As you know, I have long been convinced that Major League Baseball might have to delay a start to Spring Training and the 2021 season because we are not yet out of the woods regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the fact that the Cubs sent preliminary information about seating at Sloan Park this year to season-ticket holders on Friday, this cleveland.com article about Indians spring preps provides a clue that delays might be in store:
The Indians made three players available on Zoom calls on Thursday and Friday. Newcomers Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez were introduced to the Cleveland media on Thursday and Triston McKenzie spoke Friday. All three said they have yet to be told when to report to camp.
Traditionally that date would have been embedded in their minds for months.
Now, things are enough in flux that certainly we might not have expected players to have a date etched in stone for “months,” given everything that’s happened.
But scheduled Spring Training openers are now fewer than five weeks away. Reporting dates are generally about 10 days before that, so we’re fewer than four weeks to said reporting dates. Players would generally have arranged accommodations in spring training sites by now, but how can they do that if they don’t have dates certain?
Beyond that, per the cleveland.com article by Paul Hoynes linked above:
MLB continues to debate how many players it can safely have in spring training facilities at the same time. Right now it sounds like only the 40-man roster and players targeted for Class AAA teams will train at the same time.
Executives trying to put together their teams are in a jam. Roster sizes for the regular season have yet to be determined. In the 60-game sprint last year, teams opened with 30 players and then cut down to 28. Teams could also carry a taxi squad of three to five players on road games.
Regarding the continuation of the DH in both leagues — it was used for the first time in the National League last season — the decision rests with negotiations between owners and the MLB Players Association. It may not be decided until right before the regular season. That won’t help roster-building plans in the NL.
None of that should be a surprise to you. All of this has been up in the air since the end of the 2020 season, and literally none of it has been decided for sure, although NL teams were told in December to prepare as if they wouldn’t have the universal DH.
Given the fact that people are beginning to be vaccinated, we might be seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel re: the pandemic, though it’s not a very bright light, yet. I continue to believe that MLB’s best option would be to postpone everything by about a month, have spring training in April and a season starting in May. They could either shorten the season by about 30 games (which comes with its own issues, not least of which is player compensation) or play 162 games either by squishing in a bunch of doubleheaders with seven-inning games or extending the season through October. The latter brings problems with TV partners, who want baseball’s postseason complete by the beginning of November.
Starting on time, with the likelihood that games will have to be postponed due to COVID-19, brings another issue — bad weather in many northern cities. Thus MLB would likely be adding weather postponements to COVID postponements, and making up games like that is problematic to begin with. You have seen what’s happened when teams that come to Wrigley Field only once a year do so in April and run into bad weather, resulting in games being played in horrific conditions (April 14, 2018 vs. the Braves is a perfect example). The schedule-makers did it to the Braves again this year — they’re currently scheduled at Wrigley April 16-18, and for good measure the Mets are at Wrigley right after that, April 20-22.
That’s bad scheduling regardless. Doing it during a pandemic is irresponsible.
Baseball should push things back a month. They might wind up having to do it for reasons beyond their control. They should take charge and do that now.
MLB should delay the 2021 season by a month...
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