Last night Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred went on CNN with Anderson Cooper to talk about a lot of baseball’s plan to try and get the season going again in a safe way. Dr. Sanjay Gupta also joined the two of them for the discussion.
Before we get into the headline of the article, let’s talk about a few of the other points that were brought up during the conversation. Earlier this week we asked the question here at Redleg Nation about a player having the option of not choosing to play in 2020 even if the Major League Baseball Players Association were to vote to play. Manfred addressed this a bit here, noting that while he hopes a vast majority of the players will choose to play, they won’t force players to play who would like to sit out.
Manfred also noted that the protocol for the health and safety of the players, staff, and support staff that would need to be involved for baseball to resume was an 80-page long document that attempts to cover as many aspects as possible. Tests would happen multiple times per week, as well as daily logging of temperatures and symptoms (or non-symptoms) for everyone. If and when a player were to test positive they would be required to quarantine and there would be contact tracing. That player would be eligible to return after testing negative twice within a 24-hour period of time.
And this is important, too. There is a contingency plan in place where if for one reason or another a city needed to be “shut down” again, that another facility/city could be used for a team to continue play. Details weren’t given on where, as it likely differs for many teams. This is just the author of this article speculating, but options could include spring training facilities or unused minor league ballparks in nearby cities that could be “rented” out for the time needed.
You can watch the medical questioning side of the interview here:
“All of our players would be tested multiple times a week” for coronavirus, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says on the efforts to bring baseball back. “That testing would be supplemented less frequently by antibody testing as well.” #CNNTownHall https://t.co/iOWj5nwtpL pic.twitter.com/qDylpfuIh7
— CNN (@CNN) May 15, 2020
Before jumping into the main topic of the “lost money”, I think it’s fair that we all chime in on how long it’s been since Rob Manfred bought a new couch. I haven’t seen a flower-print couch since the 90’s.
Now let’s talk about the statement made by Rob Manfred about how much money Major League Baseball would lose if there is no season played.
The economic effects are devastating, frankly, for the clubs. We’re a big business, but we’re a seasonal business. And unfortunately this crisis began at kind of a low point for us in terms of revenue. We hadn’t quite started our season yet. And if we don’t play a season the losses for the owners could approach $4 billion.
Let’s dive in here, and it’s caused a whole lot of confusion because the math simply doesn’t work. If there were to be no season played where does a $4,000,000,000 loss come from? The player salaries for 2020 are roughly $200,000,000. The MLBPA agreed to $170,000,000 back in March, that was already paid to the players, and the agreement was that if no season were played that they would not get paid beyond that. Minor League players have been paid $400 per week for the last 6 weeks and that agreement is only through May 31st. That comes out to roughly $30,000,000 across all of baseball.
So, player salaries for the entirety of players in every organization for 2020 if no season is played is $200,000,000. That leaves $3,800,000,000 remaining that would come from where, exactly? What is costing Major League Baseball $3.8 billion dollars in losses?
Writer Joe Sheehan used an internet meme to display the confusion of the statement:
Player salaries, major and minor, $200M
Staff salaries, maybe another $150M?
Marketing costs down the drain, $300M?
someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this. my family is dying
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) May 15, 2020
What is more likely that Rob Manfred said, and doesn’t expect the general public to actually do the math on (and he’s probably right that a very, very large majority will never even think about the math involved) is that Major League Baseball will generate $4,000,000,000 less in revenue than they otherwise would have if games were played. That, however, is not the same as actually losing the money. It’s funny wording and tricky accounting. Losing that money would be where Major League Baseball is writing checks out for $4,000,0000,000 more than they are receiving checks coming in. That isn’t at all what’s going to happen if no games are played this year.