On Thursday at Baseball America ran an article on a “disaster situation” for some minor league baseball teams. That situation would be teams folding before the season begins.

It wasn’t long ago that the concern among minor league baseball fans and owners was if the two sides could figure out how to not eliminate 42 teams and keep many towns and teams still going. That was going to be after the 2020 season. Now with the delay of the season, there’s some concern that teams could fold before the season gets started due to the inability to pay the bills to remain open without ticket sales revenue coming in.

One of the owners quoted in the article who was uncertain about the future was the owner of a Triple-A team. And that’s what gets scary – because Triple-A teams generally outdraw the other levels below them, and do so by quite a bit. This particular owner’s team saw an average of 4,966 fans per home game in the 2019 season. That ranked 41st out of 160 teams. This owner, however, isn’t just the owner of a Triple-A team. He is also a minority owner of the New York Yankees, owns a rookie-level team in the New York-Penn League, and is a co-owner of a team in the South Atlantic League.

Minor League teams make a lot of the money they make – IF they are even making any money – on ticket sales. Unlike Major League teams, most of them don’t have television deals. And if they do, they pale in comparison – both in terms of the number of games they provide to a station, as well as the money paid for the games.

Beyond just things like rent/mortgage payments, there are salaries and all that comes along with that, that are/will need to be paid out. Some teams work on a shoe-string level staff of maybe 5-10 people. But other organizations have 40-70 people on staff.

So here’s the question that has to be asked: What happens if some teams cease to be able to operate? How does Major League Baseball handle that? Do they just let there be some teams that don’t exist at some levels and keep guys back in the spring training facilities? For example, let’s just say two teams in Triple-A can’t make it. How is that handled? Do the other 28 franchises just play out their Triple-A seasons while the two unlucky organizations, uh, just keep their teams back in Arizona or Florida and have them just work out and scrimmage rookie-ball guys? College guys? What would be the plan here?

There’s no real answers right now to any of the questions. Maybe there are loans to be had. Perhaps Major League Baseball can step up and provide some help to keep things going. It’s tough to really have much of a firm grasp on any of this right now – we’re mostly in uncharted territory.

9 Responses

  1. Michael Smith

    Hmm this seems to be a problem. Not sure what can be done to help offset it. You can have contingency plans but for many businesses even with good ones in the end it ends with them going out of business.

  2. MK

    A few years ago the AA Hartford Yardgoats new stadium had construction issues so they ended up playing the entire season on the road. obviously not a great solution and talking to one of their coaches he said it was exhausting. But, they did it

  3. James K

    Back in the 1800s one year Cleveland played all its games on the road because attendance was so poor in Cleveland that other teams refused to play there.

  4. Simon Cowell

    who is going to loan money to MLB, MILB, and anything with baseball in the title? Kids aren’t playing the sport anymore. A smart investor would not give a loan.

    • Doug Gray

      But it won’t get rid of the teams they “wanted” or “needed”. If full season teams are going to be dropping like flies, because they’ll be the ones affected by the delayed start more – that would cause some real issues with having levels with 30 teams.

  5. SteveLV

    I think what actually happens is that businesses, including minor league teams, that don’t have strong balance sheets hit pause on the accounts payable and payroll departments and simply don’t pay anything until business starts back up. It takes forever to be put into involuntary bankruptcy, and in this situation, no one you owe money to is going to want to do that to you – they need paying customers/borrowers when this is all over. The entities that own the parks aren’t going to get a lease payment in the future if the team renting it isn’t there. Banks aren’t going to collect loans if the team isn’t operating. Hoard cash, don’t pay anything, make sure you have enough to start back up when the time comes, and work the rest out later when things return to some semblance of normal. Take a 60 day nap.

  6. Lawrence Turner

    Baseball is dying

    Its rules are archaic. Too many strike outs. Boring. Seeing ball put into play makes the game better.

    Bench players should be able to be used multiple times in any game.

    Overpriced beer and dogs only shows greed. Hurts attendance. Players are overpaid. Egos and lazy.

    The dust bin of history awaits.