Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told teams Monday to expect spring training to begin on time in February and for a 162-game regular season to occur, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports.
While plans could change based on the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s nonetheless a major development right now that the league has informed its clubs that it intends to return to a full schedule this year. MLB could only play 60 regular-season games per team in 2020, and there has since been talk about another shortened campaign in 2021.
Less than a month ago, the league seemed as if it was preparing for a delayed spring training and a second consecutive shortened season, though that idea did not go over well with the MLBPA. The union, led by senior director of collective bargaining and legal Bruce Meyer, quickly fired back, saying that “players are planning on showing up for spring training on time for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the league’s previously issued schedule.”
While the players accepted a truncated season with prorated pay last year, they don’t seem willing to go that route yet again. Plus, as Nightengale notes, the league does not have the right to unilaterally push back the start of the upcoming season. That could help set the stage to a return to a full campaign, though it’s unknown whether fans will be allowed back in the stands this year.
Of course, if MLB does revert to 162 games with full salaries for players, it could lessen tensions between the league and the union as they try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one expires in December. The two sides have been at loggerheads over multiple issues in the past couple of years, and if MLB would have fought for another season of fewer than 162 games, it likely would have made their relationship worse. Still, the league and its players do have other matters to hash out soon, Nightengale writes, with health and safety protocols, the universal DH and expanded playoffs among them.