In order to share revenue, there must first be revenue. That’s a pretty basic principle, right?
As MLB owners, the commish, and the MLBPA continue to try to figure out the legalese and economics of what a modified 2020 baseball season will look like, it’s becoming more and more evident that baseball has been built on a rather tenuous foundation. Despite raking in billions and billions of dollars of revenue over the last half-dozen years, it seems the cash-flow structure currently in place is wholly incapable of sustaining itself during a freak year like we’re experiencing now, and that’s rocking the existing framework to its core.
As Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported earlier today at The Athletic, one of the major modifications we’ll be seeing in 2020 is a lack of revenue sharing, something that has been a big part of baseball finance since 1996. The premise, of course, is quite simple: the big clubs with huge attendance figures bring in the most coin, and in order to maintain some semblance of parity in the game, those clubs effectively subsidize the smaller clubs that have significantly smaller numbers of fans in the stands. Higher following means higher attendance, which means higher revenues, which means higher payrolls, which means buying better players, so in a baseball world with fans in seats and no revenue sharing, the deck would otherwise be incredibly stacked in favor of the Yankees, Dodgers, and the like.
That report does make a few interesting revelations beyond the obvious, however. While on the surface the assumption that a lack of revenue-sharing dollars would disproportionately impact the low-revenue clubs that would otherwise depend on it, that might not actually be the case. Sure, the Tampa Bay Rays would love to have that extra coin around, but given that they already are used to operating with little to no relative revenue from gate attendance anyway, playing games in 2020 without any attendance isn’t exactly taking away a huge chunk of their yearly revenue. So while they will be missing out on dollars they consider vital, it’s actually some of the big-market, big-attendance teams that usually fuel the revenue-sharing that might be hurting the worst.
The Cardinals, for instance, are a club that doesn’t operate in a huge market or with huge TV reach, but they consistently rank among the league’s best in terms of attendance. In other words, they are a club that’s a bit more dependent on gate attendance as a portion of overall revenue than most others, which could mean they’re going to take this year on the chin worse than others.
The Reds, meanwhile, have been operating in the league’s bottom third in terms of overall attendance for years during their ugly rebuild, only last year finally creeping up to 18th overall across the league. That said, their ramp-up and big spending this offseason certainly was done with the idea in mind that they’d be filling GABP in a much bigger way this year than in previous years, so it’s hard to envision they won’t be getting pinched in a similar way as St. Louis.
In a related note, in case you were wondering if the Reds were secretly sitting on a billion dollar slush fund with full ability to weather this as if nothing were wrong, that got pretty well squashed yesterday. As C. Trent Rosecrans relayed yesterday, the Reds will institute a combination of layoffs and furloughs for some staff beginning on June 1st. That was inevitable, really, and is a tough decision that each and every franchise will be facing in the coming days.
In hopefully less depressing news, the fine folks at MLB.com put together a list of the best RFs to ever play the position for each of the 30 clubs, and the Cincinnati Reds have one of the very best to ever do it represented.
Considering all signs point to a universal DH when play resumes in 2020, we may well have witnessed the final days of pitchers in the batter’s box, especially since the CBA negotiations previously scheduled for next year were already primed to move that way. That means no more chances for pitchers on the mound to make their counterparts look absolutely silly, so FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens took a deep-dive into recent instances where hurlers did just that.
Over at Baseball America, JJ Cooper outlined a pretty interesting 2020 season proposal that factored in solutions to some of the biggest gripes held by both MLB and the MLBPA. Basically, he followed the money (or lack thereof), realizing that clubs are convinced they’d be losing money playing regular season ball with no butts in the stands. So...why not barely play a regular season? Expand the playoffs - meaning more playoff games, as those are the real revenue generators - and make it a highly irregular crapshoot in an already odd year? I won’t lie...it’s a pretty damn fun proposal.
Finally, MLBTradeRumors chimed in on how the Reds look pretty primed to benefit from the DH in 2020, noting (as we have) that the OF glut now looks like more a blessing than a conundrum. That said, they focues on how moving Nick Senzel around the diamond would further unlock the roster’s potential, and while that’s absolutely the case, it’s still odd to me to see that idea kicked around given how the Reds have pretty consistently poo-poo’d the idea of him returning to the infield. I wonder if this is the next-gen version of the ‘move Brandon Phillips back to shortstop’ conversation that simply would not go away years after it was an obvious foregone conclusion.