Late on Monday, news broke from several sources detailing an agreement between baseball players and owners that will shape the 2021 season.
In a couple of ways, 2021 will resemble the shortened 2020 season, in that both seven-inning doubleheaders and modified (runner starting on second base) extra innings will be utilized throughout the season.
However, the universal DH will not be repeated in 2021. The 2020 season featured the DH in the National League for the first time, but in 2021, pitchers will again bat. That means for American League teams like the White Sox, pitchers will bat in National League parks.
The deal is an end mark on what was a brief and mildly fractious week of (non-) negotiating between the sides right before Spring Training sites opened. On January 31, ownership proposed a month delay to the start of the season, 154 games total, and expanded playoffs. The MLBPA came right back the next day to reject the plan, mostly due to a lack of guaranteed, full-season salaries and no revenue sharing of the expanded playoff money pot.
All that was left to determine after that were the details of the original, full season to be played. With the universal DH off the table, that consists of health and safety protocols, as well as in-game details. Those were shored up with today’s agreement, regarding doubleheaders and extra innings.
Another recent development has been the Grapefruit League’s plan to modify travel in Florida for spring games, namely creating travel “pods” on the west (10 teams) and east (five teams) coasts of the state. Fewer teams in the east will reduce those clubs’ official spring schedule to 24 games.
Arizona’s Cactus League is not as spread out as Florida’s setup, so it remains to be seen whether a modified travel plan will be employed for the White Sox in Florida, including the possibility of an increased number of intersquad games with the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Last month, the Cactus League petitioned MLB for a delay to the start of Spring Training in Arizona, citing the raging pandemic and inherent danger to players.