Union rejects MLB proposal to delay 2021 season, play 154 games

·3 min read
The players union is committed to starting spring training and the 2021 season on time.
The players union is committed to starting spring training and the 2021 season on time. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The MLB Players Association on Monday night rejected an MLB proposal to push back the start of the 2021 season. In a statement, the union noted that MLB’s proposal, while promising full pay if the schedule was completed, did not offer protections if the season were further delayed or interrupted.

The union did not offer a counter proposal.

The league on Friday proposed a 154-game season that would shift opening day back by a month and ensure full 162-game player pay if the schedule was completed. It was widely expected the union would reject that plan, preferring to move forward with the season’s normal schedule and not interested in handing the league an expanded postseason. The expanded postseason, long desired by the league, is viewed as a key bargaining chip in next offseason’s collective bargaining agreement talks.

MLB issued a statement Monday night in response to the union’s rejection.

“On the advice of medical experts, we proposed a one-month delay to the start of Spring Training and the regular season to better protect the health and safety of players and support staff. A delay of the season would allow for the level of COVID-19 infection rates to decrease and additional time for the distribution of vaccinations, as well as minimizing potential disruptions to the 2021 season that currently face all sports.

“The offer included starting the regular season on April 29th and playing a 154-game schedule that would pay players in full as if playing 162 games. We also proposed two changes from the 2020 season that were overwhelmingly popular with our fans – for this season only, featuring a modified expanded Postseason (seven teams per League) and the universal designated hitter rule.

“This was a good deal that reflected the best interests of everyone involved in the sport by merely moving the calendar of the season back one month for health and safety reasons without impacting any rights either the players or the Clubs currently have under the Basic Agreement or Uniform Player’s Contract for pay and service time.

“In light of the MLBPA’s rejection of our proposal, and their refusal to counter our revised offer this afternoon, we are moving forward and instructing our Clubs to report for an on-time start to Spring Training and the Championship Season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols. 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, together, as we work towards playing another safe and entertaining season in 2021.”

Earlier in January, local Arizona leaders and the Cactus League penned a letter asking for spring training to be delayed because of the COVID-19 situation in the area. But as the clock has ticked closer to report dates, the stalemate between MLB and the players has clearly focused on economics.

Teams and some very notable free agents have spent the offseason also unsure of whether the National League will again have the designated hitter — a 2020 change.

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