With just over two weeks until pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training, Major League Baseball has offered a proposal to the Major League Baseball Players Association to delay the start of spring training by one month, which would push the opening day of the regular season to April 28.
Yahoo Sports was the first to report the news with multiple outlets confirming the report.
The MLB proposal featured more than just a delayed start to the 2021 season. It would also reduce the number of games in the regular season to 154, but players would still receive salary based on 162 games, which has been an adamant demand from the MLBPA after players received pay for only 60 games in 2020.
The regular season would be compressed to 154 games in 166 days from 162 games over 186 days, which means fewer off days and the need for multiple doubleheaders, which would be two seven-inning games.
Multiple reports indicate that the proposal would give MLB commissioner Rob Manfred the authority to shut down the season at any time due to a severe COVID-19 outbreak among players, or if federal or state restrictions wouldn’t allow more than five teams at once to play.
The MLBPA has a general distrust of the owners and fear of their influence on Manfred. With the power to shut down baseball for a significant period, it would lead to fewer games and reduced salary for players.
USA Today reported that sources within the MLBPA said the union is expected to reject the offer and a formal announcement will be made Monday. The MLBPA could offer a counter proposal, but many players have already prepared for spring training to start on time with their offseason workouts and housing situation.
In a media session this weekend, Manfred said he hoped to have a resolution to the situation by Monday, so he could alert the owners in his weekly meeting.
The owners have a variety of reasons for wanting to delay the start of the season. The safety factors and risks of a regular spring training and full 162-game schedule with normal travel are palpable. Arizona and Florida, where spring training is held, have been ravaged by the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks.
But there is a financial aspect that is motivating the owners as well. By waiting an extra month, the hope is that more people will be vaccinated and would allow for more fans to attend games. The Cactus League sent a letter to MLB requesting that spring training be delayed.
The already tenuous relationship between the owners and the players union intensified last spring when the two sides struggled to reach an agreement to bring baseball back after being shut down for 3½ months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Besides the reduced schedule, MLB would expand the playoffs from 10 to 14 teams. A year ago, MLB had 16 teams with eight from each league — the top two teams in each division and two wild-card teams — in an effort to generate some of the lost revenue of a reduced regular season with no fans at times.
In the new postseason proposal, seven teams in each league would make the playoffs with a first-round bye awarded to the team with the best record in each league. MLB would hold a selection show in which the highest-seeded teams — based on win-loss percentage — would be able to select their first-round opponent for a best-of-three-games series. The three advancing teams would join the team with a bye for a best-of-five division series. The World Series would start around Nov. 10 based on network schedules and played at the teams’ respective home stadiums and not a neutral site.
The MLBPA has been against playoff expansion, believing it would have a negative impact on free agency by allowing too many teams to compete for a postseason spots with average rosters, reducing the need to spend money for top players.
The expanded playoffs would have a revenue share with players receiving 60 percent of the gate of the two first-round games and $80 million for the remainder of the postseason.
The proposal would also use some rule changes implemented last season, including a universal designated hitter for both leagues, seven-inning doubleheaders and a runner starting on second base at the start of every extra inning.