There won’t be a season. There will. There will but the number of teams will be cut. Over the past months, we’ve heard plenty of reports but no official word on where Minor League Baseball stands.
And now that we know Major League will be presented with a shortened season, hometown baseball fans are getting increasingly concerned – with good reason. But so far, it has been radio silence.
“Nothing new here,” says Jeff Lantz, senior director of communications for MiLB. “We’re still waiting to hear from MLB whether or not we’ll have a season.”
The rumors and reports have been flying. One says the 2020 MiLB season will be cancelled entirely. That report was followed up by one from Forbes, in which writer Shlomo Sprung noted, “I was contacted by a seasonal employee from one of the Nationals’ minor league clubs. The employee, who’d spent six seasons with that team, was told that there would be no MiLB season this year when they were let go last week. The employee was paid for the month of May and told “thank you for everything you’ve done for the organization.”
Additionally, the article notes, Britt Ghiroli, who covers the Washington Nationals for The Athletic, tweeted that nearly all the team’s minor league free agents had been cut and told that there would be no 2020 MiLB season.
Pretty grim stuff. And hard on the heels of that was the information that several sources have reported that MLB will cut its 2020 Amateur draft down from 40 rounds to just five rounds total. According to an article on ESPN, this plan has already been pushed to team scouting directors, despite the objections of team general managers and other front-office officials.
And, Gaslamp Ball noted, “Combine this news with MLB’s proposal to cut up to 42 minor-league teams, and critics justifiably can claim MLB is putting the long-term health and growth of the sport at risk by focusing on profit margins today.”
At this rate, the charge of “Assault on Hometown Baseball” may be upgraded to Attempted Murder, say the pundits.
The plan to contract Minor League Baseball was first announced near the end of 2019, notes Baseball America, when there was initially a list of 42 teams MLB proposed for elimination, “and since then there have been verifiable instances of teams moving on or off the running list (to get to MLB's desired 120 affiliated teams, for every team that moves off the list, another has to move on). The reasons for moving on and off the list have differed -- some teams have gotten facility improvements approved, others have demonstrated enough political pull to be given a second look and others simply may have proved to fit better into MLB’s goals for realigning leagues.”
The cutbacks, to say nothing of the elimination of the 2020 season, would be devastating to those sectors of cities' economies that are tied to Minor League play. In addition to eliminating a workforce of more than 1,000 players, the proposal would eliminate even more related jobs, including clubhouse staff, ticketing personnel, groundskeepers, front office employees, security, concessions, promotional personnel and others.
While the proposal is not final – and negotiations are inevitable, it’s likely that many cities will see at least some reductions. SDM will continue to follow developments on this issue.
In the meantime, several upstart proposals have been suggested, such as having more collegiate summer leagues, a wood-bat summer league and a "dream league" without club affiliation that would offer opportunities to undrafted and international players.
Unfortunately, some are calling these concepts the "pipe dream leagues," and are pointing out they would need to be bankrolled on something other than ticket income in order to maintain viability, since few players have the capital to bankroll a summer of travel ball without additional income. There are additional questions of insurance, accounting, hotel planning (or perhaps camping is the more likely version of accommodations) and other work that would need to be done in order to keep such organizations playing.
The prospect of the loss of a hometown baseball season is demoralizing to cities who support the teams – and who, moreover, have put money into building and renovating facilities over the years. And as June edges toward July, the chance that first pitch will be thrown becomes ever more remote and the outlook for MiLB ever more bleak.
Binghamton Rumble Ponies owner John Hughes recently remarked that with each day there is no decision, the window to play becomes smaller and smaller, saying "time is ticking and the clock is not on our side."