This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.
Tampa Bay Rays to Furlough Employees
In order to save money, the Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly furloughed some of their full-time employees; the furloughs will take effect on Saturday. The furloughs will involve less than half of their staff, with other employees in baseball operations receiving pay cuts. Teams have unsurprisingly been happier to trumpet the employees they’ve kept on than the cuts they’ve made, such as the already reported news of the Pirates halting 401k contributions for baseball operations staff or the Mets cutting front office salaries after June 1, even if a partial season is played.
The Rays are the first team known to have furloughed employees, but they’re unlikely to be the last; the A’s have reportedly discussed what Ken Rosenthal and Alex Coffey described as “extensive layoffs.”
Little League World Series Canceled
In the very first Little League World Series, held in 1947, the local Maynard team from Williamsport, PA defeated Lock Haven, PA to become the first champions. The Little League World series was integrated before Major League Baseball was, and went so far as to disqualify 61 whites-only baseball leagues in 1955. What was essentially a local tournament — the original competitors were all Pennsylvania and New Jersey teams — has become an international one, with 37 championships won by non-American teams.
The one thing Little League has never had to do is cancel the World Series, a step that was taken this week for safety reasons. While it doesn’t carry the same financial ramifications as cancelling the Fall Classic would, it’s almost sadder in a way to see this World Series canceled; kids age out of the Little League division quickly and for many of them, second chances will be far sparser than those for major league players.
Buck Showalter Against Fanless Games
Buck Showalter is the rare manager who actually has participated in a fanless game; he managed the Orioles during the team’s fanless contest against the White Sox, which occurred as a result of the 2015 Baltimore protests.
While he no longer manages a major league team, Showalter feels that fanless games would be a mistake.
“I don’t see how they do it. That’s just me, but at the end of the day, what have you got if you do it? It’s going to be hard. I understand them trying to do something. I know Phoenix in the summer – I’ve lived there – and it’s so hot you aren’t playing outside. Florida? You could do it if you’re just trying to get the product out there, but I don’t know how you do that with the players, quarantining them and the bus drivers and the practicality of it.”
MLB in Negotiations with Umpires
With MLB wanting players to take pay cuts if they end up playing in games without fans, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the league is also seeking to reduce the salaries of umpires. MLB has proposed a 35% pay cut, while the umpires have proposed a smaller, 20% pay cut.
Andre Dawson Grapples with Coronavirus Tragedies
While a few in baseball have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, Hall of Famer Andre Dawson’s post-baseball career has sadly resulted in him being on the front lines of the tragedy. The Hawk, who spent most of his career with the Cubs and Expos, owns a funeral home in Miami. Dawson’s facility has already seen six COVID-19 related deaths and Dawson has had to perform a delicate balancing act, allowing families to grieve as they need to while also ensuring that safety guidelines are being followed to prevent the further spread of the virus.
The Revenue Impact in Sports
What will the total cost of COVID-19 be in terms of lost revenue to sports? ESPN hired Patrick Rishe from St. Louis’ Washington University to tackle the question. Rishe’s examination of the data resulted in a figure over $12 billion. This includes $3 billion that fans would have spent, $2.4 billion in tourism related to youth sports, and nearly half a billion in lost wages. Pro sports alone make up about half the figure, at $5.5 billion.
As with the rest of the economy, job losses in sports are expected to be staggering. There are roughly 3 million jobs within 524 occupations that are dependent on sports, according to Emsi’s analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s everybody from athletic trainers to security guards, from umpires to public address announcers, from groundskeepers to dancers. Analysts say many of these workers are living paycheck to paycheck.
For example, there are 278,932 Americans who earn an average of $45,649 annually from coaching and scouting. There are 371,607 fitness and aerobics instructors, with an average annual salary of $44,956 — representing nearly $17 billion in total wages.