Robert Sanchez wrote one of the more fun articles that I read in 2019 when he wrote the inside story behind the funniest baseball card ever made over at ESPN. Seriously, it’s a funny card and a good story. Yesterday he wrote about Minor League Baseball at Sports Illustrated and the problems that many teams are facing.
Minor League teams are facing a situation where there’s almost no chance they are going to have games played in home stadiums this year. Major League Baseball is reportedly planning as if there will be no season in the minors – so short of a literal miracle, teams in the minors are going to have nearly all of their revenue cut off. Even when there are games happening in the minors almost all of the money made comes from ticket sales and in-park purchases. An overwhelming majority of teams don’t have any of their games on television, and the few that do aren’t exactly getting paid like their big league counterparts are for their games.
Without ticket sales, and the in-park purchases of merchandise, food, drinks – there’s nothing at all for teams to really bring in revenue. Yes, there is likely an incredibly small amount of online orders of t-shirts or hats, but that’s not covering the salary of one employee, much less 5-65 depending on the size of the operation we’re talking about in the minors. Like many other businesses around the country, people have been laid off, furloughed, had hours reduced and or had pay reduced.
Twenty-four teams (or 35% of respondents) said they were seriously concerned that lost revenue from this season would impact their ability to operate next season or in future years, ranking their level of worry at seven out of 10 or higher. Twelve of the clubs—including two of the 16 Triple A teams that replied and five of the 13 from Double A—said they were “extremely concerned” about their ability to continue operating in the future: a 10 out of 10.
Some minor league operations are doing what they can to do something, to do anything. Some are offering up curbside food pick up, or even outdoor seating options where allowed – serving food that would have been available at a game that should have been happening right now. The Daytona Tortugas announced the other day that they would be hosting a movie night at their ballpark. They’re showing 42 – fitting for Jackie Robinson Ballpark – and are expecting hundreds of people to show up, having sold plenty of pre-order “sections” to families. The Reds old Double-A affiliate in Pensacola has been having all kinds of events, including trivia nights and even set up a disc golf course on the field that had hundreds of participants.
With the minor league contraction that was a big story during the offseason seemingly on the back burner as far as talks go with bigger things to worry about from Major League Baseball’s perspective, it’s making all of the uncertainty even more uncomfortable for many teams in the minors that have a reason to believe that they could be on “the cut list”. There’s a concern, understandably, that this whole situation is going to lead to less unity among the minor league teams and see more of an “every man for himself” kind of situation where they’re all simply trying to survive and remain viable.
Unfortunately, it seems that at least some teams have already played their last game of affiliated minor league baseball without even knowing it. And that’s a real shame.