The Minor League Baseball headquarters.

For the first time since 1901, there won’t be any official Minor League Baseball this summer. The MiLB season had long seen rumors of cancellation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but that cancellation became official Tuesday. after MLB made it clear they wouldn’t provide players to minor-league teams. And with that combined with MLB’s previous pre-virus plan to cut its list of affiliated minor league teams from 162 to 120, and with the Professional Baseball Agreement between the majors and the minors expiring after this season, there are huge questions about what’s ahead for Minor League Baseball and its teams. And comments MiLB president Pat O’Conner made on a call with reporters certainly make the situation seem grim indeed:

O’Conner did say that the cancellation here was “months in the coming” and “the only thing to do,” plus “not acrimonious” between MLB and MiLB, so it’s not that this particular cancellation is unexpected. But the pandemic has hit MiLB hard, and O’Conner’s comments about how many teams could be in trouble seem absolutely fair. As he notes, MiLB is much more about in-person revenue than broadcasting revenue, so they don’t have a huge amount of already-paid broadcast fees to fall back on. (They do have a low-seven-figure deal with TuneIn and MLB/, and they’re hoping to improve that in the future, but it’s a long way from the broadcast money MLB teams get.)

And with no clear resumption date ahead for games with fans, and with that MLB/MiLB deal expiring, the future of the affiliated minor leagues is very uncertain. Which is part of why MLB only had a five-round amateur draft this year. It’s possible we could see MiLB contracted even beyond MLB’s original plans thanks to the economic impacts of COVID-19. And things certainly look pretty dark for it at the moment.

[The Associated Press; photo from Wikipedia]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.