MLB proposes delaying season by a month due to COVID-19, playing 154 games with full player pay

Major League Baseball has proposed to the players’ union a 154-game season that would start a month later than scheduled, be extended by a week and come with full pay if played in its entirety, sources said Sunday.

Delivered Friday, the proposal also includes plans for an expanded postseason and a universal designated hitter.

The MLB Players Association presented the proposal to its executive subcommittee and other players over the weekend. As of Sunday afternoon the union had not responded to the league, though it seemed unlikely to approve the plan. Near the end of the weekend, the union was advising players to prepare for spring training and the regular season to start on time. Opening day is scheduled for April 1.

The union has favored starting the season on time — players are scheduled to begin reporting to spring training sites in less than two weeks — and has rejected postseason expansion. The union believes a larger postseason de-emphasizes the regular season and therefore disincentivizes competition, particularly as it relates to player compensation. After a pandemic-shortened, 60-game 2020 season in which its players were paid a little more than one-third of their salaries, the union has refused subsequent requests — official and otherwise — to accept less than full salaries in 2021 no matter how the season is constituted.

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It is unclear, under the terms of the recent proposal, what players would be paid in the event issues related to the pandemic caused the 2021 season to be further shortened, suspended or canceled. Also, it is unknown who would have the authority to alter the season, or if the union would have a say.

MLB's proposal to the players union would delay the 2021 season by a month to try to better deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
MLB's proposal to the players union would delay the 2021 season by a month to try to better deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The league contends a delay to the start of the season could lessen the impact of the virus by a month, allow the league to get that much closer to vaccinating its players and personnel and, as a result, ensure more fans in more ballparks during spring training and the regular season.

The league first approached the union about delaying — and possibly shortening — the 2021 season nearly two months ago, when it became clear the pandemic that threatened last season would remain dangerous.

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