Uncertainty swirls around MiLB as rumors about contraction and cancellation of season linger

Williamsport Crosscutters, a Phillies MiLB affiliate, are facing contraction
Uncertain. If there's one word to identify the current state of Minor League Baseball across the nation, that's it. It's uncertain.

Things were in turmoil before the COVID pandemic as more than 40 clubs were facing potential contraction due to contractual issues with Major League Baseball. This includes the Williamsport Crosscutters, a short-season affiliate with the Phillies.

Now, with no games scheduled and the dark clouds of a potentially canceled season circling, the future looks murky at best for MiLB.

"It was rough before this pandemic," one MiLB team official said on the condition of anonymity. "We were hoping to have some support from MLB, but that's just not happening - or it's not happening at the level we need it to for us to continue to function.

"There's no choice now, the writing is on the wall and it looks like MLB is going to get what they wanted with a drastic cut of MiLB clubs. It's sad. So many markets will now lose an affiliated club."

MLB publicly announced plans to contract MiLB last October. The public revolted against the concept, especially on social media, but the circumstances with COVID has dampened supportive voices.

According to sources close to the Philadelphia Baseball Review, Minor League officials have communicated with teams and stressed the intention of having 120 full season clubs participate in a shortened 2020 season. That's approximately 40 fewer clubs participating in MiLB than last year.

"Whatever fight we had left, whatever options we had to rebuke this disaster of a proposal, COVID has taken away from us," the MiLB team official said. "This was what did us in, the pandemic."

The majority of the organizations on the contraction list are short-season and rookie league affiliates, meaning MiLB would reshuffle clubs and include just Triple-A, Double-A, High A and Low A. MLB's thinking is that with fewer clubs, organizations can spend more money at the higher levels to improve facilities and foster the quicker development of players. MLB also expects to save money by ensuring affiliates are geographically located near their parent organization.

Despite rumors circulating to the contrary, MiLB expects to have a 2020 season. Logistics and other matters though won't be finalized until MLB has a handle on how (or if) it plans to structure itself for a truncated 2020 season.

As with so many other things in society, MiLB will look very different if it happens this summer.
__________________________________
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

No comments: