Commentary: Another Opening Day come and gone


by - Staff Writer -
Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports
Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports

April 9 may not mean much to must of us around the country, but for many people, it signified opening day of their next season. In case you haven’t guessed, yesterday was supposed to be Opening Day around the Minor Leagues as COVID 19 has us left wondering when baseball will return next.

Despite so many conflicting reports around there saying when MLB will return, we haven’t heard much along with the Minor League, which has me wondering do they even plan to play this season. That leaves the futures of coaches, players, and even some organizations up in the air next year as MLB was in the process of eliminating up to 40 minor league teams next year. Could this be the end for those teams without having another year to attract fans?

To some, Minor League baseball may not mean a whole lot, but I want to urge those fans to reconsider. Not only is Minor League baseball a career for thousands of players, but it is also a cheap family-friendly entertainment value that you can enjoy all summer. Keep in mind that most of the players we have come to love on our Cubs roster spent at least some time in the minor leagues showing how important it truly is from the top on down.

What makes this years shut down of Minor League baseball tougher to swallow than maybe had it happened in years past is because we have no clear vision as to what the plan is this season. With COVID-19 continuing to throw curveballs in the sports world, and MLB trying to cut back on farm system teams, would the MILB just completely scrap the season and restart from scratch next year.

As we are approaching the middle of April, it is still unclear as to when we will see baseball or any other sport for that matter, but some dates may be one to look for over the next few months. May 30, June 17, and June 22 are significant as we move forward with the baseball return process. May 30 marks opening day for the Dominican Rookie league, June 17 marks the start of all short-season A-ball leagues, while June 22 marks the beginning of the Arizona Rookie League.

While these leagues can still happen, I fear that they will be canceled entirely because of COVID 19 and another factor. Let’s hypothetically speaking say that baseball is deemed safe to play before July 1. Knowing that the minor league systems already have a shorts season schedule put in play, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see all Minor League teams target that June 17th start date as the new opening day and play their schedules out from that date forward with no changes using a short season type of schedule.

Could that mean no short-season ball this year as every level would be affected? That very well could be the result, but I think it would be more likely that two rookie league teams would be terminated, making things tougher for roster decisions. While the Cubs have teams in both Arizona and the Dominican Republic, they have two teams in each league. Should the season indeed start in June, don’t be shocked to see those two teams get combined to one and more players moving to other minor league organizations to fill out the roster.

That could mean the quality of play may not be as good as seasons past, but do you think anyone would care if baseball returned in some form. Should we see June 17 as the target date, look for a lot of changes to be put in place this season that could remain permanent, especially with a shortened draft already on the horizon later this summer. The primary reason for that was to remove the low-level rookie, and even some short-season teams as cutting down on the draft will make that much easier to do.

We all know Minor League baseball is financially challenged compared to the MLB, but some don’t realize how much they are challenged. Haven’t a stoppage of any length of time hurts the league, but would it be a smart decision to play Minor League ball at all this season. Crowds are limited at games as they are, and with full crowds seeming like something that won’t be plausible at this point, how would Minor League franchises make enough money to get by this year?

Playing in empty stadiums is one thing for the MLB as they still make money through TV revenue and other outlets. However, playing in empty stadiums doesn’t make any sense for the Minors as they don’t have the funding or revenue that an MLB team has.

A lot of people have been calling me cold-hearted and selfish lately because I want sports to return more than maybe I should. While that part may be a bit selfish of me, sports play a vital role in the lives of so many people and the economy in their respective cities alike. Health is and should be our nation’s top priority, which at this point that seems to be the case.

However, how long can a country, let alone a city that depends on baseball go without having some sort of sports-related revenue generated? I am not going to sit here and advocate playing a full season. I am also not going to sit here and say that sports shouldn’t be played. By now, everyone knows the severity of what is going on, and people have their thoughts on it. The thing that makes me want sports back the most is the amount of people that depend on them to make a living.

Taking professional athletes aside who make millions, but minor league players barely make enough to get by playing to survive. In some instances, they can’t even get by on that wage. Then you take all the employees, workers, and city organizations themselves that depend on the revenue generated by their team to make a living. The longer they go without baseball or any sport, for that matter, the harder it will be for them to survive during this time.

Most of us are working from home and are getting paid if possible. However, you still have the ones who are unfortunate not to get paid during this time. Yes, we are supposed to receive a stimulus check at some point, but how long can we survive off something like that if they are not working in the sports world. At some point, we need to get back to our everyday lives in some regard, even if that means playing sports in empty venues. At least some money could come in to support the workers.

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