Canceled Season Paints Grim Financial Picture For MiLB's Future
The official cancellation of the MiLB season due to the COVID-19 pandemic "was expected," and the "impact on the 160-team industry is grim," according to Michael Silverman of the BOSTON GLOBE. MiLB President Pat O'Conner said that more than half the teams "will not be able to survive without congressional intervention or equity infusions, and the effects could linger" until the '24 season. O'Conner said, "We are in dire straits, and I still have grave concerns." Silverman notes adding on the fact that MiLB "already was facing a precarious future because of contentious talks" with MLB over a new Professional Baseball Agreement, and the magnitude of yesterday's development "is apparent." O'Conner: "This is the perfect storm. There are very many teams that are not liquid, not solvent, not able to proceed under normal circumstances, and these are anything but normal circumstances given the PBA and the uncertainty of the future for some of these ball clubs" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/1).
CONTRACTION LOOMING? In N.Y., James Wagner writes without a season, several minor league owners "feared some teams would fold permanently because they could not go 18 months without revenue -- in effect giving MLB the minor-league contraction it has sought since last fall." With the operating agreement between MLB and MiLB set to expire in September, MLB "had been seeking to eliminate at least 40 minor league affiliates as part of a larger restructuring the league has said it was pursuing to improve player development, cut down on unforgiving travel and upgrade rundown facilities in the minors" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/1). ESPN.com's Bradford Doolittle noted recent talks between MLB and MiLB regarding a new PBA "have been sporadic, as big league owners had their own season to worry about." Those talks "should resume in earnest soon." When they do, MLB negotiators "will proceed with the knowledge that many minor league clubs are operating in precarious terrain." That was true before the MiLB season was called off, but now that it has been, MiLB's "worst-case scenario has become reality." Doolittle: "To put it succinctly: Nearly every avenue that minor league owners had to create leverage in their effort to stave off contraction has been blocked" (ESPN.com, 6/30).
LONG-LASTING IMPACT: USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques writes MLB's "dirty work" might be "done for it, with the big league season postponed -- and still in significant doubt -- and no infrastructure to safely stage a minor-league season." The damage "will be immediate" for many franchises and "long-lasting for those that survive" (USA TODAY, 7/1). In Houston, Brian Smith writes under the header, "Minor League Baseball Deserved Better In 2020." MiLB ultimately "isn't going anywhere," but the "future of MLB's pipeline is up for serious debate." A "livable wage continues to be an issue for minor-league athletes and I've been to low-level parks that are less than ideal (and that's being kind)." MLB has "serious issues but the sport will soon return and real games will soon dominate our TV screens." It "will take years for many Minor League Baseball teams to recover from 2020," and "some never will" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/1).