With the scheduled start of Spring Training just over a month away, Major League Baseball and the Players Association are in the process of sorting out details for the 2021 season.
One of the first orders of business will be agreeing to health and safety protocols similar to last year. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic swept the nation, numerous adjustments were necessary prior to Opening Day.
Roster sizes were increased to give teams flexibility in the event a player tested positive for the virus. Moreover, traditional baseball customs such as spitting, eating sunflower seeds and high-fiving were banned.
In addition to establishing new protocols, MLB and the union are also discussing whether the universal designated hitter and expanded postseason will return next season, via Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
MLB and the union are undergoing negotiations for health and safety protocols, as well as whether there will be a universal DH and expanded playoffs.
There have been conflicting reports as to whether the universal DH will be back this year, but as of December, teams reportedly were preparing for the possibility.
The universal DH proved beneficial as it created jobs around the league and helped prevent pitcher injuries. Most players viewed the rule change favorably but were less enthused about the expanded postseason.
Knowing this, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly attempted to leverage the universal DH to the MLBPA in exchange for them signing off on the expanded playoff format returning.
The union, however, does not appear to be budging as they believe team owners want the universal DH to return just as much as the players.
Fans won’t be permitted to watch workouts, get autographs at Camelback Ranch
Assuming Spring Training starts on time, there has been talk of fans potentially being permitted to attend games. Such would be a welcome sight after the majority of the 2020 season was played in empty ballparks.
While this a major development, there will of course be some limitations. According to a memo recently sent to teams, fans must wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking, and socially distanced seating will be required.
Furthermore, fans will not be allowed to arrive to the ballpark early for morning workouts or receive autographs during that time unless they are seated as they would be for games.
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