Minor League Baseball will announce today that the 2020 season will be officially cancelled, according to a report from Baseball America. According to Evan Dreilich at The Athletic, the season is being cancelled for a number of reasons, including teams not having the resources to provide player safety, teams not having media revenues to make up for a lack of revenues from gate attendance, and a lack of players since MLB has suspended its working agreement with the minors, leaving minor league clubs to get their own players.
The cancellation of the season is likely to be a devastating blow to many minor league teams. Many minor league clubs have local owners and operate like small businesses. Teams have already furloughed or laid off much of their staff, and more cuts are likely once teams issue refunds to advertisers that were expecting games this year. Hanging over the economic uncertainty due to the pandemic is the effort by MLB to cut affiliations to as many as 42 teams in an effort to cut costs.
Some independent leagues are still planning to operate this summer. The American Association, the league that the Kansas City T-Bones usually play in, are planning on a shortened 60-game schedule with limited fans. Games will be played in just three hub cities with just six teams. The T-Bones will not be included in this season. Minor leaguers that have contracts with MLB teams are free to sign with independent teams this summer, since their contracts are suspended under the pandemic. However any injuries sustained during play could lead to a termination of their contract with a big league team.
Some minor leaguers will continue play this year as part of the 60-man club pool that teams will use as reserves for their active roster. But the cancellation of the season leaves many others without games and uncertain about their paychecks. The Royals have committed to paying their minor leaguers for the entire season, but other clubs have only committed for part of the summer, and others have instituted mass releases. Typically, minor leaguers have not been eligible for unemployment benefits.
The minor leagues not only provide entertainment for fans in smaller communities across the country, it also provides thousands of jobs to players, ticket-takers, marketing staffers, groundskeepers, and all sorts of services around game days. The fate of the minor leagues stands at a crossroads. It seems likely that many clubs will not be able to withstand the economic blow of having a season wiped out. For those communities, this will be a devastating blow, and for even those that survive, 2020 will be a year they would like to forget.
Update: It’s official.