CLEVELAND — The 2020 baseball season is officially over for the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, and despite a year where both teams made the playoffs, the losses that won’t appear on any scoreboard are in the bank accounts.
As Progressive Field sits empty in a season without fans, the Tribe lost more than just home field advantage.
“The losses in the industry and to us are staggering. I think on an industry level it’s in the billions of dollars and on the team level, it’s tens of millions of dollars in losses that are greater than what we were expecting to start the year," said Indians President Chris Antonetti. “That has a huge impact on the league, and on any individual team, including us.”
Dr. Jim Strode, chair and associate professor of sports administration at Ohio University, says it’s not just the loss of ticket sales for both the Reds and Indians, but also less televised games and sponsorship.
“When you look at shrinking a season from 162 games to 60 games, right, you’re automatically going to lose revenue. Regardless if it’s media revenue or otherwise. With no fans, obviously you don’t have parking, you don’t have concessions, you don’t have all of the money that comes into the ballpark.”
Strode says many Major League Baseball teams don’t disclose their finances, but paying players and whether or not teams can keep fan favorites and superstars, like Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, could be difficult with declining revenue.
“With the Reds and the Indians being right in the middle of payroll, right, and of course with Major League Baseball and a luxury tax, we range from the New York Yankees at the top, to the Baltimore Orioles at the bottom, right? So we don’t have consistent payrolls, we go from 130 million to 30 million," said Strode, “But when you look at, you know, decreased revenue, you’re going to see that it’s going to have an impact on the players that these teams can afford.”
And Antonetti says he isn’t sure what the immediate consequences of the economic blow will be, but the franchise is working through it.
“What exactly that means, we’re not quite sure, other than, you know, we are in a worse financial position today than we were eight months ago. And we need to chart a course forward that allows us to continue to build competitive teams, but also gets our finances back in order.”