By Sally Fahey
Okay, Major League Baseball successfully got through the 2020 season even though the COVID-19 pandemic caused a 60-game season and a World Series, won by the Dodgers last night, played in Texas instead of California.
All because of caution.
But because no fans were allowed at games, MLB’s 30 teams have accrued $8.3 billion worth of debt from their various lenders, according to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Manfred said the league had sustained “historic high levels of debt” and that combined operational losses for MLB during the 60-game season and expanded playoffs totaled between $2.8 billion and $3 billion.
“It’s going to be difficult for the industry to weather another year where we don’t have fans in the ballpark and have other limitations on how much we can’t play and how we can play,” Manfred told Sportico.
With the pandemic starting to surge again in the United States, it seems unlikely it will be business as usual this offseason or that clubs will be in a rush to hand out big contracts to free agents. Also, at least at this point, spring training starting in mid-February seems highly improbable.
“The economic losses [this season] have been devastating for the industry,” Manfred said. “You’re seeing the ramifications of that in terms of decisions clubs are making with respect to [laying off] baseball operations and business employees. I mean, you’ve never seen those type of decisions, at least since I’ve been around. In order to get through the year the clubs did a great job preserving liquidity, but they also took on a lot of additional debt.”