If it feels like MLB owners are always coming here for an argument, that’s pretty much because they always are. While the comatose-snail-slow free agent and trade market can be partially traced to the usual, contemporary miserliness of the cabal of 30 (though most certainly not collusion, no sir), another percentage can be traced to the lack of set rules for next season. We’ve been over the fishiness of the DH question going unanswered so far, but the terms for playoff system, roster size and shape, among others, have people trying to hit targets in a spinning room in the dark.
Perhaps the big hanging matzo ball out there is that no one, still, has any idea when the season might start, or how long it will be, or whether or not there will be a percentage of fans, what that percentage would be, and when that might happen. So teams can’t seriously peg their upcoming revenue. And it doesn’t sound like we’re going to have clarity on that anytime soon, either.
It’s Bob Nightengale, so make sure you head to your nearest salt factory and dive in a pile to have the requisite grains when reading, but today he reported that owners are pushing to not start the season, or even spring training, until all players and staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19. As you might imagine, players have greeted this with at best a chortle, considering how last season was completed (more on this in a second). Also, there could be a long discussion about how many MLB players are anti-vaxxers, but we’ll save that kitten for when we run over it.
The players obviously want to play a full season of 162, so as to get paid for 162, while the owners want to shrink the number of unattended games to as close to zero as they can get it. But the logistics of waiting on a vaccine are something of a nightmare.
Off the top, it’s unlikely that vaccines will filter down to the tier of the population that includes baseball players and staff until April or May. As ghoulish as the whole industry is, even they aren’t likely to stoop to trying to cut the line for vaccines (we hope).
To not even start spring training until the middle of May would see yet another season that’s cut in half. And that’s being optimistic about when everyday people can get the vaccine.
Even if vaccines are widespread enough for the populace in April, that doesn’t mean that owners can just throw open the doors to parks across the land and warm up the bill-counters again. It’s unlikely we’ll be back at full force for gatherings of any kind until late summer or fall of 2021. The owners will argue that any amount of fans is better than none, which is true, but no vaccine didn’t prevent them from cramming whatever number of fans the state of Texas deemed acceptable for the NLCS and World Series into the park. It’s one of the many lies that spiral out of their mouths from this Nightengale USA Today story.
The delicious quote from an NL owner (do you think you can guess which one?) is rife with bullshit and hypocrisy to the point that we’ll probably spot him at the next public outing by his eyes being brown.
I don’t see a snowball’s chance in hell that spring training can start with protocols in place,’’ a National League owner told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue. “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.
“Does Arizona and Florida, with their cases spiking, really want teams with about 125 people in each organization coming to town without vaccines?’’
Said an American League owner who also requested anonymity: “I don’t see any way spring training starts in February. Zero chance of that. I don’t care if we play 140 games, 120 games or 80 games, we have to make sure everyone is safe to do this right.’’
Well, they just did have a shortened spring training and season without a vaccine, and just “safety protocols,” which of course weren’t exactly followed to a T, were they? How would Arizona and Florida feel? Let’s ask Florida after their Super Bowl and Wrestlemania takes place, when both will assuredly have crowds.
MLB just spent a few months telling us that if all the protocols were followed, everyone would be safe and the season could go on, which it did, and now it’s simply unworkable? Taking this stand puts it out there that last season was not safe, the players were in danger, and it shouldn’t have happened. The players did agree to it, so this kind of admission almost certainly isn’t grounds for a grievance or lawsuit because of that, but it certainly poisons the air.
The real aim is to start the season late, play less games in order to pay the players less, but do so in front of at least some fans to bring in more cash. Everything the owners tell you about safety or logistics comes with flaming trousers.