As MLB Playoffs start, league starts to grasp economic reality of 2021 season

MLB playoff logo
Oct 4, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; The 2019 MLB post season logo is seen on a on deck circle before game one of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It did not conclude without some issues. The truncated 60-game MLB season, postponed from its expected start in March to July due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saw some major issues relating to the virus.

This started during the first weekend of action when half of the Miami Marlins’ roster tested positive for COVID-19. The St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics, among others, also saw players test positive for the virus. That was always going to be the issue with playing outside of a bubble during this worldwide pandemic.

Related: 2020 MLB Playoffs schedule

However, the 2020 MLB Playoffs have started. Commissioner Rob Manfred and Co. somehow found a way to get through this while over 7.2 million cases and 207,000 virus-related deaths have been confirmed in the United States.

The economic reality is vastly different throughout Major League Baseball. According to The Wall Street Journal, the league and its teams lost an estimated $3 billion in revenue due to not being able to play games with fans in attendance.

As MLB Playoffs start, there’s a harsh economic reality for the league

Manfred told the WSJ that playing next season without fans in attendance would be “economically devastating.” He expanded on that a bit, too.

“If we’re going to play next year, and if we don’t have a vaccine and we aren’t past the pandemic, I think we need to think hard about what measures we can take to get people back into the ballpark,” Manfred said.

MLB is planning to have fans in attendance for both the National League Championship Series and 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas. The league decided to play the final three rounds of its playoffs in a bubble, much like we’ve seen with the NBA and NHL. In particular, the NBA has had a tremendous amount of success at Walt Disney World. However, that’s also come with a major financial hit for Adam Silver’s league.

Related: NBA facing major revenue hit due to COVID-19

The common issue here is that MLB derives about 40% of its annual revenue from in-game experiences — ticket sales, concessions etc…If that possibility were to be unavailable during a full 162-game season, you can do the math as it relates to the financial impact MLB would feel.

There’s also a ton of other backstories to focus on here. They are both virus and labor-related.

2021 MLB season without COVID-19 vaccine?

As of right now, there’s no COVID-19 vaccine available. The initial estimates were that we might have one by the end of the 2020 calendar year. It’s not yet known whether that’s going to happen. It it does, there’s further questions about both widespread availability and trust in said vaccine.

The sports world has acted as somewhat of a leader as it relates to rapid testing. Most recently, the NBA has worked with medical experts to help erect a cost-efficient rapid 15-minute test could ultimately change things until a vaccine is made available. The idea here would be for fans to be tested before entering a sporting venue. This adds to Manfred’s idea of attempting to get fans to games starting next April if there’s not a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We felt if we could demonstrate that if you can operate in a reasonably normal way, you can do it without jeopardizing the public health, you can do it without presenting undue risk to your employees, then it would provide an example for people,” Manfred said.

This is already what some NFL teams are dealing with as they host a limited amount of fans amid the pandemic. That league just recently saw its first outbreak of COVID-19.

MLB labor issues and the 2021 season

Major League Baseball and its players took a long time to come to an agreement on starting the 2020 season. In fact, it was one of the major storylines in May and June. At issue here was a revenue-share model and questions as it relates to player pay. Some of the game’s top stars were not too happy about the process before Manfred himself utilized a clause under the current collective bargaining agreement to force a 60-game season.

The current CBA is set to expire following the 2021 season. Even before this pandemic-related economic downfall around the league, there was some concern over a work stoppage.

Imagine for a second if a full 162-game season has to be played without fans in attendance. The issues we saw come to the forefront this past spring and early summer would be magnified even more.

It’s one thing to face multiples of billions in revenue loss. It’s a completely different thing to lose a season due to collective bargaining issues when the rest of the American population is dealing with economic angst, too. A league that has seen its popularity on the downturn can’t afford the hit that would come with this.

In many ways, it would be worst than the 1994 World Series being canceled. After all, there’s no Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire to save the day.

This is the harsh reality MLB and its players are facing right now with the 2020 playoffs getting going.