Throughout much of the offseason, there have been questions as to when Major League Baseball would start the 2021 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial impact involved. Especially in light of teams not being allowed to operate at full capacity in terms of selling 100 percent of their tickets, some thought maybe the season would be delayed. According to commissioner Rob Manfred, that won't be the case.
Per multiple reports, including from USA Today, Manfred sent a memo to all 30 teams Monday evening preparing them for a full season that will start on time, spring training included.
Call this a win for the players. The owner side has been pushing for a shorter season, simply put, because it would allow them to pay the players less than their full pay. MLB doesn't have the right to delay the start of the season without approval from the MLB Players Association and the union has reportedly said it won't accept less than a full season. They have previously released statements saying they already proved they can play a season under these circumstances.
As for fans being allowed, it sounds like it is going to happen, even with a limited capacity, at least to start the season. Even spring training games might allow tickets to be sold to small groups in "pods," sitting groups at least six feet away from one another while masked when not eating or drinking. In the regular season, lower-capacity crowds will also likely be allowed. Plans of a "buffer zone" between fans and the field of play remain.
MLB, at this point, isn't planning on testing fans, requiring proof of a vaccine or temperature checks at ballparks. Everything sounds fluid, though. Via USA Today:
"The Office of the Commissioner understands the need for clubs to plan for next season,'' the memo reads, "but MLB's policies ultimately will depend on the public health situation in the United States, which is difficult to predict this far in advance of the season. In particular, the current uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution rates is preventing our experts from making predictions about the spring and summer with specificity. As such, MLB's guidance on fan attendance may change in the coming weeks as circumstances change, and may also be modified later as the season progresses and conditions improve. ...
"Changes in government orders, particularly at the federal level, may necessitate changes to MLB's policies."
Basically, MLB is planning on everything starting on time and carrying on a full season, but things could pretty easily change here in the next month or so before pitchers and catchers report to camp.