Minor League Baseball officially canceled its season Tuesday for the first time in the 120-year history of the organization due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and the announcement could mean some or all of 40 or more teams at the lowest levels could have played their last games.
The announcement by MiLB, which was expected by many baseball observers, came in a tweet after Major League Baseball informed its 162 affiliated minor-league clubs it would not provide its developmental players to them this year, necessitating the cancellation of the season.
"These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history that we've had a summer without Minor League Baseball played," MiLB President and CEO Pat O'Conner said in the post. "While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment."
While there are some independent leagues, the majority of minor-league baseball teams have a player-development contract affiliation with MLB clubs. The MLB teams pay the salaries of the developmental players but loan them to the minor-league clubs to get instruction and game experience.
MLB agreed with the players union last week to play an abbreviated 60-game season that is to begin by July 23 or July 24, with players to resume what was preseason spring training – abandoned in March – July 1.
The development could mean the demise of 40 clubs in the lower levels of professional baseball.
MLB has been in negotiations with MiLB over the Professional Baseball Agreement, the contract that regulates the relationship between the two and expires at the end of 2020.
The big-league clubs have proposed eliminating the rookie and short-season league teams as well as reorganizing the higher levels.
While initially opposed to the proposal, recent reports had MiLB reluctantly agreeing.
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