Atlanta Braves are not immune to baseball’s revenue issues

Unemployment woes impacting the country are also hitting baseball and the Atlanta Braves.Img 0611
Unemployment woes impacting the country are also hitting baseball and the Atlanta Braves.Img 0611 /

This Winter will be all about money for the Atlanta Braves and many other clubs.

This — unfortunately — will be a recurring theme for the Atlanta Braves and across all of baseball for the next several months:  the question about how the industry will deal with money issues as they prepare for the coming 2021 season.

There are strong hints already:

  • AUGUST 10.  After the public filing of the report showing a 95% drop in revenue, belt-tightening began in earnest.  Tim Tucker of the AJC found that all Braves employees making $50,000 or more would experience a pay cut.  The percentages were not revealed.
    • As part of that report, Liberty Media noted in their filing that they were actively working with lenders to find acceptable modifications to debt-servicing promises previously made.
  • SEPT 15.   As reported by Dave O’Brien in TheAthletic (paywalled):
    • 65 Braves employees found that they would not be back for 2021… including personnel from every department.
    • This including scouting (generally advance scouting of other MLB teams), where the Braves reduced their pro-scouting contingent to 3 from a prior level of 11.
  • TODAY.  A report by Evan Drelich of TheAthletic (paywalled) indicates that “hundreds” are being laid off across the industry, suggesting a sea-change “that will forever change the sport.”
    • Scouting, in particular, is one aspect of baseball that may never return to its prior levels of employment, with teams choosing instead to rely on video much more than a traditional ‘eyes on’ approach.

The reality of the situation is that while yes:  baseball owners are “billionaires”, few have the kinds of actual cash resources to continuously subsidize an industry relies on a consistent revenue stream to fund itself during each baseball season.

Even before COVID-19 changed the way nearly everyone has conducted business, baseball was in the process of reducing the layers of minor leagues across the board.

One might argue that this was reform needed for a long time, but the bottom line is that with widespread calls for increased player wages at the minor league levels, a reduction in the size of the entire player development program seems to have been MLB’s response.

Even now, though, it’s very likely that next season will still have demands for less-than-ideal fan access to stadiums around the country, further suppressing revenues — hence the staff reductions.

So now… how are teams still going to be able to maintain a product on the field that still wants to be paid as if the year is 2019 while front offices have no idea how much money they will actually have to work with?

Now that we’ve all — baseball fans and more — had to endure this most difficult 2020 year, one would hope that cooler heads might prevail, allowing both owners and players to put their heads together for a mutually-beneficial solution.

Next. Campfire Sounds. dark

Nah… I don’t expect that to happen, either.  As such, it’s going to be a rocky Winter for baseball.