There are very few things you can consistently count on in sports, but there also is one thing you can schedule like clockwork. Major League Baseball owners and the MLB Player’s Association will always find something they can’t agree on. You’d think after 40-plus years of constant bickering they’d figure out how to work together a little more efficiently, but the level of distrust each side feels for the other makes that impossible.
Here’s the latest rift. Executives and owners would like to see the upcoming 2021 season shortened to 140 or fewer games and not start until May. Why you ask? Surely money has nothing to do with it, or the fact that they would save hundreds of millions of dollars by not paying players for a full season. Wait, with these two sides, it’s always about money, and the players want their full salary and are willing to play all 162 games to get it.
This issue clearly has the chance of driving a bigger wedge between the two sides and they already basically can’t stand each other. What seems to be driving management is its desire to delay the season until every player and staff member is vaccinated for COVID-19. The players felt they proved this past summer they can safely adapt to protocols put in place, and they want to start the season on schedule.
USA Today quoted an owner, saying “I don’t see a snowball’s chance in hell that spring training can start with protocols in place. 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.”
Here’s how the math breaks down: With every game on the schedule that is not played, players lose about $25 million. And remember, they are coming off a 2020 season where they only made one-third of their salaries.
Owners say they lost more than $3 billion due to the pandemic in the 2020 season alone. Players envision a perfect scenario in which everyone gets vaccinated and the season starts a month late, but the season is then lengthened so the World Series is played in late November or early December. The owners aren’t loving that idea.
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker did a great Captain Obvious impersonation, summing up the whole mess. “There’s a lot of stuff up in the air with the COVID situation. We’re just going to have to wait and see like everyone else.’’