All the way back in July of 2020, before the abbreviated season recorded the first pitch baseball began the process of wishful thinking for 2021 by putting out a fully formed schedule complete with 162 games and an April 1st start date.
There weren’t too many people who wanted to openly question the reality of that happening at the time, most of us were pretty sure the holidays would be normal, or everything would get right after the election, or vaccine’s would be out and widely distributed by then.
As we sit here today on January 10th in the brand new year of 2021 it’s becoming more and more apparent we might be in trouble on just about all our hopes for a normal baseball season. I mean, the Steelers will be playing their first playoff game tonight against their oldest rival in an empty stadium on the North Shore. Normalcy is still something in the distance.
Today, let’s talk about some of the biggest questions facing MLB, where they sit and what the hell they’re waiting on.
Are We Starting April 1st?
Ask any expert, read anything you like, the answer will be “We’re Supposed To”. Some teams are preparing for the eventuality of a delay to the start, others are actually preparing to send Pitchers and Catchers earlier than normal to get them into a pseudo bubble.
Ha, bubble. People tend to forget that getting players to essentially lock themselves down for two months had to be collectively bargained, and there is no language that affords it just carrying over to 2021. No, if MLB wants players to again engage in the unnatural they’ll have to bargain it again. You’ll find this necessity as a common theme for many of these questions.
So here’s the answer as of now. Yes? And keep in mind MLB can’t just unilaterally say they want to start on May 15th with a 130 game schedule without first getting the players to agree. The fact they haven’t publicly started to have those talks should tell you they don’t want to at the very least admit it’s a necessary conversation at this point but they can’t afford to have 2 months of back and forth sniping again.
Did They Finally Say No DH?
Well, the default is no, there is no DH in the National League. To change it would need collectively bargained, and again the league and players have not made the decision to talk about it publicly.
The problem with the DH is the owners see this as something the players want and would easily accept, as such they see it as something they don’t want to give without making the players pay for.
See, when you get this close to a CBA negotiation you get to the point where the sides start thinking of everything through that lens.
I’m fine with no DH for another year, and I understand the hang-up of collectively bargaining. What’s inexcusable though is the fact that MLB does have the power to simply say it’s over, no DH this year. You may not like that answer, but it’d be an answer. Certainty is of paramount importance to most team executives and I can’t imagine the league springing a position that important on them weeks before a season.
That said, should the season be delayed, they’ll have no choice but to go to the negotiation table, and much like two hours deep into a bar trip with the boys, once you break the seal you’ll be in the bathroom all night.
Why Didn’t MLB Secure Doses of Vaccine?
Nobody knows for sure. The NHL did secure privately enough doses of the vaccine for every player and staffer in the league and many have asked why MLB didn’t do the same.
Part of the answer is probably the fact that there are a lot more people who they’d need to cover and again, the owners are pretty close to not being able to fart in their living room without asking the players union first. No doubt some of these billionaires would feel compelled to ask the millionaires to partially pay for the vaccines, and there is also the very real optics of it being wrong in general for typically healthy people to take doses away from those who really need it so they can play a game.
Boiling Under the Surface
Ever present is the upcoming CBA negotiation and whether you believe it can happen or not a salary cap is very much so on the table.
That doesn’t make it likely, but teams aren’t just avoiding the signing of free agents because they lost money in 2020. It’s the worst kept secret in sports that at the very least owners always want to control costs in all leagues.
A salary cap (and this can be proven) brings more money to players because it forces all member franchises to spend up to a certain level. The gap between a ceiling and floor tends to be no more than 20 million and based solely on the few people with the balls to write about what an MLB cap could look like proposed numbers could be a range of 150-170 million with the requisite true revenue sharing to make it possible. Now if every team has to spend up to that 150 number rather than operating with a 35-50 million dollar payroll, well, you do the math how much more money that sends the player’s way.
There is room here to get this job done, but it again certainly doesn’t enter the category of likely.
Whether it happens or not, it will be discussed and this off season is laying the groundwork.
And I know this is a Pirates site but I don’t care!