As the calendar turned to February, Major League Baseball announced that it would instruct clubs to report for spring training on time and plan for a full 162-game season after the players union declined to negotiate a delayed start.
The 2021 season will represent MLB’s second attempt at playing amid the coronavirus pandemic. After a slew of rule changes were put in place and only 60 regular-season games were played last summer, this campaign will look a lot more like a typical season.
However, the pandemic’s continued impact across the U.S. will still make for a unique season that will test the league’s ability to limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19. Here’s everything you need to know about the rules and schedule for the 2021 MLB season.
When will the 2021 MLB season begin?
The first spring training games will be held Saturday, Feb. 27. Grapefruit and Cactus League games will be held through March 30 with select teams hosting exhibition games at their home ballparks in the days leading up to Opening Day.
MLB’s regular-season slate will begin Thursday, April 1. Each team will play 162 games barring any cancellations incurred by the coronavirus. After the All-Star Game was canceled last year, MLB will resume the annual event on July 13 at Truist Park in Atlanta.
The final day of the regular season will be Sunday, Oct. 3 before the Wild Card games kick off the MLB Postseason on Oct. 5. If all goes as planned, the World Series will begin Tuesday, Oct. 26 with a potential Game 7 set for Nov. 3.
What rule changes will be in place for the 2021 MLB season?
MLB reportedly reached an agreement with the players union on health and safety protocols for the 2021 season. There will be no universal DH or expanded playoffs, but doubleheaders will once again be seven innings and extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. Active rosters will return to the normal size of 26 players but teams will be permitted a five-man taxi squad for home games and up to 28 players at either their alternate training sites or Triple-A affiliate. MLB also reserves the right to require neutral sites for postseason games if deemed necessary.
Following the lead of the NFL and NBA, all players, coaches and essential personnel will be required to wear contact tracing devices at all times. All covered individuals will be tested at least every other day, while their household members will be provided with testing throughout the season as well. Fans weren’t permitted in stadiums last year but are expected to be allowed to attend games in limited capacity depending on local restrictions in each individual market.
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What does this all mean for the Collective Bargaining Agreement?
The current CBA between MLB and the players union is set to expire in December 2021. There is reportedly not much trust between the two sides, with neither the league nor MLBPA willing to give up much at the negotiating table. Rule changes such as the universal DH and expanded playoffs remain candidates to be put in place permanently if and when a new CBA is reached.