The 2020 Baseball Season Revisited

For the most of us, 2020 is a year we would like to forget as soon as possible. Still I would like to give my take on how I experienced the baseball year 2020.

Of course, baseball was hit by the coronavirus as well. Many competitions were postponed and some were even cancelled. But in general, most leagues took off at a later stage. The countries where the competitions were cancelled were France, Romania, and Portugal.
Eventually most leagues in Europe started around May/June. If there is something yours truly has learned from this year, it is not taking things for granted. I realized how much I miss baseball when it is not there. As a result, I enjoyed the games I attended intensely.

Since my move to Belgium, I attended more games in that country but I also made a few trips to Germany as well. Just for the sake of it. And in this way, I could expand my cap collection as well. 😀 Dutch baseball has become a bit dull through the years. When I attended my first baseball game in 1986, there were easily 2,000-3,000 fans in the stands. Nowadays that is no longer the case. Next to the fact that the stands are rather empty, hardly anyone fires up his/her team anymore. As a result, the atmosphere at most ballparks has become rather dreary. Especially in Germany it is the exact opposite. No matter where you come, the fans are cheering for their teams. If they are not, the speaker and the entertainment makes them. And the atmosphere is good most of the time. So for me that was also a reason to spend more time at baseball games abroad.

But despite corona, baseball could be played in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Unfortunately, when the contaminations rose, the Dutch government took some measures that made it impossible to finish the Holland Series (Dutch championship series). With L&D Amsterdam Pirates leading 2-0 in games, and Curaçao Neptunus finishing in first place during the regular season, the KNBSB took the only right decision: no champion this year.

Even though it was at another continent, the mutilation of Minor League Baseball hit me hard this year. For sure, in 2019, MLB came up with the plan to cut 42 minor league teams but in the course of this year, it became clear what MLB was really up to: An ordinary money grab. Under the guise of “poor” facilities, long distance travel, rookie and low A ball players hardly making the bigs, and better pay for the minor league players, the MLB owners cut around 1,050 players (exactly the number that makes 42 teams). As the US Supreme Court decided that MLB had to pay their Minor Leaguers the minimum wage for their days of service, the owners rather cut 42 teams to make sure they did not have to pay more than they did in 2019. So now Minor League players will earn at least the minimum wage in the months that they are working, which is a good thing of course, but the owners do not pay a dime more than in 2019.

The biggest part of the 42 clubs that have been cut from organized ball will operated in so-called “independent” leagues, collegiate leagues or in MLB’s Draft league. In all of these cases, MLB still has a big influence and the clubs can still have a look at the talent that is playing there. But… it won’t cost them a dime. At that is what it is all about for the greedy MLB owners. Several articles on the web said an MLB club will save $700,000 per year. I bet you realize that this is just change money for a billion dollar business. Corona could not have come at a better moment for the MLB owners as the MiLB owners did not have any income as the MiLB season was cancelled. As a result, MiLB had to accept the conditions, MLB was shoving down its throat.

Some of the teams that were cut from organized ball were left behind, as they do not know what the future holds for them. Take a team like the Staten Island Yankees. They find out through the (social) media that the Yankees dropped them. Since running a team in an independent league would be too costly, the owners decided to cease activities.
What will happen with a club like the Lancaster JetHawks of the California League? The team was cut, its place was taken by the Fresno Grizzlies (who were forced to step down three levels). What chances do the JetHawks have of becoming an indy league team. Most, if not all independent leagues in California are rather obscure. Will the level of baseball of the Pecos League (to name one) be enough to lure the fans to the Hangar (the ballpark of the JetHawks)? Sure, Minor League Baseball isn’t only about baseball. Entertainment plays a very important role for those who visit the games. But to be honest, I don’t have a clue if there is any entertainment in the Pecos League. What I have read and heard is that the average number of fans per game are 100-200. As the Hangar has a capacity of 4,500 seasts, the ballpark will look rather empty.

Since I visited my first MiLB game in 2008, I am deeply in love with Minor League Baseball. So the development that surrounded MiLB has made me turn away from MLB. Sure it is still the best kind of baseball you can watch, but I refuse to spend any more money on a bunch of greedy owners that rather ruin several small baseball communities for a bit of pocket change.

Anyhow, baseball-wise 2020 was a strange year. I think we may consider ourselves lucky that in most countries baseball still could be played. I enjoyed every minute of it. I really hope that like me, other baseball fans have learned not to take a baseball season for granted anymore. You only realize how much you miss things when it is not there.

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