As recently as two days ago, in tandem with the reveal that Theo Epstein was stepping down as the team’s president, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said during a press conference that it’s still up in the air when the 2021 MLB season will begin. It also is up in the air, presumably, just how many games the season will be. We have been expecting that owners and players would be negotiating on that front, as confirmed by Rob Manfred and Tony Clark.
That said, a surprising report tonight from CBS:
Major League Baseball is aiming for an April 1, 2021 Opening Day and standard 162-game season, source tells me.
Organizations are also planning to have Minor League Spring Training start on April 1st with a May 1st Opening Day and 120-game season.
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) November 19, 2020
What we don’t yet know is whether this is MLB actually making these plans now, or whether it’s just a, “Well, yeah, right now we’re still planning on it, because we haven’t sat down and negotiated with the players yet – also, everything about the world is changing constantly …. ”
Aiming to open on April 1 and aiming to have 162 games are nice goals, but I really don’t know how anyone could expect that at the moment, given the state of the pandemic, the timeline for the vaccine, and the lack of fans in April (at least).
But the second part of Vietti’s report might actually be the most notable. While everyone knows that negotiations about the big league season are likely to take place, those internal organizational plans about Spring Training and the minor league season, well, you kinda DO have to know about that stuff sooner rather than later. And since one follows from the other, maybe the fact that teams are planning on a 120-game minor league season with their Spring Training starting on April 1 is a good sign about the whole thing?
Also, if you told me right now that teams could bank on 120-game minor league seasons next year, I would SOOOO jump on that. Given where things stood after last season, that’s pretty much a dream scenario. Notably, fan attendance is critical for minor league operations not to get crushed, so opening in May does square with the optimistic timeline of widely available vaccines by April.
I’m gonna wait to see more discussion/reporting on this front before I get too excited. I still believe actual negotiations are going to be necessary, so until we hear from the league and the players’ union, you can bet there will be coordinated leaks once again. For all we know, maybe this is one of them.