As Major League Baseball works towards a resolution to have an 82-game season this year, Minor League Baseball is preparing for its fate during the COVID-19 pandemic. When MLB announces a plan for the 2020 season, the hammer will drop down on MiLB.
According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, operators from across MILB expect that the minor league season will officially be canceled not long after plans for the MLB season are finalized.
MiLB followed in MLB’s footsteps in March by suspending the start of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many hoped it would only be a short-term delay for a potential season, reality started to sink in a month later.
While MLB can rely on television deals and its record-setting revenue from the 2019 season to sustain operations, MiLB organizations depend entirely on stadium revenue. Minor league teams rarely play on television, meaning a majority of their income is generated from fans attending games and buying things at the stadium.
Given there will likely be bans on mass gatherings for most of the year, MiLB is left without a way for its teams to remain financially stable. As a result, minor league owners have reportedly already laid off or furloughed a significant portion of their staff.
MLB also plans to expand roster sizes for the 2020 season, which would drain talent from the minors. Teams are expected to have 30-man rosters with a 20-man taxi squad available in the upcoming season, taking away crucial talent that would play at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2020.
As a result, it’s only a matter of time before MLB pulls the plug on MiLB in 2020. Unfortunately, things will only get worse.
MiLB preparing for permanent changes
Before the pandemic swept across the globe, MLB and MiLB were locked in an ugly battle over the Professional Baseball Agreement that expires after the 2020 season. The PBA helps facilitate partnerships between MLB and MiLB teams, but MLB wanted to eliminate 40-plus teams to reduce the size of minor league baseball.
MiLB received support from Congress and the general public, with many wanting to preserve access to baseball in communities across the country. Unfortunately, due to financial hardships, MiLB owners are experiencing from the pandemic, the elimination of teams is now a foregone conclusion.
As detailed by Baseball America, MiLB owners are now battling to save their teams through partnerships with MLB owners. The situation has been described as “The Wild West” and has added further uncertainty regarding which teams will be eliminated for good.
There will be no minor league baseball in 2020, which is unfortunately not the worst of it. Because of the looming changes MLB owners are determined to make, in the interest of saving money, at least 40 cities across the country will lose access to the experience of watching America’s pastime at the ballpark.