Like everything that isn’t directly related to COVID-19, it feels like years ago that we were talking about Major League Baseball’s plan to remove the affiliations from about 40 minor league teams, effectively closing them down.
Remember that whole thing? It was part of a broader plan to fundamentally re-shape minor league baseball, shrink the draft, improve facilities, pay players more, etc.
The reason I bring it up now is because that plan was tied to the ongoing negotiations between MLB and MiLB about their Professional Baseball Agreement, which is due to expire in September. With Minor League Baseball shut down and delayed indefinitely, it’s very hard to see how the sides are going to be able to work out a new deal right now, particularly given the extreme financial uncertainty facing the sport and the various teams (MLB was already arguing that too many Minor League teams were subsidized by MLB and were not necessary).
In fact, the whole situation makes me increasingly nervous that there will now be an organic opportunity for MLB to have its way, and shut down the minor league clubs it was already aiming to shut down. Or many of them will simply have to shut down on their own because of what’s happening in the country.
Hence this report:
There are people within MiLB who believe that, without help from the government or other sources, as many as 40 teams could be in danger of not making it through 2020. @jjcoop36 has a deep dive on a dire financial outlook for some minor league teams:https://t.co/zM4cDTrNAO
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) March 19, 2020
This is a time that is going to be very, very hard for so many people and so many businesses. Minor League Baseball will not be immune. If the leagues did not kick off until July, by BA’s estimates, they would lose HALF of their annual attendance.
It was already so troubling to think about how many communities were potentially going to lose access to professional baseball – think of the long-term, future fans – if Major League Baseball’s reduction plan went through. So now to think about none of that even mattering, because so many teams might just have to FOLD this year anyway? It is really crushing.
Read the Baseball America report if you want the particulars, and to better understand how Minor League teams operate at the margins.