due to cancellations and had to insert double-headers into their schedules to get closer to a full list of games.
It is not only the fear of the outbreak of the disease, but also the desire of the owners to postpone the season. This will improve the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine and make it more likely that fans will travel to the stadiums and that local health authorities will allow more fans into the stadiums. In discussions with the league, the league claimed to have suffered a $1 billion loss last season, a figure that has not been confirmed. With no revenues within the state for the 2020 regular season, revenues have undoubtedly decreased.
MLB’s dissatisfaction with what it thought was a reasonable compromise was evident on Sunday. Talks with the union have been scattered, and at this stage it is probably too late to reach an agreement, the two players said. While players say they understand that a postponement could be pragmatic, it would be impractical to do so when some players are already in spring training cities – and all have to cancel facilities, which will likely cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars – to do so.
We’re ready to play, one player said. NFL game. NBA game. NHL game. Go to college. Why aren’t we playing?
The NBA shortened the season by 10 games in early November – about three weeks before the start of training camp and six weeks before the first games. The NHL has shortened its season by about a third. Both had shortened seasons that ended later than usual. The MLB season ended on time after an extended postseason, which the league is eager to bring back.
The league expressed skepticism, fearing that extending the playoffs would have a negative effect on the free-agent market, as teams in the 1980s would be more willing to play to win than in the 1990s. League and team officials disagree, arguing that extended playoffs – in this case, three sets of wild cards in each league – are better for the long-term health of the sport. In the proposal, the MLB guaranteed an $80.9 million pool for postseason players.
Of course, it’s necessary to get to that point, and the league believes it’s more convenient – and practical – to play the games scheduled to be paid in full. If no deal is reached, the extended preliminaries could run until 2022, with a multi-purpose DH, double plays in seven rounds and a runner starting from second base in the extra heats in the air.
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