With the ongoing global pandemic, Major League Baseball continues to have preliminary discussions on if and when the 2020 season may start. It has been extremely difficult for White Sox fans who were anticipating the team’s return to success in 2020. If baseball returns in 2020, it will most likely be without fan attendance, and 2021 might be the same for fans for a different reason.
Many believe that there will be MLB games at some point this summer, but there is a looming labor stoppage that may have a significant impact on the 2021 season. For the last few seasons, many MLB insiders have discussed the growing tensions and concerns regarding a lockout or strike that could cancel games or the season.
Several issues are creating a rift between players and owners, including service time, free agency, and other benefits. Service time manipulation has been a key issue for players as several minor leaguers have been held down for teams to gain an additional year before free agency. Chicago players such as Kris Bryant and Eloy Jimenez were held down in Triple-A longer than warranted because their teams wanted extra control.
If and when the 2020 season starts, it in all likelihood will be played without fans. Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot earlier this week was hopeful that baseball would be played in Chicago, but doubted that fans would be able to attend. For a White Sox team that has been mired in a rebuild since 2016, 2020 was supposed to be the team’s breakout season. With all of their young talent and free-agent acquisitions, many had high hopes for the team this season.
Depending on the outcome of the pandemic and the labor agreement, fans may not be able to see the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field until the 2022 season. Fans were finally ready to see Jimenez in the same lineup with Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, and rookie Luis Robert. Unfortunately for Robert, there is a good chance that he may make his Major League debut in an empty stadium and may miss out on receiving a well-deserved standing ovation.
Furthermore, a shortened 2020 season and shortened 2021 season may either delay or completely ruin the White Sox’s championship window. The 2020 season was supposed to see the team competed for a playoff spot and gain experience. The 2021 through 2025 seasons were to be where the team competed for a championship. Depending on what happens in 2020 and 2021, young players such as Robert, Nick Madrigal, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and Andrew Vaughn could lose valuable playing experience.
Health is the most important priority for both players, and fans given the hectic times. While fans will understand the need for precautions for baseball in 2020, they will not forgive players and owners if any games are lost due to a work stoppage in 2021. As the summer fast approaches, it may be two years before fans see baseball at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field.