Apropos of this week’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout and the anticipated timeline for widely available vaccinations and herd immunity, there’s a new report from USA Today about the state of talks between the owners and players about the timeline for the 2021 season.
Like I said this morning, the sides need to figure out pretty darn soon whether they’re going to delay the start of the 2021 season, as players will soon head to spring sites to begin training before Spring Training:
MLB executives and owners want players to be vaccinated before arriving to spring training and would like the 2021 season to be delayed, even if it means shortening the season.
The players have different ideas.
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) December 15, 2020
The tweet teaser there is framed in the most charitable light to the owners, but I think we can all be adults here for a moment. While the league would no doubt want its players and personnel vaccinated, and while it’s best if that happens only after the most at-need individuals have a chance to get the vaccine, delaying the start of the season is more about fans and attendance than about players and personnel. The later the season starts, the more likely you can have full attendance for the bulk of the season.
Conversely, and putting a finer point on it: the more games you play before fans have been vaccinated, the more games you’re playing without attendance revenues. Those games cost the league more. So why wouldn’t they want to chop them off?
At that point, it’s just last year all over again: a negotiation about the length of the season. We already know the players won’t take a pay-cut from full prorated pay. The sides did that dance last year for months and it’s just a non-starter. So negotiate about a start date, a length of season, the DH, and expanded postseason. Those are all the money-connected elements, so get the eff on it, and resolve things before you find yourselves up against another ugly public wall like last summer.
Anyway, you can read the USA Today report for more, but I think you’ll find you already recognize all of it from this past summer. All you really need to know is that, yes, there are very legitimate reasons to push the start off by a little bit to allow for vaccinations for players, personnel, and fans, and there are also significant financial reasons for the players to want a full slate of 162 games, whenever those games occur.
You’ll just have to hope the sides have learned a lesson from last year, and can soon come to an agreement that maybe pushes back the start by a month, while adding some doubleheaders through the season and pushing back the ending of the season a couple weeks. Then you get in, say, 150 games, with far more of them allowing fans than if you started on April 1. The owners also get their expanded postseason, the players get the DH, and everyone sings about butterflies and rainbows until the bigger CBA negotiations kick up to shut things down again.
Oh, also? The sooner you get this shit hashed out, the sooner teams can finalize their baseball budgets and get on with the offseason …