We’ve been hearing rumblings that owners around Major League Baseball have wanted to push the start of spring training, and the regular season back, that is something that the players must agree to do. The players reportedly asked the season to be extended a month if the season were pushed a month, giving them a full 162 game season at full pay. The owners said no to that back in December according to a report by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

But it’s not just Major League Baseball and the players that have an opinion on spring training beginning on time. This morning the Cactus League board, which is made up of the mayors, city managers, and community presidents of the cities and towns that host the league, is asking to delay things due to the high infection rate in Maricopa County, where all of the teams play. They cite the projected data from the IHME that projects a “sharp decline in infections in Arizona by mid-March” as the reason they would prefer things be delayed, making it safer for everyone involved in operating spring training.

With that said, the 10 members of the Cactus League board met with Major League Baseball last week to discuss things. The letter sent out by the board does not note whether the players association was involved at all, which given that they do mention the involvement of Major League Baseball suggests that they weren’t. This could simply just be the owners trying to do what they can to put more public pressure on the players association. Of course, Maricopa County does have one of the highest infection rates in the entire country, too, and there are a whole lot of people beyond just the players that are involved

There’s a lot of stuff going on here. As noted above, the players and the league have to both agree to a delay. That is, of course, unless there’s something legally that prevents the teams from training/playing coming from government restrictions. That’s what would allow the commissioner to step in and make a decision on his own. As things stand right now, that does not apply in this case.

Spring training is set to begin in a matter of three-and-a-half weeks. Whether it starts on time or not is a big question, but it’s also not the only question. The National League still isn’t sure if they will have the designated hitter again in 2021, and that’s led to a lull in free agency for a few players who are trying to figure out if they are limited to just signing with half of the league’s teams or if they can sign with any team in the league.

All of that to say: buckle up. There’s probably going to be some public fighting going on here, and soon. This morning saw Ken Rosenthal write about how starting spring training on time was a bad idea. A few hours later the letter from the Cactus League board came out about postponing the start of spring training. The players, of course, want a full season and they want to be paid in full for it.


Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times noted after this was published that there are NHL games happening in Glendale, Arizona right now that has fans in attendance. He actually wrote about a lot of this nearly two weeks ago, before the Cactus League board put out their statement.

Update #2

The MLBPA has released their own statement.

19 Responses

  1. SultanofSwaff

    Not to mention the Cactus league has to be in synch with the Grapefruit league.

    In less than a month the most vulnerable populations will be vaccinated. I would think the death rates and long term hospitalizations would drop significantly. Knowing infections will be a way of life for some time, to me that’s the more important metric. I don’t see why spring training should be halted, especially since the player testing regimens are so rigorous, but I’m open to reasons why they shouldn’t.

    • Doug Gray

      The argument isn’t so much about the players (though it is a little bit), but about everyone else involved in running the operation – both inside and outside of baseball. It’s the same argument we’ve been having for a year – just because you are young and healthy doesn’t mean you should just go do whatever you want and pretend this isn’t happening because you specifically aren’t likely to get sick and die. You doing those things make it more likely that you can spread it to people who are. Same thing here – the support staff in all facets of having spring training puts those people at more risk.

      • SultanofSwaff

        I guess that’s my point—that those who are susceptible to severe illness and death will be vaccinated and thus the risk factors to those groups drop precipitously. I saw that in Israel hospitalizations dropped 60% 3 weeks after vaccinations started.

      • Doug Gray

        Israel has vaccinated a far higher rate of their population, too.

    • oklared

      Most vulnerable will be vaccinated very optimistic view considering approx. 2 million vaccinated to date.

      • greenmtred

        A month does seem overly optimistic. To start with, the supply of vaccine is still not adequate. Here in Vermont, we’re getting 8 thousand doses a week,and at that rate, it will take a a couple of months to get everybody over 65 a first dose. Then a 3 or 4 week wait for the second dose. Then 2 more weeks for antibody levels to rise enough to provide protection.

  2. LDS

    What a crock. Move out of Arizona and play elsewhere.

    • Doug Gray

      That’s kind of impossible. You need a place with at least 10 high quality baseball facilities that is also in an area that is warm enough to play baseball in and have the infrastructure in place to house 3000-ish extra people and get it figured out in a matter of weeks. Zero chance that is happening, and that’s if we pretend that there are not contracts in place so teams don’t leave.

      • LDS

        I agree, though contracts don’t seem to be worth once they once were. And a delay gives the Reds yet more time to not find a shortstop.

  3. Mark Moore

    Still too much churn and uncertainity with the vaccine distribution and who gets it when. That’s a big driving factor overall.

    City mayors and boards will have a say in whether or not facilities can open. As noted, that needs coordination between Florida and Arizona so everyone is on the same time table.

    I smell a delay coming and more rancorous public discourse in the works. Running on pure hope that it will all go smoothly never works.

  4. RedBaron

    Just cancel spring training then and have scrimmages at Prasco and perhaps some series with area teams like Detroit and Cleveland etc. Not that hard..

  5. MK

    This is more about fans coming from around the country. Teams can be put in pretty much of a bubble it is about the people coming to watch including media.

  6. LDS

    Now that the MLBPA has said no to expanded playoffs and DH, will the market open up and the Reds finally make a move?

    • TR

      They only said no now as a negotiation ploy. They want those extra 15 spots, but need more playoff money from owners. If there is no DH, then that squeezes 15 spots which will make it harder for players to get top dollar.

      • Doug Gray

        Those aren’t extra jobs, they are just different jobs. Rosters aren’t expanding.

    • JayTheRed

      I didn’t see this anywhere… Can you provide a link so I can read the article where it said they said no expanded playoffs or DH?

  7. Hotto4Votto

    I have a feeling this is going to be another frustrating time for fans as the owners and players have another war of words through the media. It’s already started somewhat with ST and the DH. Both sides want the DH but instead of just agreeing to that one item, allowing the market to set and gain roster clarity for several players and teams, MLB wants to attach something that largely benefits them, expanded playoffs. So the players, feeling like they’re already getting a raw deal say no, and nothing gets accomplished but contentious words as apathy from fans grows larger.
    It’s sort of like when MLB offered the same exact deal to the players three times trying to dress it up as something different when negotiating last season’s amount of games. Nothing ever got accomplished then either. More of the same to come this spring I’m sure.