On Monday, the Cactus League and local government officials in Maricopa County, Arizona requested that MLB delay the start of Spring Training in three weeks. The Colorado Rockies and 14 other teams have their Spring Training facilities in the county.
Commissioner Rob Manfred received the letter signed by the Cactus League’s executive director, the mayors or city managers of each of the eight cities that the Cactus League has a team in, a tribal leader as well, on Friday.
The letter said, in part (you can see the entire letter here):
"“In view of the current state of the pandemic in Maricopa County — with one of the nation’s highest infection rates — we believe it is wise to delay the start of spring training to allow for the COVID-19 situation to improve here,” the letter stated. “… As leaders charged with protecting public health, and as committed, longtime partners in the spring training industry, we want you to know that we stand united on this point.”"
However, that doesn’t mean that it will happen or that it even should happen.
As of this writing, the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks of the NHL and the Phoenix Suns of the NBA are currently playing games in Maricopa County. The problem with Spring Training would be the influx of fans in attendance at games. But, at least, for now, games could easily take place with little or no fans, just like it was in 2020.
And while with the shortened 2020 season, some within the sport will say that the pitchers need all the time possible to get their arm stretched out, it is widely agreed upon (well before COVID even) that Spring Training is way too long. If anything, Spring Training could easily be delayed by a few weeks and the regular season could still be started on time.
However, some journalists like Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic believe that Spring Training should be delayed (subscription required). But his solution is to “delay Opening Day by a month” in hopes that “the virus will become less prevalent.” The problem is that with the billions in lost revenues in 2020 (according to Commissioner Rob Manfred), the owners almost assuredly will not sign off on it.
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Also, considering how well the MLB season went, would a delay of the season be based on the reality of what is happening currently? Rosenthal and 99 percent of other writers (myself included) didn’t think the 2020 season would last the full 60 games but guess what? It did and with very few issues.
As Rosenthal also noted, President Biden flat-out said “there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.” So, if that’s true, why would you delay Spring Training and Opening Day by a month just to have the same thing a month later?
For what it’s worth, if you check out the comment section on Rosenthal’s article, you can see that most readers seem to have a differing opinion than him.
Regardless of what the Cactus League wants or what governmental leaders want, the owners and the MLBPA will have to collectively bargain a delay of Spring Training and the season, which I honestly don’t foresee. The Cactus League told Jeff Passan of ESPN that they will be ready for Cactus League play to start on-time, despite them wanting Spring Training to be delayed.
As for the Grapefruit League, the Cardinals and Marlins (who play in the same stadium in Jupiter, Florida) have already begun selling tickets for Spring Training. Florida has had very few restrictions since the MLB season ended and they seem to be ready for fans in stadiums too. They are hosting the Super Bowl in less than two weeks and they will be having slightly more than 1/3 capacity.