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Coronavirus: Major League Baseball 2021 regular season start could be pushed back to May if owners get wish

MLB owners reportedly want to push back the start of the 2021 regular season until May.
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It's not exactly news that Major League Baseball owners and the MLB Players' Association have had a contentious relationship for decades, and it appears things are only getting worse ahead of a likely work stoppage in 2022. USA Today was the first to report Tuesday that the owners want to delay the 2021 regular season until May, even if it means shortening it by 20-plus games, to ensure that players are vaccinated against COVID-19 before arriving to spring training.

Pfizer shipped vaccine vials out Sunday from its headquarters in Kalamazoo, Mich., and hospitals and health departments across the country received them early Monday. Some 145 sites from Rhode Island to Alaska received shipments and more will arrive each week.  

The first shots were administered around the country Monday, but those getting it initially are first-line responders, medical professionals and the elderly. Healthy younger people, like pro athletes, are not a priority group for vaccine distribution. The vaccines are given in two doses several weeks apart. Federal officials said they expect 20 million Americans to get the first of two required vaccine doses by the end of the year.

MLB players are ready to start as normal with a 162-game schedule, and it's impossible to see a scenario where every player could be vaccinated by this spring. Plus, the coronavirus is spiking right now in the two spring training states of Arizona and Florida.

With every game lost on the schedule, players would lose around $25 million in salaries. Some owners reportedly would prefer to not play at all in 2021 if fans can't attend because it's such a money-losing scenario. Commissioner Rob Manfred claimed that teams lost a combined $3 billion last season. The Blue Jays couldn't play a single home game in Toronto (the NBA's Raptors will play this season in Tampa, Fla.).

Manfred has still yet to inform National League teams if the universal designated hitter is here to stay, which has helped slow the Hot Stove League action. While the MLBPA is fine with that because it's 15 more high-paid position players, the owners want something in return. Manfred also wants to keep the expanded playoffs but the MLBPA wants something back for that. The sides generally agree to disagree on everything.

Awful Announcing recently reported that a 14-team postseason is likely (it was 16 in 2020) with three best-of-three opening round series per league and that all three best-of-three series will be televised by ESPN.

Pitchers and catchers usually report to spring camps in mid-February, and the 2021 regular season is scheduled to begin April 1 with all 30 teams in action. William Hill Sportsbook favors the Dodgers at +450 to repeat as World Series champions. L.A. has been quiet so far this offseason, but then so has nearly every team but perhaps the Chicago White Sox and the New York Mets. 

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SportsLine Staff
SportsLine Staff