Boston Red Sox

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 28: Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks to the media during a press conference prior to game four of the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Minute Maid Park on October 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

98.5 The Sports Hub staff report

A pandemic-shortened season that left baseball to operate without fans in the stands until the National League Championship Series and 2020 World Series came with a cost for Major League Baseball.

And it’s in the billions.

Talking with Sportico on Monday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that the league’s 30 teams totaled over $8 billion in debt from their lenders. (The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, meanwhile, reported that a league official told him that the league lost $3.1 billion in total revenue during the 2020 MLB season.)

It’s an undeniably brutal figure no matter the final number, and left the league facing an uncertain and potentially ugly future.

“We are going to be at historic high levels of debt,” Manfred, who noted teams preserved liquidity but took on additional debt to make the season happen, told Sportico. “And it’s going to be difficult for the industry to weather another year where we don’t have fans in the ballpark and have other limitations on how much we can’t play and how we can play.

“The economic losses [this season] have been devastating for the industry. You’re seeing the ramifications of that in terms of decisions clubs are making with respect to [laying off] baseball operations and business employees.”

The economic impacts of a crowd-less, 60-game season were always known. The Red Sox, worth an estimated $3.3 billion, were projected to lose about $200 million without fans in the stands this season. The team also laid off 10 percent of their full-time employees last month. The Sox are not alone in that respect, with several teams following their lead, according to Drellich.

It just may get worse before it gets better, too. If the recent spike of coronavirus cases is any indication of what’s to come — and if the U.S.-Canada border remains closed as a result — the Blue Jays may once again have to find a temporary home for 2021. And if the current capacity at these World Series games is the norm for 2021, MLB will take on more financial losses, even after signing a multi-year TV deal worth over $3 billion earlier this year.

“We don’t know what’s next,” Manfred said. “But at this point it’s just impossible to speculate what next year’s going to look like. We’ll just have to get closer and then we’ll make the best decisions we can.”

The Dodgers have a chance to end the 2020 MLB season with a win in Tuesday’s Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

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