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.

No lease extension, but Orioles and governor tout partnership

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The Baltimore Orioles and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced a joint commitment to what they called a “multi-decade, public-private partnership” to revitalize the Camden Yards sports complex.

The statement from the team and the state’s new governor came Wednesday, the deadline for the Orioles to exercise a one-time, five-year extension to their lease at Camden Yards. The team was not planning to exercise that option, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the club hadn’t announced its decision.

With no extension, the lease is set to expire at the end of this year, but the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority can keep negotiating. Wednesday’s joint release seemed to be an attempt to calm any nerves in Baltimore about the team’s future.

“I am looking forward to continuing to collaborate with Governor Moore, his administration, and the Maryland Stadium Authority in order to bring to Baltimore the modern, sustainable, and electrifying sports and entertainment destination the state of Maryland deserves,” Orioles CEO John Angelos said.

“We greatly appreciate Governor Moore’s vision and commitment as we seize the tremendous opportunity to redefine the paradigm of what a Major League Baseball venue represents and thereby revitalize downtown Baltimore. It is my hope and expectation that, together with Governor Moore and the new members and new chairman of the MSA board, we can again fully realize the potential of Camden Yards to serve as a catalyst for Baltimore’s second renaissance.”

Republican Larry Hogan, the state’s previous governor, signed a bill last year increasing bond authorization for M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, and Camden Yards. The measure allowed borrowing of up to $600 million for each stadium.

“When Camden Yards opened 30 years ago, the Baltimore Orioles revolutionized baseball and set the bar for the fan experience,” Moore, a Democrat, said Wednesday. “We share the commitment of the Orioles organization to ensuring that the team is playing in a world-class facility at Camden Yards for decades to come and are excited to advance our public-private partnership.”

Angelos recently reaffirmed that the Orioles would stay in Baltimore, although he dressed down a reporter who asked for more clarity on the future of the team’s ownership situation. Angelos was sued last year by his brother Lou, who claimed John Angelos seized control of the Orioles at his expense.