We eventually got a 2020 MLB season amid the coronavirus pandemic, at least for 60 games plus expanded playoffs. But before that, there were months of bitter negotiations and toxic feuding between the league and the players union.
Get ready for more of that during the winter, possibly. It’s only December, and the two sides already appear to fundamentally disagree on what the 2021 season should look like.
Some folks on the owners side want to delay the season until every player can be vaccinated for the virus, pushing Opening Day back to May and possibly reducing the schedule to 140 or fewer games, reported Bob Nightengale of USA Today on Tuesday. However, the MLBPA is firm in their expectation for a full 162-game season, or at least one in which they receive their full pay, reports Evan Drellich of The Athletic.
As usual, both sides have reasonable arguments.
- The vaccine has already begun its public release. It will take a while for it to make its way to everyone, but getting players and staffers their shots is at least a realistic goal that’s within sight, and one that has obvious merit in terms of safety.
- On the other hand, even if players agree to that demand, a slight delay of a few weeks wouldn’t necessarily preclude fitting in a full season. Nor would a slight abbreviation to 140 games necessarily preclude giving players their full salaries.
Perhaps this issue will be resolved without the extended drama we endured early in the summer. But even if it is, there are still other matters beyond just the length of the season.
We still don’t know for sure if there will be a designated hitter in the National League, nor whether they’ll try the expanded postseason again, nor what size active rosters will be, and more. For now the rules all go back to normal, like they were in 2019 and before (except for the 3-batter minimum rule, and at least the 26th roster spot, which are permanent), and in particular the universal DH and extra playoff round are currently unlikely for 2021. But nothing is out of the question yet.
Strap in, Athletics Nation. The A’s news itself will probably be slow, with the team looking unlikely to do much of anything, and definitely nothing exciting. Instead, the hottest part of this winter’s stove might end up being the next round of labor negotiations — which themselves might only be a mild preview of next winter, when the CBA expires and the two sides have to agree on a new deal.