There’s a lot of uncertainty out there about most sports in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Minor League Baseball saw some particular drama Wednesday. A lot of that was centered around reports from Joe Doyle that there might not be any minor league season but rather an expanded MLB roster and a developmental league, first on Twitter and then at SB Nation Seattle Mariners blog Lookout Landing:
— Joe (@JoeDoyleMiLB) April 29, 2020
A lot of prominent people chimed in to dispute that, though:
From what I've been told, no decision will be made on MiLB season for a while as first priority for MLB is figuring out when MLB season can be played. MiLB decision comes after that.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) April 29, 2020
Can confirm what @jjcoop36 is noting here. Told by four different agents that they have not received word of any concrete decision being made on MiLB season yet. "Decision about MLB season needs to be figured out first." Agent spoke to two GMs, who also "haven't heard anything." https://t.co/L5Q4a1VF1I
— emilycwaldon (@EmilyCWaldon) April 29, 2020
Contrary to reports, Major League Baseball has not canceled the Minor League Baseball season, according to a league spokesman.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 29, 2020
And MiLB themselves put out a statement that this isn’t the case at the moment:
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) April 29, 2020
For his part, though, Doyle stood by his story:
I stand by my sources and this story completely. I was contacted independently by an agency representing four minor leaguers at advanced levels. I did not go seeking this information, it was brought to my desk.
I cross-checked this with another agency representing two players.
— Joe (@JoeDoyleMiLB) April 29, 2020
Messaging reflects that an alternate plan is being put in place. MLB and MiLB have not confirmed that the season is canceled, and likely would not do so until a firm plan is in place and ready to be put into action.
The original facts and sources of this story remain true.
— Joe (@JoeDoyleMiLB) April 30, 2020
But this even led to Baseball America (one of the outlets Doyle lists himself as a contributor to in his Twitter bio) stating that he isn’t a regular contributor there, and that his reporting for another outlet doesn’t align with what they’re reporting:
To clarify, @JoeDoyleMiLB is not a Baseball America staffer or regular BA contributor. BA is reporting that no decision has been made on the currently postponed 2020 MiLB season.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) April 30, 2020
Of course, at this point, both sides of this can still be true. Doyle’s initial report was only of “multiple agents receiving messaging,” and it is absolutely possible that two agencies were “informally advised” (as he stated in his follow-up tweet) that there will be “no regular MiLB season in 2020.” (And at this point, we already have gone past the start of some MiLB seasons, so there isn’t a “regular” MiLB season to be found.) So this could all be a colossal error on MiLB’s part, passing out “messaging” that the season would be canceled to some agencies before they were prepared to make that call.
And “receiving messaging” isn’t exactly the world’s strongest report anyway, especially when Doyle later added that it only meant that his sources were “informally advised” that there wouldn’t be a MiLB season. And it’s quite possible that Doyle’s report will still come true, especially considering that the denials revolve around the “no decision has been made yet” theme. It’s possible that the eventual decision could wind up being exactly what Doyle wrote.
But the flip side here is that there were a whole lot of prominent contradictions to Doyle’s initial report. And while it’s certainly possible that a couple of agents “received messaging” that the MiLB season would be cancelled, that doesn’t appear to have been a widespread message, and it definitely isn’t a message that MiLB wanted to put out officially at this point in time. And it’s certainly interesting to see Baseball America distancing themselves from him after this report. We’ll see how it all shakes out, but at the moment, Doyle’s report isn’t looking all that great.