As expected, the Philadelphia Phillies lost a boatload of money during the 60-game 2020 season, in which fans weren’t allowed to attend games because of COVID-19.
Kaleel Weatherly and Ryan Sharrow of Philadelphia Business Journal say that according to the annual Team Marketing Report, the Phillies lost $186.1 million in 2020 because of fans not being able to attend games. The Team Marketing Report is independent of teams or leagues, and makes their assessment based on how much each team had in terms of fan attendance over the course of the 2019 season, which was the typical 162-game length.
Back in June, the Phillies began making salary cuts to their full-time employees, with managing partner John Middleton saying that the organization believed they would lose “substantially more than $100 million,” per an internal memo published by Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Last weekend, Middleton called re-signing catcher J.T. Realmuto “a priority,” but said that uncertainty about how many fans will be able to attend games in 2021 could affect how much the organization is willing to spend.
“I can’t tell you. Can you tell me what the governor [of Pennsylvania] and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans? Because if you do, you know something that I don’t,” Middleton said.
“I have no idea what we’re going to be allowed,” Middleton continued, referencing uncertainty about whether fans will be able to attend games next season. “Obviously, that’s going to determine revenues and revenues determine what you can and can’t do.”
The flip side to this is 10 teams are estimated to have lost more money than the Phillies in 2020. Among those 10 are three National League East rivals, the New York Mets, Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. The New York Yankees, who could be a suitor for Realmuto this offseason, are projected to have lost over $437 million in 2020, by far the highest mark in the sport. The Miami Marlins are the only team projected to have lost less than $50 million without fans in 2020.
It should be noted, though, that the $246 million that the Mets are projected to have lost may not hurt them as much as you may think. Steve Cohen, who Forbes estimates to be worth $14.6 billion, is in the process of completing the sale to become the majority owner of the Mets. There’s plenty of speculation that for his first move in charge of the team, he could attempt to lure Realmuto away from the Phillies in free agency. He didn’t have to bear the brunt of 2020’s effects on baseball, the way 29 other ownership groups did.
We don’t know exactly what attendance will look like at Citizens Bank Park in 2021, but there’s reason to believe it won’t be zero. Gov. Tom Wolf announced earlier this week that stadiums that seat 10,000 or more fans will be able to have up to 7,500 fans at games moving forward. When the Eagles play the Steelers Sunday in Pittsburgh, there will be 5,500 fans in attendance.
Philadelphia has yet to lift its local restriction on some percentage of fans being allowed at games, though it stands to reason that when the Phillies welcome the Atlanta Braves to Citizens Bank Park on April 1 to open the 2021 season, there could be some fans in attendance. With the hopes for a vaccine some time in the near future, perhaps the stadium could be at or near full capacity at some point in 2021.
There’s, of course, less focus on these organizations when they are turning profits, ones propelled by fans in attendance at games and multi-billion television contracts. Lord willing, 2020 will be a fluke. We’ll see if the Phillies and other teams spend accordingly this winter.
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