Major League Commissioner Rob Manfred has publicly stated that Baseball will start Spring Training on time and season. It has sparked a debate among many fans. Some fans point to the abbreviated season with only 60 games last year (For most clubs). Fans wonder if it is wise to try to push 162 games without even more increased rosters. They cite injury as their concern, and they worry that players could get hurt by trying to go a full season this year. There is some question starting on time as pushing too early, that the pandemic is still too active. They question baseball without fans AGAIN! It is a good question that is posed, though. Why, when you lost money without fans last year, you want to do that again? Who would benefit?
What does the situation look like?
Covid numbers are rising in several areas(primarily East and West Coast), as are hospitalizations and deaths.
There are mutations and new strains that are popping up. It is primarily in Europe and Asia, but the concern of spread is real.
The slow rollout of vaccinations and areas of the country are still shut down.
There are treatments available that have helped lessen the numbers. Treatments like Remdesivir and Convalescent Plasma. Also, in some very mild cases, wide spectrum anti-antibiotics and steroids even help.
There are not 1 but 2 vaccines that are available and more on the way.
Does any of this balance out?
Hard to say at this point, the vaccines have shown excellent results in testing. However, the roll-out of the vaccine has been slower than expected but has been gaining speed. Therapeutics has sound effects in mild to moderate cases, but effectiveness lessens with the virus's severity.
Vaccines are promising, but with a slow rollout and some states shifting priorities. It is unclear how effective they are. The best projections of having complete control of covid are sometime in June. The overall risk would still have to be considered as yet to be determined.
What is MLB's position on how they roll this out?
They point to the model used in the playoffs of limited seating. They are putting out the idea of having fans in pods six feet apart, wearing masks and no food or drink while at their seats. During the regular season, this could work given the large MLB stadiums. Spring training could be a different story as those stadiums are smaller. The teams' routine would be the same as last year, at least from the airport to the hotel to the stadium back to the hotel. Double Headers will be seven-inning games, and the extra-inning rule of a runner at second base to start an inning will also carry into 2021. They have not said if they have a plan for increasing attendance or easing restrictions as of yet.
What do the players say?
The players had steadfastly advocated for a full Spring and full season, mostly after they agreed to a short season and an adjusted payroll last year. Most players are preparing for and expecting an entire season. Part of the reason could be with two shortened seasons, and it would be used against them in the CBA. Negations before the 2022 season.
What is the owner's position?
The Owners have been somewhat tight-lipped but point out that some states are still not open to having sports. They are pointing to the uncertainty of limited or NO fans for a second year. However, they have not come out against a full season yet. The owners will have a case about the upcoming CBA even if we have an entire season in 2021. Without fans in the stands or limited capacity. The owners can claim more financial damage.
I think that Manfred WANTS a regular season. He wants to see fans at games. The players want to play a full season whether there are fans or not. The owners wish to fans coming through the turnstiles, buying food and souvenirs. Will all three be able to agree? At this point, that seems to be the question. How many states will allow games to be played? Will there be enough control of the virus to allow a "normal" season at some point? Who knows? Right now, I think there is enough promise to be hopeful of a full season, but there is also the risk that things could backslide, and we could have teams shut down or even league-wide shutdowns for periods. While ALL groups, fans, players, owners, and MLB administration want a full season like we are used to. There is still too much unknown to have ONE SINGLE definitive answer. So, for now, it is waiting and see.
Hopefully, I will see you at the ballpark sometime.