Minor League Baseball teams collectively released hundreds of players on Thursday, the first wave in what could be a massive number of cuts throughout baseball.

Minor League Baseball releases
The Tri-City ValleyCats prepare for a game on June 12, 2019. Minor League Baseball teams cut hundreds of players on Thursday, with more releases expected soon. (Image: Joe Boyle/Troy Record)

More than a thousand players could lose their jobs as Minor League Baseball teams deal with the reality that they likely won’t be playing games this year.

Minor League Baseball Unlikely to Happen in 2020

According to an ESPN report, team officials say that most players in this first round of layoffs likely would have been released by the end of spring training, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdown of the sport. However, many players who expected to have jobs this summer also received word that they had been cut.

Minor League Baseball relies heavily on revenue from ticket sales and concessions. Since these teams and leagues don’t earn revenue from large television and radio contracts, they can’t afford to hold games without fans, unlike their MLB counterparts. While Minor League Baseball hasn’t officially cancelled the 2020 season, the general consensus is that there is no other path forward, and teams have been behaving as though they won’t play this year.

Many released players may find it hard to get back into professional baseball after this season. Major League Baseball has already been pushing to contract the number of minor league teams. These cuts, combined with a severely shortened, five-round amateur draft, may make it easy for organized baseball to reduce the number of teams in each franchise’s farm system.

MLB teams agreed to pay their minor league players a flat salary of $400 per week in April and May. Several teams have announced that they will pay players through at least June, with both the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners pledging to do so through August. On the other hand, the Oakland A’s said they would cut off the payments at the end of May.

Church Blasts Mets After Release

There have been scattered efforts to help minor leaguers. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price pledged to give $1,000 in June to every minor league player in the Dodgers system not on the 40-man roster.

Some minor league players were understandably upset about the massive cuts. Former New York Mets second-round draft pick Andrew Church took to Instagram to discuss his release, blasting the organization and taking swipes at the fact the team kept Tim Tebow on its AAA roster for publicity purposes.

View this post on Instagram

Please read to understand my true feelings. Today I got released by the NY Mets organization. The people on the other end of the phone had nothing but good things to say and I appreciated that very much. Anyone that has seen me play and compete knows that I lay it all on the line no matter what. Every practice, every game. I am a competitor, a true warrior. It’s in my DNA. From the outside looking in, my baseball career probably raises a lot of questions. Why did you retire and come back? How come your numbers aren’t very good if you were that dedicated? I have always kept my opinions to myself out of respect for the organization I signed a contract with. But now that it’s officially over with them I’d like to say some things. One of the main reasons I retired was to keep myself from expressing how I felt. I was bitter, frustrated, and angry at the Mets organization. I felt my competitive nature was being taken advantage of. They knew I would never say no to competing and would fly me around to fill in for anyone that got injured. I realized this wasn’t in my best interest when my delayed flight finally landed in the 3rd inning, and I was on the mound in a AAA baseball game for the first time, without any warm up throws. My UCL originally tore that night. Instead of seeing a doctors like I asked, they sent me back to High A to pitch in the playoffs. When I told them I couldn’t I was made out to be the bad guy. Then the next year, they made a mockery of our team by putting a celebrity on it to sell more tickets. I saw players lose their jobs because of it. We weren’t playing to win, we were playing to make everyone else money. Not the players. We never saw a cut. Well, allegedly that one player did. I think people are starting to understand that more now but they didn’t in 2018 when it was happening again. I was fed up. I spent my whole childhood honing in my passion and anger, to not let it get out of control, but it was and I was going to explode. So I took the opposite direction, I bottled it and silenced myself. I took some time away and cleared my head. Continued in comments..

A post shared by Andrew Church (@papachurch36) on

“They made a mockery of our team by putting a celebrity on it to sell more tickets,” the pitcher wrote in his Instagram post. “I saw players lose their jobs because of it. We weren’t playing to win, we were playing to make everyone else money. Not the players. We never saw a cut.”

Meanwhile, the MLB season remains in doubt. Players and owners have discussed plans to restart the season sometime in July, but remain far apart on financial issues. Players have agreed to take prorated salaries for the shortened season, but have so far balked at suggestions that they accept additional salary cuts because teams will play games in empty stadiums.

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