Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the 2020 MLB regular season was limited to just 60 games, although the league was able to have an expanded postseason.
While there were a few issues throughout the course of the season, MLB managed to navigate the challenges and crown a champion with the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.
With the focus now shifting toward the 2021 season, the hope was that MLB would get back to having a full 162 regular-season games. Dodgers president Stan Kasten even recently expressed optimism they will be able to have fans in stadiums.
As the calendar reaches the winter months, coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country and the sports that are currently in-season are learning just how difficult it is to continue to play under these circumstances.
Because of that, MLB may have to delay the start of 2021 Spring Training and also the regular season, which could again be shortened, per Bob Klapisch of NJ.com:
Industry officials are growing increasingly worried that spring training will be delayed, which in turn will impact Opening Day. The insiders’ current guess is a 4-to-6 week hold-up. Camps wouldn’t open until mid-March. The regular season would be forced to wait until May, leaving room for only 130 or so games. The timetable is dependent on how rapidly the virus continues to spread and, conversely, how quickly the vaccines begin rolling out.
The good thing that MLB has going for them is that they do not need to make these decisions now as Spring Training is still a few months away.
If they want to shorten the 2021 season, that would require an agreement with the MLB Players Association since players would be sacrificing part of their salaries. Negotiations didn’t exactly go smoothly leading up to the 2020 season, so it remains to be seen how receptive the MLBPA would be of a shorter scheduler next year.
Regardless, how soon a coronavirus vaccine gets distributed across the country seems to be the key to how soon MLB is able to start the 2021 season.
Manfred defends decision to not use bubble in 2020
One other potential solution would be for MLB to play its season in a bubble, as the NBA, NHL and other sports did successfully in 2020.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently defended his decision to not do that in 2020, so that does not appear to be an option moving forward.
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