Though the 2020 MiLB season was slated to open in early April, most fans and most front-office staff see the Memorial Day weekend as the true beginning of the season, the time when fans realize summer is here and start turning their attention to baseball. The weather is warmer, the kids are out of school, and the idea of a beer and a brat in the bleachers becomes mighty appealing.
But we have no baseball at all. And while Major League Baseball officials have focused on salvaging as much of the 2020 season as possible, the MiLB season has been completely been lost in the shuffle. Sure, you’ll occasionally run across a farm director chat up possible MiLB assignments, but in terms of priorities for MLB teams or the commissioner’s office, the fate of the 2020 MiLB season isn’t on a top 10 list. The only way minor-league players fit into the immediate priorities of 2020 is where a taxi squad will train should the MLB season proceed.
Which does a disservice to the MiLB owners and front-office personnel, who sit in a suspended state while MLB maps out its own future. While virtually no one expects the 2020 MiLB season to be played, owners don’t know that for sure until they receive word from Major League Baseball—even if there’s a small chance of the MiLB season happening, owners must prep for one. Really, the focus right now among MiLB management should be the 2021 season, though it will likely lead to more layoffs in the industry, as well as the transition of many furloughed employees to laid-off employees.
But even that 2021 season is up in the air, as the fate of Minor League Baseball after MLB subsumes the industry still needs to be finalized. MLB officials laid out their plan for the future of Minor League Baseball during an April 22 conference call along the lines of what we laid out prior to the meeting. Since then, very little communication has taken place between the two sides. We’re subject to daily discussions among owners about what they expect for 2021; we’re not seeing the level of concern claimed by SI.com in this survey. Yes, there’s plenty of apprehension out there about the future, but the poll conflates anxiety caused by the coronavirus with anxiety about contraction and tries to make economic worries as something unique to Minor League Baseball: polls like this from business owners show they are not. Concern about operating in 2021 after financial setbacks in 2020 is prevalent in every American industry and will likely linger through the end of the year. This is not unique to Minor League Baseball.
Take a look, but don’t be distressed by the alarmist rhetoric. There will be pain, and there will be operators forced into sales—the same as every other industry. The biggest challenge for MiLB will be to counter pessimism now prevalent in the general economy. In a way, this is a task tailor-made for the baseball community: every day is a new day during baseball season, and baseball teams sell sunshine, happiness and fun. The challenge will be restructuring MiLB at the same time America adjusts to a post-pandemic economy. A huge challenge, to be sure, but we’re not as pessimistic about the future of the industry as is SI.com.
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