top of page

Ramifications of a Pandemic on the MLB

Hello Ball Boys and Ball Girls! I hope you guys are doing super well. I am incredibly grateful for you taking your valuable time to read today's post. We saw a short 60 game season where each game carried 2.7x the weight. We saw a new format for the MLB draft; we saw one of those draft picks go on to make his MLB debut in 2020. We saw a universal DH. We saw a new playoff format. We saw teams get struck by COVID and still make the playoffs and win a series IE Miami Marlins. We saw players step away from the game they love and have dedicated their lives to, to keep safe. We saw seven-inning doubleheaders. We saw starters going 4-5 innings, the heavy use of the "opener," runners starting on second in extra innings and most defensive shifts to date. Let's talk about 2020 and what I think happens next. Remember, I am just a big baseball nerd with no affiliation with the MLB. My writing is fueled with stat, fact, passion, and of course, opinion.

Please show me the money!

Well, the MLB wishes they could. To illustrate COVID-19 and the MLB's impact, the total MLB payroll in 2019 $4.22BIL and 2020 $1.75BIL.That is nearly a $2.5BIL loss for the sport. To further demonstrate the effect it is already having on 2021; the average player salary was $4.1Mil, the highest MLB free-agent signing now has been about $3.2MIL outside of a hand full of deals. We have yet to see a big name free-agent signed to a multi-year contract. There has also been a surprise rise in the number of players signing with the KBO/NPB. However, the salaries are higher, and these players will get to play a full season and rejuvenate their careers for a chance at a bigger payday in the MLB. The economic impact of COVID on the sport affected the minor leagues of baseball to an extreme extent. We saw over 1000+ new MiLB free agents before the 2020 season as the MLB cut 40+ teams. This winter, we have seen the restructure of the minor leagues. Only the Chicago White Sox will retain their full-season affiliate alignments from 2019. The MiLB now only carries 120 teams, with each organization having 1 Low-A, 1 High-A, 1 AA, and 1 AAA team. The news resulted in the Yankees getting sued by one of their former affiliates.

How does the MLB recoup some losses? SUE!

We will see the economic impact of COVID on professional sports for years to come, and each sport will need to rebuild in its way in the future. The start for "The MLB and all 30 teams are suing their insurance providers, citing billions of dollars in losses during the 2020 season played almost entirely with fans due to the coronavirus pandemic. "Due to COVID-19, the Major League Baseball entities, including those of the 30 major league clubs, have incurred significant financial losses as a result of our inability to play games, host fans and otherwise conduct normal business operations during much of the 2020 season," the league said in a statement to the AP. "We strongly believe these losses are covered in full by our insurance policies and are confident that the court and jury will agree."." The presence of the Coronavirus and COVID-19, including but not limited to coronavirus droplets or nuclei on concrete surfaces and in the air at the insured property, has caused and will continue to cause direct physical damage to physical property and ambient air at the premises," the suit says. "Coronavirus, a physical substance, has attached and adhered to Plaintiffs' property and by doing so, altered that property. Such presence has also directly resulted in the loss of use of those facilities."

The Draft

The MLB draft looked like the other major sports in America as the draft was cut from 40 rounds down to just five rounds. If you didn't know, the NBA draft is two rounds; the NFL draft is seven rounds. The draft helped the MLB in several ways:

  • It increased fan engagement with the draftees.

  • Less is more as we saw the top 150+ players drafted.

  • The draft was a lot easier for us fans to follow.

  • Players were selected in the proper spot and compensated accordingly.

  • College players were more sought after than high school players by MLB teams.

It was fantastic to watch Mariner's draftees Zach DeLoach, Kaden Polcovich in Summer Camp right away as a fan. I know who Emerson Griffin is, and I will now be more invested in his career. Chicago White Sox fans will have their eyes locked on Garret Crochet. All die-hard fans now know who was drafted and can connect with them. With the 5 round draft, we saw the importance for players to go to college and play at the NCAA level. The first round saw 18/29 players drafted out of college. MLB teams want groomed players who can make an impact within a couple of years. College players are also more likely to sign as opposed to High School players. MLB player development departments now will be more invested in their MiLB and newly drafted talent and make them more valuable to the club long term. Honestly, I hope this new format sticks this way or in a slightly larger 10-15 round draft.

New Rules

We saw a handful of new impact rules in 2020:

  • 3 Divisions: West, Central, and East, with the AL/NL teams being combined for their region.

  • The universal DH

  • 7 Inning doubleheaders

  • A runner starting on second in Extra Innings

The universal DH was by far the best thing to happen to the MLB in 2020 and one rule that NEEDS to stick around. NL teams' competitive balance needing to strategize against a full nine hitter lineup, and NL teams can give more players a chance in the field. I also think that pitching coaches and managers had to use their rotations and bullpens differently. Those managers who could leverage their bullpens made it deep into the playoffs and the World Series IE Tampa Bay Rays. The doubleheaders being 7inn helped the pace of play and allowed teams to get more use out of their bullpens. The runner on second base in extra innings was a lot of fun to watch, and see the benefit of pitchers in those high leverage situations was different and nice to see the MLB start to step away from the traditional closer. I think that these rules should stick for a long time.

Expanded Playoffs:

Commissioner Robert Manfred has already proposed this winter to the MLBPA in exchange for another Universal DH season. You are probably wondering what. The format of the 2020 MLB Playoffs saw 16 teams make the MLB Playoffs. We saw the first round the Wild Card round was a best of 3 games. We saw the one seed play the 8, 2 play the seven, and so forth. The Wild Card round was played as 3games in 3 days. Then the Divisional round was a best of 5. 5 games in 5 Days. Then we get to the League Championship Round, which was seven games in 7 days. The World Series was the classic format, two games, one-off, three games, one-off, and two games. So, in the end, there was a lot of playoff baseball. I am still personally torn on if it should stay or should it go. I think we saw some entertaining sweetheart teams and extra storylines come out of it. The expanded playoffs showed up groups on the brink of contention, brought new stars to our attention and the 16 teams were a lot of fun to watch. For me, it indeed was the best of the best going against each other in each series and even matchups and ended up being an excellent thing for the MLB in 2020 if it stays great! If not, I will be a little sad. But if it persists, then we have a new playing field and a market for free agents.

We have seen change happen!

It was a great day on December 16th. It finally happened, and I could not be more excited by the following statement "During this year's centennial celebration of the founding of the Negro Leagues, MLB is proud to highlight the contributions of the pioneers who played in these seven different leagues from 1920-1948. With this action, MLB seeks to ensure that future generations will remember the approximately 3,400 players of the Negro Leagues during this period as Major League-caliber ballplayers. Accordingly, the statistics and records of these players will become a part of Major League Baseball's history." "MLB and the Elias Sports Bureau have begun a review process to determine the full scope of this designation's ramifications on statistics and records." For me, this is huge; as you know, my Great-great-grandfather FAY Young was one of few who covered the Negro leagues during those three decades.

Great news on December 14th "The Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, according to David Waldstein and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times. The club's announcement could come at some point this week, though the team might retain the name throughout the 2021 season and then officially adopt a new nickname for 2022. The club is also considering adopting a generic name (such as "The Cleveland Baseball Team") in the interim." The proper origin of the "Indians" name has remained unknown for 105 years. The famous story that the nickname was chosen in honor of Louis Sockalexis (a Native American and fan favorite for the National League's Cleveland Spiders in 1897-99) isn't exactly true. There are also several indications that Cleveland chose the name to capitalize on the popularity of the 1914 World Series champion Boston Braves. 105+ years of the Indians will be no more. The team announced that the nickname will be changed following the 2021 season and will have a new handle no earlier than 2022. The sub name "The Tribe" will be dropped entirely, and any sales from the Chief Wahoo logo will be donated to Native American Organizations. Once all rebranding, licensing, trademarking and all the behind the scenes work for a brand are done, that name will be announced.