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Baseball's Minor

Baseball’s minor leagues cancel 2020 seasons – Fox News

Baseball’s minor leagues canceled their seasons Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the head of their governing body said more than half of the 160 teams were in danger of failing without government assistance or private equity injections.

The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the minor league governing body, made the long-expected announcement.

“We are a fans-in-the-stands business. We don’t have national TV revenues,” National Association president Pat O’Conner said during a digital news conference. “There was a conversation at one point: Well, can we play without fans? And that was one of the shortest conversations in the last six months. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

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O’Conner estimated 85-90% of revenue was related to ticket money, concessions, parking, and ballpark advertising. The minors drew 41.5 million fans last year for 176 teams in 15 leagues, averaging 4,044 fans per game.

MLB teams are planning for a 60-game regular season and most of their revenue will derive from broadcast money.

“I had a conversation with the commissioner, and we weren’t unable to find a path that allowed us to play games,” O’Conner said. “It wasn’t an acrimonious decision on our part.”

O’Conner said many minor league teams had received money through the federal Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act.

“That was a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging industry,” he 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 a second round of furloughs.”

He hopes for passage of H.R. 7023, which would provide $1 billion in 15-year federal loans from the Federal Reserve to businesses that had 2019 revenue of $35 million or less and “have contractual obligations for making lease, rent, or bond payments for publicly owned sports facilities, museums, and community theaters.”

In addition, the Professional Baseball Agreement between the majors and minors expires Sept.. 30, and MLB has proposed reducing the minimum affiliates from 160 to 120.

“There’s no question that what the pandemic has done is made us somewhat weaker economically,” O’Conner said. “I don’t think it’s challenged our resolve. I don’t think it’s impacted our desire to stick together and get a good deal.”

There have not been substantive talks for about six weeks.

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“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. And I think that we’re looking at without some government intervention, without doing something to take on equity partners, you might be looking at half of the 160 who are going to have serious problems.”

MLB already has told clubs to retain expanded 60-player pools, of which 30 players can be active during the first two weeks of the season starting in late July.

Conner said the financial impact of the pathogen might extend until 2023.

“As serious as the threat from Major League Baseball was,” O’Conner said, “this threat from the coronavirus, it transcends any list that anybody wants to make with respect to the possibility of teams not being around in the future.”

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League Minor

Minor League Baseball cuts hundreds of players amid pandemic, sources say – ESPN

7:59 PM ET

  • Jeff PassanESPN

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      ESPN MLB insider


      Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”

Hundreds of minor league baseball players were cut Thursday and hundreds more are expected to lose their jobs as the sport grapples with the near certainty that the minor league season will be canceled, sources told ESPN.

Team officials said a vast majority of the players likely would have been released toward the end of spring training even if baseball hadn’t been halted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to sources. But the cuts en masse, which could wind up numbering more than 1,000, nevertheless reverberated around the game, sources said. Released players expressed fear that their careers would be over, and those whose teams hadn’t yet made cuts prepared for a tenuous next few days, sources said.

In recent weeks, owners of minor league teams have begun laying off front-office and game-day workers and citing the cancellation of the season as the reason, according to sources. The minor league baseball season has not officially been canceled, according to a spokesperson, though the suspension of the Professional Baseball Agreement that governs the minor leagues’ relationship with Major League Baseball precludes big league organizations from providing players to their minor league affiliates.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he would inform Minor League Baseball if and when players would be allowed to join affiliated teams. He has yet to do so. Even with no players available, teams acting as if the season is over and one team renting out its stadium on Airbnb, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner has yet to speak publicly and acknowledge the foregone conclusion for 2020, and the fallout from it.

O’Conner declined to comment when reached by ESPN.

For more than a year, MLB has planned to contract about a quarter of minor league teams before the 2021 season. Compounding that with a drastically shortened amateur draft — just five rounds this year instead of the typical 40 — and the delay of international free-agent signings until as late as Jan. 15, minor league systems could be as thin as they have been in years.

Farm directors, front-office officials and agents said that further player cuts — more related to the elimination of affiliates and leagues in 2021 — could be expected in the future. Some of the veteran players released could compete for jobs on the anticipated 20-man taxi squad every major league team will field if a season begins, but the younger players cut Thursday, sources said, might have more difficulty finding jobs in baseball.

All teams agreed to pay minor league players $400 a week in April and May to cover wages lost because of canceled games. The $400 salary was given by MLB regardless of what the players were supposed to make, including to hundreds of players who had been contracted to make several times that amount. For some players, that meant a pay cut of more than 80%.

Early this week, the Oakland A’s told their minor league players they would no longer receive the stipend starting in June, drawing significant criticism. Eight teams have said they will pay minor league players through at least June, with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners pledging to pay players through the end of August, around the time the minor league season normally ends.

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