MLB owners claim they'll lose more than $600K per game without fans, report says

MLB owners and players continue to negotiate the framework for a 2020 season that remains stalled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Players have already agreed to pro-rate their salaries based on the numbers of games played in 2020, but owners recently decided they want players to instead share revenues from the season as opposed to receiving those pro-rated salaries. Players, not surprisingly are balking at the idea for a number of reasons. 

That's the background to MLB's projection of significant losses per game absent a further reduction in player salaries. According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, MLB expects to lose $640,000 per game in an 82-game regular season in which those games are played without fans. Playing without fans of course means no gate receipts for MLB teams and no in-stadium sales of concessions or merchandise. 

At the team level, the document projects the Yankees to suffer the most losses at more than $300 million total in the absence of further concessions from the players. Teams would, however, still receive local and national television revenues commensurate with the number of games played, and assuming a postseason is held they'd receive a comfortable majority of national TV revenues.

The players are naturally skeptical of the league's figures. Almost all MLB teams are privately held, which means they're under no obligation to disclose their financials. As such, there's long history of owners' fudging numbers and hiding revenues when it suits their aims. In this particular instance, it's hard to make sense of the league's claims, as baseball writer Joe Sheehan laid out on Twitter.

These owner claims are sourced from a 12-page document titled "Economics of Playing Without Fans in Attendance" that was presented to the Players Association (MLBPA). The MLBPA -- no doubt knowing that owner claims and the numbers purportedly backing those claims are to be treated with extreme skepticism -- has, according to the AP, requested additional documentation from the owners.

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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