Minor League Baseball Contraction

Back in January – when “global pandemic” was a phrase only used in movie scripts about some sort of future dystopia – there were reports that MLB wanted to reduce the number of minor league teams affiliated with major league clubs rather drastically.  Reports at the time said that MLB wanted to trim the 162 existing minor league affiliates down to 120.  The motivation for MLB here is cost savings; the result for minor league teams that might lose affiliation is almost assuredly going out of business.  To the surprise of no one, the minor league clubs opposed this plan and they had some powerful allies in the fight – – the local members of the House of Representatives in areas that might lose a team and other State level legislators.

Since that plan was revealed, the sports world had changed dramatically.  If anything, the loss of revenues that MLB teams will incur in 2020 due to missed games has only intensified the interest the teams must have in cutting costs.  Meanwhile, the balance has shifted away from the teams in the lower minor leagues.  MLB teams derive plenty of revenue from media rights deals; the parallel revenues coming to minor league teams from media rights are a pittance.  MLB teams can sell sponsorships and naming rights for tidy sums to major corporations; minor league teams sell billboard-like advertising on the outfield wall to local hardware stores.

The way minor league teams survive is through ticket sales and parking/concession revenues.  So far in 2020 there has not been any of that and it could well be that the start of any baseball season – major leagues or minor leagues – will happen without fans in the stands.  That would be financial disaster for many minor league teams.  Coupled with that adverse set of circumstances is the fact that legislators at the State and Federal levels now have much bigger issues confronting them than the fate of a minor league baseball team in Wherever USA.

Time is also working against the minor league teams.  Most minor leagues play 140 games or so in a season; that means each team gets to host 70 games and that translates into 70 days out of the year when most of the income flows into the accounts.  Normally, minor league teams would have started play in the first week of April – so they have already lost 5 weeks of “revenue time”.  Seventy games translate into 10 weeks of “revenue time”; each team would have played half of the time at home and half on the road by now, so each team has lost 2.5 weeks if “revenue time”.  It is not a huge stretch of the imagination to see that some minor league teams are going to have to fold – – and that will help the MLB teams achieve their goal of cost cutting all by itself.

There are later reports that negotiators for the Minor League clubs are now willing to consider minor league contraction in exchange for a new deal that will provide some sort of “financial certainty” in the future.  There has been no public acknowledgement from MLB or the minor league clubs of such a step in the negotiations, but there are multiple reports to that effect.

I just want to point out here that one important long-range objective for MLB is to attract new fans to the game; baseball fans skew old and old people die off at a greater rate than do young people.  It is not clear to me how removing baseball from as many as 42 small markets in the US advances the goal of “attracting new fans to the game”.  This story is not over – – but in terms of the tug-of-war that was in effect back in January 2020, the momentum is completely one-sided at this time.

Shifting gears …  There is a video out there on the Internet showing Mike Tyson working out with a boxing trainer very seriously.  According to reports, Tyson is “training” for a 4-round bout that will be staged to raise money for charity.  Yesterday, there were reports that an Australian promoter had offered Tyson $1M to stage that bout somewhere in Australia.  We shall see…

Boxing has a longstanding tradition of hyping its events.  I have often said that the lead up to a big fight is not much different than the staging of a pro ‘rassling event; boxing is sort of like pro ‘rassling except the punches are real.  With that in mind, please decide how many grains of salt you might want to take this with:

  • His trainer in that viral video says, “… I did not expect to see what I saw.  I saw a guy with the same speed, same power as guys 21,22 years old.”

Mike Tyson is 53 years old; his last actual fight was in 2005.  If he gets himself into shape to stage an exhibition fight – – many of which barely raise a sweat on the combatants – – or even a series of such exhibition fights for charity, then good for him.  What I hope not to see is any hint that this exhibition bout – – no matter where it happens or when – – is some sort of steppingstone for Mike Tyson to try to get back into real professional boxing.

Finally, here is an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Europe:  A place where many local non-English-speaking residents will probably understand what it is you are trying to ask them if you ask it a second time only much louder.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Minor League Baseball Contraction”

  1. Tyson getting into a real bout with a real pro would be a bad mistake. He could get hurt, and not just his legacy. I recall a washed up Ali….

    POSSIBLY the trainer meant he had the reflexes of an AVERAGE 21,22 year old who came to the gym for exercise. The guy who sells insurance during the day. Compare him to that guy, OK, that’s like saying Mike Piazza can hit in the cage as well as a lot of college kids….. who will be dentists in 5 years. But he can’t get around on Jacob deGrom any more.

    Mike also might have decided he needed some exercise.. and he is taking the sort that he was used to for years and is comfortable with.

    Note a number of baseball teams are short season rookie teams, that start in mid-June. They get the kids who just graduated high school coming in. But these are likely also mostly MLB owned and immune to cuts, though not reduced revenue – presumably even they will need some training time, as the high schools are not playing

    1. ED:

      Agree completely with your view of Mike Tyson and his facing a real contender at his age.

      Short season teams owned by clubs may feel a pinch as clubs seek to reduce costs; if that happens in enough cases, it may be difficult to maintain a league that is geographically sustainable. There are lots of moving parts here…

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