Now there is some wrangling on when spring training should start. COVID-19 is really spiking in Arizona, mostly thanks to political posturing over what should have been a public health issue. It's no secret that MLB owners want the season to begin later, because they understand that the game will continue to be played in empty ballparks early in the year, with games later on more likely to include fans as vaccination numbers go up. MLB is claiming safety is the motivating force behind starting the season a month late — and it certainly would make some sense to delay — but literally everyone knows that they'd like to delay the season for their own reasons, too. There's even reporting that MLB encouraged Cactus League officials to write a letter so they could use it as leverage to pressure the Players Association to concede to the delayed season.
So we're back to the posturing and non-negotiating that we saw last spring. Common sense would say that both sides have reasons for approving the DH in the National League, why don't they just agree to it and move on to the next item? But no, the owners want a concession to allow a rule change that they'd like to see, too.
It makes sense to push back spring training for a month. It would be a lot easier to go forward if players and support personnel could be vaccinated and infections were trending downward. The players don't want to give back salary for a second straight year. They have relatively short, finite careers in the sport and gave up a lot of their salary last year. There are some solutions available. The easiest would be to push back everything for a month, including the playoffs. Of course, MLB doesn't want to do that for a couple of reasons:
- TV partners for the playoffs are pushing for a normal time-frame for the postseason, with most of it taking place in October and finishing up as early as possible in November.
- Delaying the postseason a month to fit in a full schedule would mean playing postseason games in neutral warm weather sites. With the thought that there might be full or close to full stadiums by the fall, teams are unwilling to give up lucrative playoff games ticket sales.
What MLB doesn't have on it's side this time around is the fact set that justified cutting the season off last year. They can't claim the danger of COVID-19 infections spiking in the fall. Actually, more people will be vaccinated the later in the year the playoffs start, with a corresponding lower danger. So MLB owners' desire to delay the start of the season but still end it at the normal time to satisfy the demands of their tv partners while asking the players to take a second straight year of prorated pay is a lot tougher to defend. But it seems likely that they will continue to demand exactly that, and portray the players as unreasonable if they don't agree to it.