A 2020 minor league season is getting harder to imagine even happening

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We’ve spent so much time talking about how to go about putting on a Major League Baseball season that we haven’t talked too much about how we’d put on a minor league season.

As J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explains, however, there seems to be little hope of there even being a minor league season at all given the radically different logistical and financial considerations of minor league ball. Cooper writes that, within Minor League Baseball, “there is a near-universal acknowledgement that there are a massive amount of hurdles that have to be overcome to make any MiLB season happen.”

The problem: while big league ball can, at least theoretically, be played without fans in a handful of isolated locations, it’s not something that makes any sense for the bush leagues:

Fan-free games might work in the major leagues, where TV revenues are significant. In the minors, they are a non-starter. MiLB relies on packing fans into the stands on its most successful weekend dates and using those full houses to make up for the sparse crowds on less-attended days . . . MiLB teams rely on the fireworks nights, bobblehead giveaways and holiday weekends to produce a significant amount of their in-season revenue. Theoretically, there may be scenarios where teams see modest revenue (and potentially non-profitable games) as better than no revenue, but it’s very hard for MiLB to make sparsely attended games successful.

Cooper says it’s even worse than that, because if there is no 2020 season, minor league clubs will start 2021 in a hole, having to provide make-goods for advertisers and promotion partners who have already paid for 2020 spots and placement.

Most minor league operations already work on thin margins and some keep things together on a shoestring. A wiped out 2020 season is going to wipe some of them out completely.