The worst kept secret in the baseball world this year was that the 2020 Minor League Baseball season was not going to happen. Major League Baseball organizations have been planning around the idea that a season wasn’t going to happen. While I’m typing this the announcement has not been made official, but Baseball America is reporting they’ve been told by multiple sources that the announcement is coming later this afternoon.

It’s been easy to see coming for a while now. Minor League Baseball teams make their money on selling tickets and merchandise. Unlike their big league counterparts, they don’t have TV deals for over 90% of the teams, and the ones that do don’t have TV deals that bring in much money and are limited in their scope of availability. Without the ability to sell tickets in the United States with a pandemic running wild, keeping teams from allowing fans into ballparks, there was just no way for teams to operate and still be able to make payroll, even if the gameday staff were limited to just essential employees to put on games.

When you then toss in the fact that Major League teams are trying to find every single possible way to save money, and all of the logistics that would be required to have a Minor League Baseball season – it just doesn’t make sense. Between trying to follow all of the rules and regulations, the expense of testing 250 additional players, 50 additional staffers between the coaches, managers, medical people, etc – the cost likely didn’t justify the means, at least from ownership standpoint.

There’s a lot of backlash that happens now because of this. Minor League Baseball is still trying to keep 40+ teams from being eliminated by Major League Baseball, but that writing, too, seems to be on the wall. The question now is more about which teams are going to be eliminated from affiliated baseball rather than if it’s going to happen. When the news first broke last fall there was a list of teams who were being considered, but that list has reportedly changed since then. Many non-complex rookie-level teams are still expected to be on the list, but the full-season teams that were may have seen some changes.  For the Reds affiliates, four of their teams were on the list – the Greeneville Reds, the Billings Mustangs, the Daytona Tortugas, and the Chattanooga Lookouts.

It’s possible that each of those teams has already played their final game of affiliated baseball. It seems very likely to be the case for both Greeneville and Billings. For Daytona and Chattanooga, as full-season teams who could fit into current regional leagues, there’s still some hope that they can be among the teams who get to stick around.

From a perspective of all minor league team owners and the employees of those teams who are still around – things just got a bit tougher to figure out. While it was likely that they all had a feeling this day was coming, now it’s here. Teams have been trying to utilize their ballparks to the best of their capabilities to host events that would bring in some revenue and allow them to continue to keep some people employed and remain involved in the community. That’s likely to continue, but with a guarantee that no games will be played now, plans certainly could change with how ownership may have to go about keeping people around the facilities.

For the players and coaches that aren’t a part of their big league player pool roster and coaching staff (organizations tapped into their development crew to help out with the larger than usual rosters and the fact that they are spread out over two places), it also means a lot of uncertainty. The players are still being paid $400 per week in most organizations (the Reds are doing so through September 7th – the longest such timeframe in all of baseball), but they also don’t have baseball games to play in. Well, unless they are willing to take the risk of signing up to play independent league baseball and can also get approval from their team to do so.

Players are left to work out and try to get reps in on their own in whatever town they happen to be in. Within the Reds organization, development staff is trying to work with the players through video meetings/conferences, but that’s not the same as being with them and playing in games, either. For the coaches and managers who aren’t in their respect big league city for the big league camps/season, what does this mean? Some organizations have furloughed much of their minor league staff already. With an official cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, will other teams follow suit?

Communities all over the country are going to be without baseball for the first time in a very long time – likely for the first time in the lives of many. While it wasn’t unexpected for those of us truly in the baseball world, those who are more casual baseball fans rather than pure diehards, this announcement may be a bit surprising.

Update at 5pm ET

The season has been officially cancelled. Here’s the press release from Minor League Baseball:

Major League Baseball has informed Minor League Baseball that it will not be providing it’s affiliated Minor League teams with players for the 2020 season. As a result, there will not be a Minor League Baseball season in 2020.

“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history that we’ve had a summer without Minor League Baseball played,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”

Minor League Baseball, which began as the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, was founded on September 5, 1901.

10 Responses

  1. Billy

    Doug, are you able to do a post(s) on what kind of training minor leaguers can be doing to stay in shape and keep their development on track? I’m just curious what the typical minor leaguer has access to right now. They’re not rich. Can they even afford a home gym? Do they tend to be with teammates so that they at least have someone to play catch with? Do hitters have their own batting cages, and if so, who pitches to them? Do pitchers have someone who can catch them, or do they have to throw at 80% and hope not to kill the neighbor kid catching them up in the process? Everyone can go out an run, but does the team provide anything else to help them stay in shape during this?

    • Doug Gray

      It’s going to vary wildly. Some guys have access to gyms and training facilities. Some guys are throwing to/hitting from a tee into a net in the backyard.

      • IMHO

        Those guys that you say are just there to help the prospects look better….what will happen to them?

  2. IMHO

    What a shame. As for working out – they run, they lift, they throw against a wall, or a net or to a friend who isn’t afraid to catch a 90-94 mph ball coming at you…

    I would guess these guys can get jobs – who knows if they will get called to an extended Fall Season – if that will happen…..I guess too that cuts will be made again.

    I truly hope all of the ones who got called to play are appreciative … I hope they know their teammates are rooting for them … probably wishing they were there too.

    America’s greatest past time…. has become just that. PAST TIME. And a lot of these guys will be too old, too tired and it will be PAST their TIME. Perhaps their greatest moments could have been now.

  3. Optimist

    Until and unless reporting about MLB team actions appear, this adds to the pile of enormous mistakes MLB is making. At the very least I expect imminent reports on what and how they are dealing with the top-10/20 prospects, but am doubtful of much they’ll be doing for all the rest, which we will see in a few years in the absence of reporting late-round/unsigned FA all-stars.

    Finally, without plentiful and immediate developmental activity, this does a lot to discredit any team’s future claim of “investing in the future”. MiLB is, quite literally, the definition of where “the future is now”.

  4. Mike Salmans

    I’m afraid that we have seen our last game as an affiliated team here in beautiful Billings Montana and it breaks my heart. We love the games and we have formed friendships and bonds with players that have come through. This is absolutely devastating.

    • Doug Gray

      It really does suck. I was planning on finally driving my way out to Billings this year to see a series or two.

    • James K

      Agreed. Billings has great fans and the most beautiful ball park. Ought to be a way to keep it going.

  5. Amdg

    Wait, I thought it was canceled months ago?

    Isn’t this just “officially” canceling what they already canceled?

  6. Dale

    The only thing that could save the spoiled mlb brand is minor league baseball. Sadly, few acknowledge the ling term implications of not having a minor league season.


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