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MiLB Teams Prepare for Possibility of Shortened Season

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In the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, teams across Minor League Baseball are preparing for the increasingly likely possibility of a shortened 2020 season. 

The response to coronavirus, or COVID-19, has evolved significantly over the last few days. Last Thursday, MiLB announced an indefinite delay to its season, while Major League Baseball said it would delay its season by at least two weeks. Both circuits are now looking at longer delays, however, as MLB announced on Monday that it will follow a new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to cancel gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, meaning that the launch of the 2020 season could occur around Memorial Day at the earliest.

While the exact timeline for when MiLB could launch its season remains uncertain, that development means that will likely be months before 2020 action begins. For full-season teams that were to have begun their seasons next month, this means the possibility of a drastically reduced schedule, leaving them in a holding pattern as they to prepare for when the season does actually get underway. Teams like the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Low A; Sally League) expect that a shortened season will lead to significant losses in revenue. While the exact economic implications might not be known for some time, the prospect of a shortened season is one that clubs have to brace for amidst a circumstance that presents plenty of unknowns. More from the News & Record:

“I counted it up today,” [Grasshoppers president and general manager Donald] Moore said. “If we started on June 1, we’d have 89 games. That’s what’s on the current schedule. So who knows? Eighty games? Ninety games, maybe? If they push it further back, then we’re like a short-season team.”

And that would hurt the bottom line. Short-season teams play 70-game seasons. The Hoppers and Dash both play schedules that feature 70 home games (before rainouts).

“You’re talking a couple of million dollars (in lost revenue). Easily,” Moore said. “It would be impactful, let’s put it that way….

“Hopefully, we can keep everybody and get through this,” Moore said. “It does look like in a best-case scenario that we play no sooner than mid-May or the first of June. … Whenever anything is finally decided, you figure it’s going to be another two or three weeks of practice and training before we play. I don’t know. Nobody does. These are uncharted waters, no matter what vocation you’re in. That’s one of the biggest things right now: fear of the unknown.”

The uncertain timelines for beginning play leaves plenty of questions around MiLB, with the season now likely to be months from getting underway. In light of that, teams are going to have prepare for the possibility of shortened seasons, and the revenue challenges that could come as a result of a drastically smaller schedule.

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