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Major League Baseball Players Association rejects MLB proposal to delay 2021 season


Major League Baseball players on Monday rejected a proposal to delay both the start of spring training and the regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning both will start on time.

MLB proposed to the players’ association on Friday that the start of spring training be pushed back from Feb. 17 to March 22, that Opening Day be delayed from April 1 to April 29 and that each team’s schedule be cut from 162 games to 154. Its belief was that by doing so, the coronavirus situation would improve during the monthlong delay.

But in a statement, the union said its executive board and player leadership reviewed the proposal over the weekend and Monday and ultimately decided to reject it.

“The clear-cut result of these deliberations is that players will not accept MLB’s proposal, will instead continue preparations for an on-time start to the 2021 season, and will accept MLB’s commitment to again direct its clubs to prepare for an on-time start,” it said.

“We do not make this decision lightly. Players know first-hand 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 did not make a counteroffer.

In a statement later Monday night, MLB said it is instructing its teams to report on time “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,” it said. “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.”

Under MLB’s proposal, each team would be allowed to schedule up to 12 split doubleheaders. Experimental rules for seven-inning doubleheaders and beginning extra innings with a runner on second base would continue for a second season.

In addition, MLB carried over what it called two changes “overwhelmingly popular with our fans” — expansion of the playoffs from 10 teams to 14 and extending the designated hitter to the National League for the second straight season, a plan the union rejected Jan. 6.

Sources told ESPN that the union is generally opposed to expanded playoffs partly because it believes it would disincentivize teams from spending if it’s easier to get in and partly because it doesn’t want to set a precedent by consenting to it two years in a row when it’s one of the players’ biggest bargaining chips heading into a new collective bargaining agreement.

In addition, players believe MLB’s offer came too late; they are opposed to shutting down when they were ramping up for an already-scheduled mid-February start to spring training (especially starting pitchers); and they were concerned about compensation if games were postponed or the season was suspended, instead wanting a guarantee of 162-game pay regardless.

Information from ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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