The Arizona Cactus League, the site of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Spring Training, has asked that the start of spring training for the 2021 MLB Season in Arizona be delayed due to COVID-19. Along with Florida’s Grapefruit League, these are the two sites for where the MLB always hosts spring training.
While we reported earlier we thought there might be a delay to the 2021 MLB Season, this could in fact be the delay that many thought would happen. Spring Training games are scheduled to start on February 27th in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues.
2021 MLB Season: Arizona’s Maricopa County Is Facing Serious COVID Numbers
Maricopa County is located in the south-central part of the U.S. state of Arizona. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated its population was 4,485,414 as of 2019, containing about 62% of Arizona’s population.
15 MLB teams train in Arizona. The Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, and Oakland Athletics have their own home stadiums. The remaining teams share stadiums which include the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers.
The Cactus League teams are all within the Phoenix metropolitan area. In 2014, the Diamondbacks and Rockies left Tucson for their new shared facility, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is a stadium complex located in the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, Arizona, right in prime COVID territory.
The Current Status of COVID-19 in Arizona
Arizona is averaging just under 7,000 new coronavirus cases per day. The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are hosting 3,450 fans for home games in Glendale, although the NBA’s Phoenix Suns are playing without fans. High-School sports are also still operating.
Currently, the County has 446,652 COVID-19 total cases with a serious trend upwards beginning in late October and continuing through early January.
This would suggest that the 2021 MLB Season might be in serious jeopardy or is it?
Are the MLB and Mlbpa Headed for Another Dispute?
As Jayson Stark’s tweet shows and how the 2020 season unfolded, there is deep mistrust between the MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Union.
That’s an understatement to be sure, but Tony Clark, head of the MLBPA has surfaced in recent weeks as he has set the tone for how the players will position themselves moving forward into the 2021 MLB season.
There were months of contentious negotiations between the league and the players’ union to get the 2020 season started and while the season ultimately did play out, it was in serious jeopardy.
Tony Clark said he was disgusted that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred threatened to cancel the 2020 season after previously saying it would “100 percent” happen in June of 2020.
Then Manfred threatened on July 31st to cancel the season despite play having gotten underway if there wasn’t better management of COVID-19. 21 members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for COVID-19 and other league games were thrown into jeopardy.
This is but a sample of the type of animosity that may rise again and the MLBPA’s statement on Monday, saying that the Cactus League’s letter correctly notes that MLB does not have the ability to unilaterally make this decision about suspending Cactus League operations.
That isn’t likely to happen for the 2021 MLB Season since the league has already said that the season will happen and it will operate in what sounds like a full season.
The two sides have not discussed these issues as it stands today and it is the MLB and MLBPA who will decide how spring training moves forward and the season itself. It should be an interesting three weeks but I wouldn’t hold your breath that the 2021 MLB Season is delayed.
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