Spring training is just two months away, but MLB owners are already trying to lower the expectations of fans who want to see a full 162-game season.
Two anonymous MLB owners spoke to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, and said in no uncertain terms that they believe it’s impossible for spring training and the regular season to start on time, even with the COVID-19 protocols still in place.
Sources told Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown that MLB recently asked the union about delaying and shortening the season. The union declined after being told the owners wanted to pay prorated salaries.
‘Zero chance’ spring training starts in February
Despite the fact that MLB was able to play a shortened season and a longer-than-normal postseason during a pandemic, these two owners are extremely concerned with the safety of holding spring training and regular season games with COVID-19 still raging across the country.
“I don’t see any way spring training starts in February,” an anonymous American League owner told Nightengale. “Zero chance of that. I don’t care if we play 140 games, 120 games or 80 games, we have to make sure everyone is safe to do this right.’’
What does it mean to make sure “everyone is safe” and they “do this right” after a shortened season with numerous COVID-19 safety rules in place? An anonymous National League owner was able to clarify: it’s all about the vaccine.
"I don’t see a snowball’s chance in hell that spring training can start with protocols in place,’’ a National League owner told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue. “I think there will be significant pressure for players to get the vaccine first before they go to spring training, and if that has to be moved back to April and play 130 games, so be it.
“But to have 162 games, and start spring training at the normal time without players being vaccinated, that’s just crazy.
“Does Arizona and Florida, with their cases spiking, really want teams with about 125 people in each organization coming to town without vaccines?’’
This all sounds pretty dire, but the owners can’t move back the start of spring training and the regular season themselves. If they want to adjust those dates, they have to come to an agreement with the union. Considering how long it took to make progress then, both sides might want to start negotiating now.
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