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The 2020 minor league season has been canceled, according to a report from Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper and Josh Norris. While widely expected, the news comes as a major blow to the minor league teams and many young players who were hopeful of continuing to chase after coveted MLB roster spots.
This was already shaping up to be a rough campaign for the minors long before the coronavirus was on anyone’s radar. As 2019 came to a close, a tense and rather high-profile battle was already underway regarding MLB’s plans for cutting down on the number of minor league affiliates.
Minor League Baseball’s effort to defend its member teams was greatly imperiled by the global pandemic. Public attention, for good reason, has been elsewhere, and minor league teams have experienced a more or less complete halt to revenue.
A resumption of play might have helped. There were times when it seemed plausible, but any hope dissipated over recent weeks. Even as MLB and its players haggled over the terms for a big league resumption, a ramp-up of virus transmission in many parts of the United States served to increase the already great logistical challenges to a MiLB season.
We’ll see how the broader picture turns out. For now, it’s a rough situation for minors clubs that rely entirely upon in-person, game-day revenue (and advertising associated with anticipated spectatorship).
The situation is obviously also detrimental to the players who are now sitting at home without a clear path to playing baseball in 2020. Some limited number of prospects — generally, those with clear paths to the majors — have been invited to participate in MLB summer camps and ongoing training, but those who weren’t named to 60-man player pools will have to get creative.
There is a potential indy ball outlet, but that’s not likely to provide many opportunities. The Baseball America team has reported that some players are participating in local amateur leagues, though the level of competition will obviously not be up to the typical standard. Fortunately, most MLB teams are committing at least to paying $400 weekly stipends to the minor-leaguers that are left in limbo. That’s a help but hardly a full solution for those players who were not already cut loose from their organizations.