While the 2021 MLB schedule has been public for months, there’s not a lot of surprise in recent days that 162 games might not play out as originally planned next season.
“Until we’re told otherwise, that’s what we’re expecting to play,” A’s general manager David Forst told NBC Sports Calfiornia in an exclusive interview Tuesday. “But look, I can read the tea leaves out there, I see what’s going on in the country. I see what’s being written about the commissioner’s office and talks with the [MLB Players Association].”
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Forst says there are alternate internal plans for a season that could start early or late, for a roster that could be 26 or 28 players and even for an Oakland Coliseum that is or is not hosting paying customers.
“In a year like this, where there’s eight different projections based on [attendance] capacity, or season length,” Forst said, “it’s really hard, and [A's president Dave Kaval] has his hands full. And we do as well, trying to figure out what the composition of the team and payroll things are going to look like.”
At this point, it remains to be seen how much better or worse the coronavirus pandemic will be 90, 60 or even 30 days into 2021. But it already is clear the safe return of fans largely will dictate how and when a next baseball season gets played.
“The priority for 2021 has got to be getting fans in as many games as possible,” Forst said. “And if that means pushing things back a little, then I know that’s what they [MLB and MLBPA] are talking about.”
“We’ll need to see how these winter months go,” first baseman Matt Olson added in a separate interview. “I hope we can get out there for 162, and get to spring on time, but I think there’s already rumblings of that not happening.”
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Olson still views the completion of last season alone as a collective accomplishment across MLB. Moving forward, it’s about more than keeping just the players safe.
“Obviously there’s more factors involved," Olson said. "Whether there’s fans in the stands or if owners want to be playing a full season with it.
“I’m hopeful, but you just really never know.”