Major League Baseball lost a lot of revenue in 2020 because the season was shortened and no fans attended games.
How much? That’s been a subject of discussion throughout this season, and during the news conference in which White Sox general manager Rick Hahn announced that manager Rick Renteria would be moving on, he dropped this almost casually:
MLB will have lost in the vicinity of $3 billion this year, Rick Hahn said.— Jared Wyllys (@jwyllys) October 12, 2020
Well. You can believe that or don’t, but I’ll tell you right now that I do, and here are a few reasons.
First, $3 billion is an average of $100 million per team. Clearly, some teams make more on ticket revenue than others, and the Cubs are one of those teams.
Here’s an article that notes what Cubs tickets cost, on average, in 2019:
Ticket costs were raised 1.6% for this season to an average $59.49, more than you’d pay any other ballpark.
The Cubs sold 3,094,865 tickets in 2019. That’s gross revenue of $184,113,518.85 — and that doesn’t count what the industry calls the “per caps,” the money spent “per capita” or per each fan in the park. Obviously some spend more than others, but I have heard that Cubs per caps can be close to what ticket prices are, or even more. Now, there are costs involved in selling food, souvenirs, etc. but I’ve got no problem thinking that the per cap net could be half of what the revenue is.
Other teams that sell out nearly every game — I’m looking at you, Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees — could have lost as much, or more. Meanwhile, the Marlins, who averaged only about 10,000 tickets sold per game in 2019 (and likely at far lower ticket prices than the Cubs were charging), likely didn’t lose much.
Clearly, I am just pulling numbers from whatever’s publicly available. MLB teams haven’t opened their books in the past, either to players or the general public, and they certainly aren’t going to be starting that now. There could be accounting tricks at work for the MLB books, and I acknowledge that.
But when a MLB executive puts an actual number out there that appears to match reality, I am going to believe him.
Last month, Jesse Rogers reported on possible Cubs losses for 2020:
The Cubs expect to miss out on about 75% of their revenue in 2020, according to sources, because of the COVID-19 outbreak that has limited the season to 60 games, without fans in the stands. That could add up to a $125 million to $140 million loss.
Maybe you don’t believe that. But based on Hahn’s statement and ticket sales apparently lost, I don’t have any trouble believing the Cubs’ number, given that season-ticket prices (and probably regular-season prices) were going to be about the same in 2020 as they were in 2019.
This has major implications on the free-agent signing season as well as the upcoming labor negotiations.
As always, we await developments.