The delay of the 2020 season could mean that some minor league baseball teams close their doors forever. Let’s take a closer look at why.
Back in November, Baseball America released a list of the “42 Minor League baseball teams that were reported to be eliminated” by Major League Baseball. MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem said that the goal of eliminating various MiLB franchises was based around the “upgrading of the minor league facilities, improving the working conditions for MiLB players, including their compensation, improving transportation and hotel accommodations, providing better geographic affiliations between major league clubs and their affiliates, as well as better geographic lineups of leagues to reduce player travel”.
The proposal may have been sound from a logistical point of view, but it was a heartbreaking revelation for the teams and the communities involved.
More from Call to the Pen
That report came in simpler times, and as we all know, we are aren’t in simple times anymore. The coronavirus pandemic has forced baseball brass to postpone the start of the regular season.
For Major League Baseball, the effects will be felt, but the owners’ deep pockets and lucrative television/multimedia deals will more than likely keep the league and individual franchises afloat.
The same can’t be said about those in the minor leagues.
Minor League baseball is in trouble. Even the richest of franchises are going to have a hard time recovering lost revenue and paying costs.
Even if they don’t pay their players, teams will need to find a way to pay for stadium leases/mortgages, upper office salaries, equipment, etc. Where will these teams get the cash?
In an article by J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, Peter Freund, owner of the Memphis Redbirds foresees that “there are going to be some really hard decisions made in the next 30-60-90 days that are very uncomfortable”. Those decisions include the possibility of “a situation where we may not operate this year”.
The same article highlights that uncertainty is the most unnerving part for teams because as Asheville Tourists President Brian DeWine said:
“There are zero answers right now. Once these bans are lifted are people going to flock or are people going to be scared. Some of our sponsors are shut down, especially the restaurants. It’s rough. They don’t know when they can start working again. There are a lot of restaurants and bars around the ballpark that depend on us too.”
What does this mean in the big picture?
First off, it’s going to have a heavy impact on the communities that these teams serve. Minor League baseball and small-town America are symbiotic with one another. The teams have long served histories in the town they serve, and the towns have historically rallied around those teams, as they watch baseball’s top prospects roll through their community if for nothing more than a cup of coffee.
Secondly, the minor leagues play a huge role in the development of Major League Baseball players. With fewer teams, coaches, and roster spots available, what will that mean for the future of the MLB player pool?
COVID-19 has played a huge role in fracturing the current baseball season. Unfortunately, it seems inevitable that will play an even bigger role in fracturing the construct of baseball as we know and love it.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.