Minor League Baseball will not be played this year. On Tuesday, the league canceled the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Major League Baseball informed MiLB that it "will not be providing its affiliated Minor League teams with players for the 2020 season." The announcement comes weeks before the MLB will begin its 60-game season after suspending operations in March.
"There are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time on our history that we've had a summer without Minor League Baseball played," Minor League Baseball President and CEO Pat O'Conner said in a statement. "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."
In a news conference, O' Conner said there were talks of playing games without fans, but he said Minor League Baseball is a "fans-in-the-stands business" since the league doesn't have TV deals like the MLB. He estimated 85-90 percent of revenue is from ticket money, concessions, parking, and ballpark advertising. ESPN mentioned the league drew 41.5 million fans from 176 teams in 15 leagues last year, which averages 4,044 fans per game. Many organizations have received money through the federal Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act.
"That was a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging industry," O'Conner said. "Many of our clubs have gone through one, two, maybe three rounds of furloughs. In our office here, we've had varying levels of pay cuts between senior management, staff, and we've furloughed some individuals as well and are just about to enter in the second round of furloughs." When Minor League Baseball returns, it is likely there won't be as many teams as there were in 2019. The MLB proposed reducing the affiliates from 160 to 120.
"There are very many teams that are not liquid, not solvent, not able to proceed under normal circumstances, and these are anything but normal circumstances given the PBA and the uncertainty of the future for some of these ballclubs," O'Conner said. "So I think the coronavirus has really cut into many clubs' ability to make it." MLB will start the 2020 season on July 23 and 24. All 30 teams have submitted their 60-man player pools which include their top prospects and Minor League Players.