MLB 2021 is on track (possibly)

There’s a hilarious line in MLB’s official statement about the Players Association rejecting their proposal to delay the start of the 2021 season.

According to MLB, a clearly unbiased source in all of this, their proposal “was a good deal that reflected the best interests of everyone involved in the sport”. What conversations they had with players, team staff and fans to determine what their “best interests” were as part of drafting this deal is not explained.

Funny that.

MLB’s statement does go on to note that part of their proposal – completely incidental to their dedication to health and safety, of course – was the reintroduction of the universal DH and expanded play-offs. They claim that these were “overwhelmingly popular with our fans” in 2020, which suggests that the consultation with fans amounted to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred asking his dog. When it was asleep.

The views of “fans” in baseball rarely are overwhelmingly all the same, outside of the fans’ view on Rob Manfred’s stewardship of the game.

This baseball fan would be fine with a universal DH (I don’t have a strong view either way on that), but thinks dishing out 14 play-off spots at the end of a 162-game season (or 154 as MLB was proposing) makes a mockery of playing that many games to ‘earn’ a play-off spot in the first place. And I say that knowing the A’s may need that sort of help to make it back to the post-season this year, based on our off-season so far.

This is a rare US pro sports statement on Covid that doesn’t include the phrase “out of an abundance of caution”, so no Bullshit Bingo points there, sadly; however, we can claim double points for them piling straight in with the Covid-time classic: “On the advice of medical experts …”.

Once again, the testimony used to legitimise their position is somewhat light on explaining who these experts are and the full extent of their advice, aside from the suggestion that ‘waiting a bit might be helpful’. Few can deny the logic behind that, although few can also read the statement and not come away thinking “yes, but that’s not really the point”.

The more pertinent questions to ask of these medical experts are their assessment of the current level of risk in beginning Spring Training camps on time – based on the Covid-safety protocols they are planning to put in place – and the extent to which the level of risk would be reduced by delaying the opening of Spring Training by three weeks.

The questions are so pertinent that MLB must have asked them. The fact that they sign off the statement by confirming it’s now all-systems go as they “work towards playing another safe and entertaining season in 2021” suggests the answers were “generally manageable” and “a bit, but not all that much”. All of which suggests they might as well have just focused on getting on with it in the first place.

They are getting on with it now though – until something else comes along to stop it – and that means teams will start to report to training camps in just over two weeks’ time (February 17th), with MLB Opening Day still set for April Fools’ Day.

If that does indeed happen then I’m sure MLB will be quick to tell us how “overwhelmingly popular” the April 1st start is and for once they will be right.

Even if, as per usual, they have just based that on the opinion of the Fool’s sleeping dog.

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