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Minor League Baseball cancels 2020 season

“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization,” MiLB president and CEO Pat O’Conner says

Oklahoma City Oklahoma OKC Mickey Mantle statue at Chickasaw Bricktown Ball Park at Plaza for Mickey Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It’s been a brutal eight months for Minor League Baseball, and the latest blow came on Tuesday. The 2020 minor league season has been officially canceled.

This was expected for some time, especially since March 31 when Major League Baseball suspended all minor league player contracts during the national emergency. MLB informed minor league teams that major league clubs wouldn’t supply them with players, which made the cancellation official.

“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,” said MiLB president and CEO Pat O’Conner.

“We’re obviously disappointed to hear this news that we’ve been fearing would come since the coronavirus outbreak first impacted our daily lives back in March,” said Brad Tammen, president of the Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers’ Class-A affiliate in the Midwest League.

It’s one thing for major league teams to hold games with no fans in the stands, since they have television revenue coming in. But for the minors, being limited to no fans proved fatal for the 2020 season. Many minor league teams have scrambled to find alternate uses of revenue this year, like selling concessions to go, using stadiums for drive-in movies, or even hosting alternate leagues.

The Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate Tulsa Drillers, for instance, are hosting a Texas Collegiate Baseball League team of the same name this season, one of five affiliated minor league franchises hosting a team in this 10-team league.

The 2020 minor league season getting canceled amid a pandemic comes against the backdrop of the working agreement between MLB and MiLB expiring later this year. Some teams who didn’t get a chance to play in 2020 likely won’t have an affiliated team next year.

Since November, when news of MLB’s plan to cut a quarter of affiliated minor league teams broke, teams have been jockeying to avoid being one of the roughly 40 teams cut. J.J. Cooper at Baseball America has done great reporting on this. The negotiating between MLB and MiLB over this got so contentious, before the pandemic, that both sides accused each other of publicly spreading misleading information.

Generally speaking, the minor league contraction plan would leave all 30 major league teams with four domestic affiliates — Triple-A, Double-A, and two Class-A teams — plus a rookie league at spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida. Short-season leagues like the Pioneer League and Appalachian League were among the hardest hit in the initial rumored cuts.

That likely means the end for the Pioneer League team in Grand Junction, but whatever you do please don’t call them the Chubs. For the Dodgers, this would likely mean losing the Ogden Raptors, their rookie-level affiliate since 2003.

Last year, 12 of the Dodgers’ 31 signed draft picks played for Ogden. MLB closed that loop this year by shortening the draft to just five rounds, a right the owners gained through collective bargaining with the players and the infamous March 26 agreement that also set the stage for the 2020 major league season.

The Dodgers could still add a few of their six draft picks, including signed pitchers Bobby Miller and Landon Knack, their first two selections, to their club player pool, which would give them a chance to gain experience, likely at the club’s alternate training site, either USC or Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.

“Our thought process of putting together the 60-man is trying to balance whether or not this might be the only reps that some of our prospects get this year,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said last week.

For other minor league players, the chances to play this year might be few and far between. It’s unknown whether teams will be allowed to have players at their spring facilities for workouts and intrasquad games. Dodgers minor leaguers will continue to receive $400 per week through at least the end of August, one week before the original 2020 MiLB schedule was set to end, confirmed by Dodgers minor league pitcher Ryan Moseley, who pitched for Rancho Cucamonga and Tulsa last season.

The next opportunity to play might be the Arizona Fall League for some.

“I do think we’ll be able to play some baseball this year, but we still really don’t know what,” Dodgers VP of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino said during the draft. “I hope that’s the case.”