It’s no accident that before the World Series came to its conclusion, MLB was getting it out there just how much of a financial disaster this season was for the owners. You’ve got to lay the groundwork, and MLB wants all its fans to know why its owners will be non-tendering some pretty big names to get out of even just their arbitration numbers, much less not signing any free agents whatsoever. They also have to justify the hundreds of layoffs they’ve been eyeing for years. And so here you go, from Evan Drellich of The Athletic:
Some owners were already plowing toward new cost-efficiency goals prior to COVID-19, and now others are likely to follow suit.
To sum up, teams have already begun laying off employees in various departments. Ticketing, promotions, scouting, and front office personnel have been culled, and especially in the front office and scouting departments, It’s likely that most of those jobs won’t return when things get back to near normal. The Cubs have laid off 100 people. The A’s 150. The Orioles 50. And this will roll on.
Seeing as how MLB will never open its books, nor has ever done so, your first reaction should be that this is utter horseshit. MLB’s biggest expense, player salaries, were capped at 37 percent this season thanks to the schedule only being 37 percent of its normal fill. That means instead of spending somewhere around $4 billion in salaries, they only spent somewhere around $1.5 billion.
MLB did lose out on some $2.2 billion-$2.5 billion in ticket sales, so that comes off their pre-pandemic projection of $10.2 billion. MLB did get its full $1 billion in playoff TV money thanks to their expanded tournament, which almost cancels out what the players earned during the season (though thanks to the expanded playoffs, the players did get playoff shares).
If you’re to accept, on the surface, that MLB took in only $3 billion and spent $6 billion and thus lost $3 billion or so, that would mean that the league found some way to spend $4.5 billion on things other than player salaries. That’s some $150 million per team, again, on things that aren’t player salaries. We know the COVID-19 testing was comprehensive, but dropping that much on it would be pushing it. How nice were these chartered planes?
All of this isn’t going to stop MLB from already crying poor for next year to justify all the people they just put out of a job. It also somewhat ignores that TBS’ new deal kicks in next year, at a 65 percent increase to about $565 million per year. That’s just under $20 million per team. Probably enough for a few scouts, one would hope. And if MLB gets to run a full slate of games again, even without fans, they’ll get every bit of that.
Even if you take them at face value, you’d have to forget that MLB raked in over $10 billion last year — a profit, by some estimates, of around $2.5 billion. We’ll never know, because again, books = closed. Even if they lost $3 billion after taxes and such this season, they’re even for the past two years. And of course, MLB owners will never tell you what all their revenue streams are.
But that’s not going to stop them from bilking the lowest-ranking members in the organization, and asking everything to run in a more automated fashion. Why pay for these scouts when you could just watch draft-eligible kids via video? Why do we need all these coaches when we’re shrinking the minors anyway? Why pay minor leaguers anything? Why does this front office need so many people when we can just “formula” our way to victory?
MLB owners have been dreaming of the time when they can strip down their operations, you can be sure. Automation is the biggest threat to labor in every industry, after all. It’s funny how the rank-and-file always have to be the foundation for billionaires’ profits, and always the first to go. Sometimes it’s a new park the public has to pay for. It’s raised ticket prices for worse seats to pay for luxury suites and boxes for people like them. It’s the taxes they don’t pay on stadiums and neighborhood expansion that the people around the parks could probably use.
And now it’s scouts, coaches, and various other employees who are filing for unemployment — not to keep teams from going bust, but to make sure that the pipeline of green that ends in the owners’ pockets doesn’t stop. No MLB team is anywhere near in danger of folding. Even if you believe that they lost $3 billion, that works out to $100 million per team. Find an owner who can’t actually stomach losing $100M pretty easily. You can’t do it.
It’s merely what they’ll use to justify shrinking the game even more. To back up their claims of “not enough liquid” to add to their teams. They didn’t even wait around for this season to end before getting everyone ready for the barren wasteland of the next one.