The Players Association formally rejected MLB’s proposal for a delayed start and 154-game season Monday night, paving the way for spring training to begin as scheduled in roughly two weeks, followed by an April 1 Opening Day.
MLB made the pitch to the union Friday in the hope that waiting an additional month — with an April 29 opener — might help to better contain the coronavirus pandemic because of increased vaccinations and slowing infection rates nationwide. By doing so, MLB believed the delay could reduce the chances of the season being interrupted — or at least interrupted with less frequency — and potentially allow for fans in the stadiums.
The offer included paying players for a full 162-game season despite the eight fewer games, as well as having expanded playoffs and a universal designated hitter. But the union chose to stay the course under the existing guidelines of the current CBA, which ends in December.
"We do not make this decision lightly," the MLBPA said in a statement. "Players know firsthand the efforts that were required to complete the abbreviated 2020 season, and we appreciate that significant challenges lie ahead. We look forward to promptly finalizing enhanced health and safety protocols that will help players and clubs meet these challenges."
The union had a number of concerns. After taking a 63% pay cut in last year’s 60-game season, the players were particularly wary of agreeing to any plan that they felt could jeopardize their full salaries for 2021.
"Although player salaries would not be initially prorated to a 154-game regular season, MLB’s proposal offers no salary or service time protections in the event of further delays, interruptions, or cancellation of the season," the MLBPA said.
Many players are either working out in these spring training cities or have been ramping up for an on-time start, and suddenly throttling back these routines for pitchers could be problematic. Also, the union feared that a more compressed schedule might cause other issues, such as an uptick in doubleheaders.
"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," MLB said in a statement.
"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."