With another day without baseball, the costs of this shutdown continue to mount.
They are unavoidable costs, for sure. Nobody is suggesting that people should gather to play and watch baseball with such a virus running around the country. Major League Baseball has never been accused of being panicky or doing things too quickly. They are costs all the same, though.
We know about the minor leaguers that aren’t paid well in the best of times and aren’t paid in the offseason at all (which is the same as major leaguers, but they tend to have a bit more of a nest egg to get by on). However, these guys have made it through the winter and expected to start getting checks in about a month. They may have put a plane ticket or a car rental on a credit card expecting to be able to pay it off when the money started coming.
Now, not only is the money not coming and won’t be for the foreseeable future, but they have to incur expenses to head back home. They can’t really go back to whatever job they had in the offseason because they don’t know when they will be called back to baseball. Some of them are able to stay at the camps and it sounds like at least those that do will get a per diem, but that’s not everyone. (There was some idea that all the players, in the facilities or not, would get that daily allowance. Whether that will happen will probably be on a team-by-team basis, if it happens at all.)
If this lasts very long, you could well see some players that are typically termed an “organizational soldier” (and perhaps even some that are on the edges of being a prospect) give up the game. They may take a look at the situation and say they need a better paying job now than the potential of what could happen in their careers. Which would be sad. Anytime dreams end it is sad.
We’ve heard a lot–and it’s good that we have, because they should not be overlooked–about the toll this is taking on those that support the game. We’re seeing players and owners in other sports put up money to help those that sell concessions or work at the ballparks get by while there’s no chance of them working. It’s possible some legislation may come out that helps their employer or employers keep the payroll active while revenue isn’t coming in. That would be good. Those people want to work and it’s not their fault in the slightest that they can’t.
Then there are those that don’t have employers. Most every piece of legislation or idea for keeping payrolls requires…payrolls. However, there’s a lot of folks out there that we in the accounting world call 1099 employees. They aren’t paid regularly. They don’t have a boss or an organization that supports them. They are out there doing what they love on a tightrope at the best of times and these are certainly not the best of times.
You all know Tara Wellman, my Gateway to Baseball Heaven cohost. Tara does remarkable things in the Cardinal community and part of the reason she can do things with video and the like is because that’s her job. She’s a freelancer who is involved with all sorts of different aspects of a broadcast, from being in the truck to being behind the camera. She’s done this for a while and she’s good at it. I mean, they don’t ask you to work on the Olympics broadcast if you don’t pass muster. Her job allows her to be around sports and gives her flexibility but there is an important caveat. There needs to be some sort of sport to broadcast.
If this was some sort of weird all-baseball strike, that’d be tough, but she could move on to local basketball or spend time in the ice skating arena, which she has done. She’s not limited to one sport, but when EVERY sport is shutting down, it’s tough to find things to do. And most of the alternatives–concerts, political rallies–are also shutting down, which takes a small sliver of possibility and cuts it even smaller. (If you are interested in helping Tara out, click here to buy her a coffee….or even more.)
Tara’s not the only one in this situation, of course, but she helps me put a real face on what people are going through with this remarkable event. And while the human cost is really the most important thing, let’s not forget that there is a lot of money not being spent around the ballparks. There are supplies that aren’t being ordered. There are restaurants and hotels and tourist attractions that aren’t being patronized. All of those things mean that someone, somewhere, is out income that they were expecting. We don’t worry so much about the Bill DeWitts and the big chains like Walmart not reaching their revenue projections, but Walmart is staffed with people like you and me, people that might not have to work as many hours if people are asked to stay home. The Cardinals have a full staff of folks that are usually paid hourly (or perhaps even salary) sitting at home now with no idea if they’ll get paid and when they’ll go back to work. Hard to sell tickets when you don’t know when the season is going to be, for example.
For most of us, the loss of baseball just means the lack of an entertainment option. For many more, it’s life-altering. For them, more than for us, let’s hope this situation resolves itself soon.