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A few more clues about 2021 MLB spring training and the regular season

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Will baseball start on time? Maybe.

Al Yellon

In recent days and weeks, I have expressed skepticism as to whether MLB’s 2021 regular season and/or spring training will begin on time.

This article at Sportico by Barry M. Bloom indicates that the MLB Players Association, at least, expects Spring Training to begin as scheduled:

“As we’ve made clear to the league on multiple occasions, we expect spring training and the regular season to start on time and as scheduled, consistent with our CBA,” the Players Association said in a statement provided to Sportico. “The Commissioner’s office has assured us that they have instructed the Clubs to prepare for an on time start.”

Bloom says that February 16 (or thereabouts, it usually varies a day or two for some teams) will be the date pitchers and catchers will officially report to camps in Arizona and Florida. The Cubs are currently scheduled to open the Cactus League season against the Dodgers Saturday, February 27 at Sloan Park in Mesa.

The article goes on to note that the Arizona Coyotes NHL team hopes to have some fans in attendance at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, but no specific plans have been made, and in terms of what that means for MLB:

MLB is reluctant to play another season without fans, but the major markets of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington may be problematic until vaccinations and instant testing are widespread.

Will there be any fans at spring games in Arizona if they are played as scheduled? Based on this comment posted by BCB reader Eisman57 Thursday, possibly not at Sloan Park:

... they’re expecting “no or very limited fans in attendance”

That might also be the case in MLB parks. The Cubs have made no public announcement about fans in Wrigley Field this year, nor has there been a date set for public sale of single game tickets, but this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune by Kevin Acee indicates the Padres are likely going to limit attendance — if any — to season-ticket holders:

“The only guarantee to see the Padres play is to become a season ticket member,” said Erik Greupner, Padres president of business operations. “… There may be tickets available if you’re not a season ticket member. But there is a lot of demand for this team.”

While it is certainly in the best interest of the franchise to sound such an alarm, simple math regarding diminished inventory lends credence to Greupner’s assertion.

Current California COVID restrictions specify that even sports venues located in the least-restrictive tier would have to limit capacity to 25 percent. That would mean fewer than 11,000 fans would be allowed inside Petco Park while the state is under the tier system.

The Padres say they already have sold the equivalent of 11,000 full-season ticket plans.

The article indicates that number could increase as the season progresses, as more people get COVID-19 vaccinations. However, there’s this caveat:

But most MLB people anticipate there will be no fans in the stands early in the season, although that’s somewhat dependent on when games begin.

So will MLB start on time? The Cubs are scheduled to begin the 2021 season Thursday, April 1 against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

Will that happen? As always, we await developments.