Minor League Baseball Season Is Canceled for the First Time

The announcement that 160 minor league baseball teams and tens of thousands of workers and players had long been expecting finally arrived Tuesday afternoon: the 2020 minor league baseball season will not happen.

It is the first time in the history of Minor League Baseball, which was founded in 1901, that a season has been canceled.

“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization, as this is the first time in our history that we’ve had a summer without Minor League Baseball played,” Pat O’Conner, MiLB’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season.”

Technically, the season’s fate was sealed when Major League Baseball informed MiLB that it would not be providing the players needed for the season because of the national emergency brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The MiLB Board of Trustees met earlier on Tuesday to finalize what had been apparent for months.

Many of the roughly 8,000 minor league players — those who are not part of their affiliated M.L.B. team’s 60-man player pool for the 2020 season — will miss an entire year of their careers. Most M.L.B. teams have committed to paying their minor league players, many of whom earn less than $15,000 per season, $400 a week beyond June 30.

Playing a 2020 season was always a more daunting undertaking for MiLB than for M.L.B. Unlike M.L.B. franchises, minor league teams rely heavily on revenue from people in the stands — tickets, beer and hot dog sales and sponsorships tied to attendance.

Because they do not have widespread TV or streaming deals, it would not be feasible for MiLB to play games in empty stadiums, as M.L.B. plans to do beginning July 23. Another complicating factor: MiLB plays in smaller towns across the country and would have had to negotiate many more state and local reopening guidelines.

The MiLB season was originally scheduled to start on April 9 and end in August. Without any games, minor league teams were forced to reduce their workforces and seek federal and local aid. Some teams had been trying creative ways to bring in at least some cash by renting out their stadiums for overnight stays or selling ballpark food for takeout, but nothing could replace a 140-game schedule for a full-season team.

According to MiLB figures, minor league teams earned an average of $70,000 in gross revenue per home game, and $5.4 million per year. Most of that money went to operating expenses, including paying employees (each team averages 21 full-timers and 200 seasonal workers) and rent (teams pay a combined $65 million annually, the majority to local governments). M.L.B. teams paid for and provided the minor league players and coaches.

Without a season, several minor league owners feared some teams would fold permanently because they could not go 18 months without revenue — in effect giving M.L.B. the minor-league contraction it has sought since last fall.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 30, 2020

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • What’s the best material for a mask?

      Scientists around the country have tried to identify everyday materials that do a good job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored high, as did vacuum cleaner bags, fabric similar to flannel pajamas and those of 600-count pillowcases. Other materials tested included layered coffee filters and scarves and bandannas. These scored lower, but still captured a small percentage of particles.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

With the operating agreement between M.L.B. and MiLB set to expire in September, M.L.B. had been seeking to eliminate at least 40 minor league affiliates as part of a larger restructuring the league has said it was pursuing to improve player development, cut down on unforgiving travel and upgrade rundown facilities in the minors. After initially fighting M.L.B.’s plan, MiLB’s resistance softened during the pandemic.

O’Conner told reporters on Tuesday evening that more than half of the minor league team owners could either be forced to sell their teams or go insolvent without outside financial help.

“This is the perfect storm,” he said. “There are many teams that are not liquid.”

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