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MLB has told managers to prepare for ‘on-time’ Spring Training

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The plot thickens.

Al Yellon

In the continuing saga regarding whether we’ll have a “normal” 162-game season in 2021, I posted this article Wednesday that contained this quote from an Evan Drellich article in The Athletic:

Major League Baseball has asked the Players Association if it would be open to a shortened season in 2021, particularly one starting a month late, sources said. The union’s position has remained unchanged from what executive director Tony Clark outlined at the start of the offseason: The players are planning for a 162-game season and plan to show up to spring training on time.

In a USA Today story Tuesday, team owners were quoted as skeptical that a full-length calendar could be played.

This, too, is my position: I believe we’ll have another shortened season in 2021.

In the interest of fairness and presenting all the information now available, this Associated Press story says MLB has told managers to prepare for a normal mid-February start to Spring Training:

Big league managers say Major League Baseball instructed them to prepare for spring training to start on time in mid-February despite uncertainty around the coronavirus.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash said Wednesday that Commissioner Rob Manfred had a meeting with managers Tuesday and expressed optimism about opening spring camps as scheduled.

“That message has been fairly consistent,” Cash said. “We’ll continue to plan and prepare until if we are told otherwise.”

This makes sense for a number of reasons. Sure, Spring Training could start on time as noted. Thus teams and players should be ready, especially pitchers, who could take quite a bit of time to ramp up after not pitching very much at all in 2020. Kyle Hendricks, who led the Cubs in innings in the pandemic-shortened season with 81⅓, threw a total of 101⅓ innings this year between Spring Training, the season and his one postseason start. That’s far fewer than a normal season.

You’ll also note that the AP article said Manfred “expressed optimism” about starting Spring Training on time. That’s somewhat less than a definitive statement.

Also in the AP article, a couple of other managers weighed in:

“The pitchers need to get on a pretty structured throwing program to be ready for the first day of spring training,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Even though we’ll have six weeks to get ready for the first regular season game, there’s a build up prior to spring training. It’s important to pitchers.”

“At the end of the day, we have to do the right thing, and it’s always been about the health and safety, well-being of players and fans and everybody included here as we deal with the issues surrounding the pandemic,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “So right now we’re going as scheduled, with planning on playing a 162-game season, but you have to be adaptable. That’s one thing I’ve learned about 2020 and we know it’s going to play into 2021 a little bit as well.”

That’s the key to this — “planning.” “Planning” doesn’t mean we’ll actually have a 162-game season; it means to be ready for one, and adjust if needed. You might recall that during baseball’s shutdown last spring, there were rumors regarding a “Summer Camp” that would begin around June 10 and a shortened 82-game season to begin on the 4th of July weekend. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

I continue to believe that due to the pandemic, baseball in 2021 will still be shortened somewhat from a “normal” 162-game season and Spring Training won’t begin in February.

As always, we await developments.