As the MLB owners consider shortening another season because of the pandemic, and the players again push back, agent Scott Boras stressed the importance Tuesday of getting in a full 162-game schedule in 2021.
"The truth is that in 2020, we had a lot of questions, and certainly I was very disappointed we didn't play 100 games, at minimum, 120 in 2020 because we had the means to do it," Boras said Tuesday on a Zoom conference with reporters. "Taking advantage of October, starting earlier, all these things could have been done. And I think it was a large mistake of the game because we had a season that is not a customary Major League season.
"And so for the integrity of our game, we now know we can do it. We now know that we can play this game. And we can do it safely. And with the vaccine coming, even at a higher safety level. So the reality of it is it's not a question of whether we can do it, because we've already done it. That unknown is erased. So I don't know how you use anything other than we're going to support and advance the integrity of the game and provide a full season, knowing what we've learned in 2020."
After COVID-19 forced a shutdown last March, followed by months of bitter negotiations between the owners and Players Association, the two sides ultimately agreed on a 60-game schedule along with an expanded playoff format. Despite multiple positive tests on a number of teams -- some causing those clubs to pause their seasons -- the World Series was played to completion.
The scars from those contentious labor talks remain, however, as well as what the owners claim were historic financial losses for an industry that rakes in $10 billion annually. USA Today reported Tuesday that the owners want the 2021 season delayed until all of the players can be vaccinated, with a May start followed by 140 games, but reducing the number of games (along with the paycut that comes with it) requires the approval of the union, which the players are not willing to do.
"We’ve seen anonymous quotes attributed to club sources casting doubt on the start date and length of the season," the union’s chief negotiator Bruce Meyer said Tuesday in a statement to The Athletic. "To be clear, and as we’ve made clear to the league, players are planning on showing up for spring training on time for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the league’s previously issued schedule."
Boras also emphasized that players need a full season to restore their performance levels after the "irregularities" of the truncated schedule, especially for pitchers, whose workloads were dramatically reduced and could lead to future injuries. In addition, Boras sees more games, not fewer, as beneficial to everyone involved, stating that the Braves -- a team whose financial records are public -- still pulled in "millions of dollars" despite the lack of fans.
"We know that players playing baseball games makes money for major league teams," Boras said. "And the best we can do is to try to get players on the field and have a season with integrity."