The Winter Meetings just won’t be the same this year – among so many other reasons – because they won’t feature the annual Scott Boras scrum. For us outsiders, the moment means a furious reporting of all his witticisms and zingers and nuggets about the owners, as well as his sales pitches for his players. Plus the pictures of a huddled mass of reporters trying to get close enough to hear, which would’ve this year been regarded as pure madness.
But Boras will speak at some point this week, no doubt, and he got a head start with a report from the LA Times, preemptively writing about what it will be like to be sans Boras. Therein, among other things, Boras discussed the financial state of the game (not as bad as the owners make it out to be), and what lies ahead.
Of most interest to us here, Boras doesn’t believe there’s a real chance that the 2021 season is shortened from the typical 162 games:
Boras had advocated for a 2020 schedule extended into December, a suggestion the league publicly dismissed over concerns the coronavirus would surge toward winter, as indeed it has, and television networks that wanted the World Series to remain in October. He dismisses suggestions that the 2021 schedule might be shortened because, he said, owners have promised their local television partners a full season.
“So you better believe we’re playing a full season,” he said.
To be sure, Boras was similarly aggressive in his comments last year when the pandemic was just kicking up, and it’s not hard to understand why: the more games that are played, the more salary his players get. It’s his job to advocate for more games. But his optimism back then was ultimately unfounded, and his desire to see the season pushed deep into the winter was impractical.
I think if you asked around the industry, you’d find very few who expect a full 162-game season in 2021. Yes, teams and their broadcast partners will want as many games as possible, but it remains likely that most MLB teams lose some money on games they play with no fans in attendance. And if attendance at most locales won’t be up to 30, 40, 50% capacity until May or later (and that’s assuming things go well), then you’re going to have many teams that would probably prefer that the season not start until May or later.
As things stand, I am expecting the owners and the players to start seriously negotiating the plan for the season in January, with Spring Training possibly pushed back a few weeks, and the start of the season ultimately pushed back a month (with the length of the season being something like 140 games). I don’t base that on inside information – no one has any right now! – but instead base it on just a sense of the landscape, a sense of how things played out last year when money was at the center of the discussion, and how vaccine projections look at the moment.
But, hey, you can mark down one agent as confident there will be a 162-game season.