Why MLB won’t mandate coronavirus vaccines

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The health and safety protocols for the 2021 MLB season were unveiled on Tuesday, and much of the focus was on the lack of expanded postseason or universal DH, since those impact the shape of the season itself. What caught my eye, though, was that MLB would not mandate coronavirus vaccinations for players, and instead, the league and the union would strongly encourage players to get vaccinated. That seems like a policy that doesn’t go quite far enough, no?

It might be about as far as the two sides can get with the limited time frame they were working with to get the season’s protocols in order, though. MLB cannot force players to be vaccinated. Well, scratch that: MLB can force players to be vaccinated, but then they will face legal repercussions for enacting that kind of policy on their own. More specifically, they could subject themselves to an unfair labor practice claim by doing so, according to a labor and employment lawyer, Thomas Lenz, whom the Los Angeles Times spoke to back in November.

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The MLBPA was not required to negotiate the start of the 2021 season

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As of now, the focus is on Major League Baseball and the Players Association figuring out when the 2021 season is going to begin. “Figuring out” in the sense that MLB keeps sending over proposals that the PA rejects and does not counter, because they are under no obligation to do so, anyway. Still, though, that’s where all of the energy on the relations between the two sides is at the moment, which, once the season actually does begin, will lead into the actual collective bargaining talks of 2021: the current CBA expires in December, and the two sides will need a new one in time for a 2022 season.

Not enough of MLB media seems to understand just what the league was trying to do by submitting proposals on a later start date with adjustments to pay, proposals for the expanded postseason and a universal DH and so on. The two sides were not bargaining: MLB was attempting to reopen negotiations on subjects that did not require negotiations, and if the PA started sending over counters, then that would be the same as the union agreeing that the subject was open to negotiations instead of settled. Jon Heyman is far from the only media member to tweet on the subject or bemoan the lack of cooperation from the two sides on these “negotiations,” but as he had a particular wrinkle in his messaging that stood out, he’s going to be singled out here. Just consider that this isn’t about Heyman so much as MLB media in general, though:

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MLB reportedly pressured the Cactus League to request spring training delay

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You might have seen the news that the Cactus League told Major League Baseball that it would like to delay the start of spring training in Arizona by 30 days, due to the high infection rate of coronavirus in Maricopa County. This news broke on Monday, and on Tuesday, a different bit of news surrounding the letter was unveiled: MLB reportedly encouraged the Cactus League to send this letter, because MLB could then turn around and use it against the Players Association in order to delay spring training, and then, in turn, the regular season.

The Athletic’s Alex Coffey spoke to a very forthcoming source reportedly involved in a Zoom call earlier this month, between Cactus League and MLB officials:

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Kelly Loeffler might be saying goodbye to the Senate and the WNBA

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Obviously the day’s most significant news of a truly wretched person leaving their job behind centers around the White House, but there should be room in our hearts to celebrate the same happening elsewhere, too. Not only is Kelly Loeffler no longer a United States Senator once the newly elected Raphael Warnock is sworn in, but according to ESPN’s reporting, the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream are looking to sell, and that whoever buys them would also be buying up Loeffler’s share of the team.

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MLB won’t require fan COVID-19 tests, vaccinations

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Major League Baseball plans on having fans in attendance during the 2021 season, even though America is still in the midst of the pandemic that shortened the 2020 campaign. Sure, we’re seemingly closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning at this point, but we’ve also begun a vaccination rollout that is doubling as a campaign against the very concept of means testing, so who knows. What we do know is that MLB, per The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin, won’t be requiring negative COVID-19 tests or proof of vaccination from those fans in attendance.

Their reasoning, at least for the tests? The results are meaningless from a safety perspective for those looking to attend a game:

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The MLB season should start on time, unless everything keeps getting worse

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Before the new year, there was some concern that Major League Baseball would fight to avoid starting the 2021 regular season at its normally scheduled time. I even wrote about it for Baseball Prospectus, as part of an explanation for why we didn’t have any answers for that and other questions like whether there would be an expanded postseason again, or if the National League would deploy the designated hitter once more. According to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, what the owners want doesn’t necessarily matter here, though: the players can just wait them out, and let the collective bargaining agreement handle the rest.

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Pro sports cut the line for COVID testing. The vaccine is next

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The National Hockey League, like the rest of the major sports leagues in America, played their past season in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. They will, like all those same leagues, play their next season during the pandemic, too, because, at least in America, it continues to rage on.

In order to put on the end of the 2020 campaign and their playoffs, the NHL — again, like the rest of the leagues — consumed an enormous amount of test kits and lab time in order to ensure their players and staff were coronavirus-free. You might remember from just last month, the discussion of the “success” of sports during a pandemic, and what the cost of that was, part of which was that two-thirds of the nurses from the largest nurses union in America haven’t been tested for coronavirus a single time, while the NFL alone consumed well over half-a-million tests to that point in their season:

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You still can’t believe what MLB says about 2020’s revenues

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A little over a month ago, I wrote a piece titled “You can’t trust MLB’s crying poor,” with the thinking being that the league’s discussion of the debt that they had accrued and the losses they suffered wasn’t in line with the reality of either situation. Part of the reason for writing that was not just to tackle the idea head-on at the moment, but also because it was necessary to understand what was happening in that moment in order to also understand what was to come.

One of those items in the “what was to come” bucket turned out to be “Bill Madden columns,” as he’s been repeating back whatever he’s told by MLB clubs about finances and debt for the last month-and-a-half. In October, he wrote that this offseason will be a “bloodbath” for MLB players in a column in which he repeated the kinds of revenue loss claims that caused me to write a rebuttal in the first place:

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Considering the “success” of sports during a pandemic

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​If you’re just talking about in terms of players falling ill with coronavirus, professional sports leagues in America have done a pretty decent job of having seasons despite the presence of an ongoing pandemic. Major League Baseball had some early scares when the Marlins and Cardinals both dealt with outbreaks, but then, until Justin Turner tested positive and then decided it was fine that he got out on the field to celebrate the Dodgers winning the World Series, things were mostly uneventful on the players testing positive front for the league.

The NBA did the best out there, which should not be a shock given their season took place in a bubble, but the WNBA also deserves a nod for their own success navigating the pandemic. The NFL is a mess, but of course they are: that’s what happens when you combine the hubris of MLB with even less care given to the actual health and safety of the players.

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The MLBPA can still file a season-length grievance against MLB

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Evan Drellich published a piece at The Athletic last Friday, the focus of which was on Major League Baseball’s desire to delay the end of the current collective bargaining agreement because of the coronavirus pandemic against the MLB Players Association’s desire to… not do that. You should read the whole thing, but within was a note about the potential grievance the PA can still leverage over MLB, for putting on a 2020 season of just 60 regular season games, and that’s what I want to focus on at this time.

Here’s what Drellich had to say about it:

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