Major League Baseball’s piece of metal hasn’t even been awarded yet and Rob Manfred is already talking about next year.
In an interview with Barry M. Bloom for Sportico, MLB’s commissioner stated that the teams have amassed a collective $8.3 billion in debt by playing the 2020 season without fans. This claim comes just a few days after hundreds of employees, both on the business and the baseball side of operations, have been laid off.
Of course, Major League Baseball’s books are closed so we’ll never actually be able to verify just how much money teams lost this year. I mean, obviously, teams took a significant not having fans in the stands buying tickets, merchandise, and concessions, but player salaries, which make up far and away MLB’s largest expenditure, were prorated to the 60-game season.
Manfred coming out and saying that MLB lost all of this cash is simply just a way to A) navigate the ugly PR situation of so many employees being laid off during a global pandemic and B) get ahead of the game for the inevitable labour negotiations with the Players’ Association that will happen before the 2021 season.
You’ll surely remember that a tremendous amount of effort in April and May was spent on the league nickel and diming players as much as possible. Given the fact we likely won’t be seeing 30 teams with fans in the seats next season, MLB will again be looking for ways to cut the largest cost of operation.
Again, there’s no doubt that teams took a hit this year. Without open books, we’ll never know exactly how much, but there’s denying that having empty stands is a significant loss. But it’s also a little difficult to buy into the owners crying poor when, ya know, this happened…
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) July 30, 2020
Anyways, what does this mean from a Blue Jays’ perspective?
Bloom mentions in the Sportco article mentions that some executives have already suggested that they won’t be committing much, if any, salary to new players this winter. This doesn’t mean that all 30 teams are going to sit on their hands but it certainly is reasonable to expect a very team-friendly free-agency market this year.
One owner that really shouldn’t be feeling overwhelming financial ramifications of the COVID pandemic is Rogers Communications. Earlier this month, Forbes reported that Rogers saw a fairly significant increase in viewership on Blue Jays’ broadcasts this season.
While not factored into the Nielsen numbers because Canada is not tracked by the company, viewership in the country was exceptionally strong for 2020, according to SportsNet.
The Blue Jays on Sportsnet averaged 500,000 viewers in 2020, up 23% year-over-year, and reached 9.8 million Canadians (27% of the population).
And, beyond that, a pandemic that has ultimately forced everybody to sit at home and browse the web and watch TV all the time really shouldn’t be a bad thing for a massive telecommunications company.
There’s absolutely no excuse for Rogers to cry poor this winter. Many teams will bow out of the free-agent market this winter and the Blue Jays shouldn’t be one of them. They’re in a prime position to capitalize.