We should be watching spring training games right now. Instead, we’re all watching and waiting to see when Major League Baseball and the MLBPA will come to an agreement and let the teams get back on the field.
The last we heard on Friday, MLB had quietly axed spring training games through at least March 18 (which would be a split-squad day for the Cubs against the White Sox and the Guardians if MLB doesn’t revamp the spring slate). According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, there were also no negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA scheduled for Saturday, Day 94 of the lockout.
Because of the rash of injuries in 2020 after just three weeks of camp, MLB’s stance is that there needs to be at least four weeks of spring training before a season can start. If we go with what looks like a March 18 target date to start spring training games, a deal would probably have to be done no later than March 11 to give teams a week to get all of their players and staff down to their respective training sites. Then again, sticking to that timeline means that teams would immediately throw players into games without any days for training.
To have some training days built in prior to the start of spring games, there will have to be more games cut from the schedule. And that’s assuming a deal even gets done in the next week or so. It’s more likely that both sides keep dragging this out, which would push the start of spring training back to at least late March/early April.
So if you do the math, it’s pretty likely the first two series of the regular season (which for the Cubs would’ve been an away set in Cincinnati and a home series against the Cardinals) aren’t the only games that will be canceled before we finally get a clear idea of a possible Opening Day date.
It doesn’t seem like the owners are in any rush to get a new CBA signed, even with the players reportedly considering approaching MLB with their version of a 14-team playoff to get things rolling on other key issues. That’s on top of the reports that the owners are willing to cancel the first month or so of games.
My optimistic side wants to say a deal will get done in the next week or so and that the Cubs will quickly get to work in Mesa, Ariz., and the season will start around mid-April. An April 14 Opening Day would cost Chicago a four-game home series against the Brewers and a two-game set in Pittsburgh, and the Cubs would then open the season with a four-game series in Colorado.
However, the longer the two sides stay far apart on the core issues of the CBA, the less I want to trust my optimistic side. The more I think about it, the more it feels like May 1 is the absolute earliest the baseball season will get underway. That would take the two sides getting a deal done no later than the last week of March, which allows for that four-week spring training to happen.
That gets rid of the Brewers, Pirates and Rockies series, while also axing three home games against Tampa Bay, four at home against Pittsburgh, three in Atlanta and two of three in Milwaukee. I don’t think the season would start with just one game against the Brewers before moving on to the next series, so I think the best case scenario is Opening Day at home on May 3 — against the White Sox.
That would definitely be a great way to kick off the season, and it could actually happen if the owners stick to not rescheduling canceled games, but it just doesn’t feel right to have Opening Day in early May.
At this point, though, I just want baseball back as soon as possible, even if that does cut off the first month of the season. Because if we somehow get to June and we still have no baseball, I will not be OK.