For MLB, the New York Yankees, and all the other baseball teams from coast to coast, the 2021 baseball season holds as many questions as they had as they negotiated the 2020 season. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association took many lessons from their bubble experiment at Disney World this summer. Still, the most important was a humbling admission: There is no perfect solution to the coronavirus pandemic for an American professional sports league.
They may have learned much, but one thing that will not continue is games in the “bubble.” The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to start their 2021 season with no bubble. The MLB learned a lot, too; not the least was that by holding the 2020 baseball postseason entirely in the bubble, they prevented an outbreak of the coronavirus and completed the season on time.
The 2020-21 season begins today, December 22, 2020, and runs through March 4, 2021! After leaving the NBA’s “bubble” at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, teams likely anticipated a bit of a layoff between seasons. Early reports indicated the 2020-21 campaign wouldn’t begin before mid-January at the earliest and March at the latest. Due to financial considerations, that start date has been bumped up to today. The first game will be tonight on TNT featuring the Golden State Warriors vs. the New York Nets. There will be no bubble, but there will also be no fans in the stands at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
However, for other games in some parts of the country, a limited number of fans will be allowed in the arenas according to state and city regulations. The NBA and NBAPA have come up with strict health protocols to conduct a safe season. However, the two governing bodies will not make taking the coronavirus vaccine a demand.
Now the question is, will MLB follow the NBA’s lead? With the start of spring training, no decisions have been announced for the 2021 baseball season. The MLB owners and the MLBPA (player union) will have to come together to iron out all these details. After contentious negotiations last year, you can expect the same and maybe even greater conflicts to getting the season going. The owners have already requested a shorter season, one that could lop off the first month of the season, shortening it to as few as 130-135 games. MLBPA director Tony Clark immediately shot that down.
Clark made it clear that the players union is sticking to the CBA that calls for a 162 game season at full pay. The owners feel with so much unknown that it will be difficult to complete a 162 game season after just playing 60 games in 2020. Clark and Meyers reiterated that:
“We’ve seen anonymous quotes attributed to club sources casting doubt on the start date and length of the season, “Bruce Meyer, the MLBPA’s senior director of collective bargaining and legal, said in a statement on Tuesday. “To be clear and ass we’ve made clear to the league, players are planning on showing up on time for spring training and for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the leagues previously issued schedule.”
So, already disagreements are arising on how long the season will be. But there are a host of other issues to be ironed out. Not the least of which is if the universal DH will be continued, if the man on second base after nine innings, if the three batter rule, and how long the season will be. In recent years the MLB and the MLBPA have had some pretty poor relations. With all the issues to be solved before starting the 2021 baseball season, look for some sparks to fly.