It was somewhat of a miracle that Major League Baseball was able to complete the 2020 season, albeit an abbreviated 60-game schedule with no fans in the seats. Now there are discussions between MLB owners and players over the length of the 2021 season. It has been reported that the league wants players to be vaccinated before spring training begins, which means the spring training would begin later than usual.
Since everything would be pushed back, the start of the MLB season wouldn’t be until May with a regular season of 140 games. While that is just 22 games less than a normal full season, the Major League Baseball Players Association is against this and largely due to the fact that salaries were prorated last season, and anything less than a full schedule means more loss of salary. Despite the players objections, owners clearly don’t think spring training can begin on time with all Covid-19 protocols in place. This is because of the pure time it will take to get everyone vaccinated. However, should players be forced to vaccinate? These vaccines are still early in their administration phase and the extent and severity of side effects are not yet well known.
Another issue is the supply of the vaccines will be limited since only high-priority people are on the list to receive the first doses. If the league enforces a policy that everyone must be vaccinated before spring training begins, then who knows when the season will begin and even a 140-game schedule would be stretching the limits. Beyond the pandemic protocols, there are other issues to settle, such as whether or not the designated hitter will remain in the National League. The players are clear in their stance that they plan to show up for spring training on time and play a full 162-game schedule.
With so much to do and the clock ticking, it doesn’t appear the MLB season will begin on time. However, it’s better to take a little extra time. Be safe and lose a mere 20 games off the schedule than to rush to get started on time. That could cause more trouble during the season, forcing rescheduling games and putting increased health risk on everyone involved.