MLB 2021 season on time as union stand ground


Major League Baseball season start 2021 update Image: Aecom

The 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) season will start on schedule – on April 1st, 2021, and will go in for the full 162 games. A decision to this effect was taken after the MLB Players’ Association put its foot down as regards the management bid to delay and abbreviate the upcoming season.

Major League Baseball (MLB) is an American professional baseball organization and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball: 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League.

The Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) is the collective bargaining representative for all current MLB players. All players, managers, coaches, and athletic trainers who hold or have held a signed contract with a Major League club are eligible for membership in the Association.

Major League Baseball sources stated that taking into consideration the COVID-19 clobber on in the United States and to encourage more in-person attendance, the MLB team owners had made a bid to push back the Opening Day to April 28th, trim eight games off each team’s schedule, and bring back into play the universal designated hitter and expanded playoffs employed during the curtailed, 60-game 2020 season.

But, the MLBPA turned down the proposal citing that it would lead to a series of unwanted consequences, including additional wear and tear on players from the sharply reduced number of off days and additional doubleheaders, and reduced pay and service time should there be further disruptions from the schedule due to the pandemic.

A statement sent out by the MLBPA stated, “Players would be also required to accept previously rejected proposals that link expanded playoffs with the expansion of the designated hitter. Although player salaries would not be initially prorated to a 154-game regular season, MLB’s proposal offers no salary or service protection in the event of further delays, interruptions, or cancellation of the season.”

The statement further added, “The MLBPA executive board and player leadership reviewed and discussed the owners’ proposal. The clear-cut result of these deliberations is that players will not accept MLB’s proposal, will instead continue preparations for an on-time start to the 2021 season, and will accept MLB’s commitment to again direct its clubs to prepare for an on-time start.”

Major League Baseball sources further added that as per the terms in the present collective bargaining agreement that runs through the 2021 season, the players are under no obligation to accept the management bid. A counteroffer was not presented by the MLBPA, and they are not required to as reopening the existing labor deal is a voluntary measure, and the current collective bargaining agreement terms will dictate the upcoming season.

The MLBPA continued, “We do not make this decision lightly. Players know firsthand the efforts that were required to complete the abbreviated 2020 season, and we appreciate that significant challenges lie ahead.”

The MLB is now preparing to go ahead with a normal start to the 2021 season, with Spring training all set to start later this month in Arizona and Florida in US. But the league is still sticking to its stance that the proposal would have been beneficial for players.

The MLB argued that, “This was a good deal that reflected the best interests of the sport by merely moving the calendar back one month for health and safety reasons without impacting any rights either the players or clubs currently have under the Basic Agreement.”

Apart from not boasting an expanded postseason or universal designated hitter again in 2021, elements MLB called “overwhelmingly popular with fans,” the upcoming season will also not come armed with several other rules modifications used last year including seven-inning doubleheader games and starting extra innings with a runner on second base.

Players are worried over the potential impacts of a permanently expanded postseason, featuring that a reduced bar to reach the playoffs could discourage teams from spending in free agency in an effort to improve.

MLB’s attempt to delay and trim the season stand in stark contrast from other major North American pro-leagues that have been able to complete seasons of normal or near-normal length, and the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) are now actively seeking to return to their normal calendars after the huge disruptions caused in 2020. The NHL and NBA are playing in indoor arenas and most of the fixtures are being held in the presence of restricted onlookers.

Strict safety and health protocols will be in place and the same will be developed by the union and the league for the 2021 season.

The league said in a statement, “Our 2020 season taught us that when the nation faces crisis, the national game is as important as ever, and there is nothing better than playing ball. We were able to complete a 2020 season through Herculean efforts and sacrifices made by our players, club staff, and MLB staff to protect one another. We will do so again.”

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