MLB proposes 154-game season with month delay
It’s no secret that MLB wants to push the season back by at least a month, largely in order to increase the chances of having larger crowds at more stadium, which of course would lead to more revenue. It’s not a bad idea on the surface, and from a non-revenue perspective it would also give the country an extra month to get more vaccines in more arms and hopefully get the COVID crisis in more control by the time players start traveling and all of that. Of course, things are never simple between the league and players, and this decision is no exception.
MLB is still trying though, with reports coming out on Sunday that they extended a proposal to the players that included, among other things, 154 games with the start of the season being pushed back a month and the end of the season being extended by a week. The proposal also included full pay for those 154 games — there’s been some confusion as to whether this means pro-rated pay for 154 games or 162 games worth of pay for 154 being played, but I think it’s the latter — as well as expanded playoffs and the universal DH, among other things.
The players are not going to accept this deal, and it’s unclear whether there will be a real counter or if the idea of pushing the season back will just be off the table. There’s a few reasons this deal doesn’t make sense for the players. For one thing, the expanded postseason is not a nonstarter for the players, but they’re also not going to give it away. They need a lot in return, and this is not a lot in return. They’d already previously rejected the idea for expanded playoffs in exchange for a universal DH, so that part won’t make a difference here. Then it all comes down to pay, and even if it’s full 162-game salaries for 154 games played, that’s not that great a deal. It is, in essence, a 5 percent pay raise while having fewer days off and playing more doubleheaders. That doesn’t seem like a major win to me.
Beyond that reasoning, the players are also worried that this move would only give the commissioner’s office more leeway to cancel games — and thus cut pay — or modify the schedule on his own. A union is never going to willingly give that power away to the commissioner. And then on top of all of this, the timing is just too late. I’m not sure how long they’ve had real talks about this, but they really should have hammered this out at least a month ago if they were serious about pushing the season back. Now, players are getting ready to report in just a couple weeks, with many having already taken care of housing in Florida and Arizona. They aren’t keen on blowing up those plans, especially for a deal like this.
The good news here is this is not the same kind of situation as last year where every rejected deal meant longer without baseball. The players rejecting this deal and not offering a counter simply means the season will start on time. There is a CBA in place, and MLB will have a hard time arguing they cannot play on time since they already played last season — including with fans in the stands late in the season — and all of the other leagues are playing as well. So, as of right now, we’re getting ready assuming the season will start on April 1, as scheduled.