MLB proposes delayed 154-game season and expanded playoffs to players
New York, New York – Could opening day be a May day?
Major League Baseball has proposed delaying the season by about a month and playing the World Series in November, said people familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly Sunday.
The schedule would be shortened to 154 games, but players still would receive the required 162 games of pay. The owners also asked the players' union to approve a designated hitter and 14-team expanded playoffs this season, a proposal the union previously has declined.
The proposal was sent to the union Friday, with a request for a response by Monday. Players and union leaders are discussing the proposal this weekend.
The league previously floated the concept of starting the season a month late but declined to extend the season into November or pay players for games lost to a shortened season.
The league said then that its television partners preferred that the postseason conclude in October, but Fox is amenable to a postseason that lasts one week into November.
This proposal does not include a neutral-site postseason – either in warm-weather climates or in a dome – which would make scheduling easier for the television networks.
The proposed delay is due to the high rate of coronavirus infections
Since then, the Cactus League has asked MLB for a month's delay, citing the high rate of coronavirus cases in Arizona. As cases decline and vaccinations increase, more fans would be able to attend games in spring training – and in the regular season.
In order to start the season about a month later than usual but finish about a week later than usual, the schedule would need to be compressed, with fewer off days and more doubleheaders. That would raise concerns about health and safety, with MLB coming off a 60-game season, but also about completing the schedule in the event of coronavirus outbreaks.
The union would be concerned that Commissioner Rob Manfred could unilaterally leverage such outbreaks to suspend the schedule, meaning the 162-games pay would not be guaranteed.
The two sides last year reached agreement on a 2020 season in which Manfred was granted "the right to suspend or cancel games." The league would suggest the 2020 season was completed, despite outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, and so the language should be the same this year.
It is not uncommon for players to arrive early, set up their spring residences, and engage in early workouts.
"Hundreds of players are reporting to AZ and FL in the next 7-10 days," agent Rafa Nieves wrote on Twitter. "They already booked and paid for housing."
Cover photo: IMAGO / Kyodo News