Major League Baseball’s gross revenue was back to pre-pandemic levels this season, Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters after Monday night’s Game 3 of the World Series was postponed by rain at Citizens Bank Park.
“We’re going to be just shy of $11 [billion],” Manfred said when asked if revenues would be back over $10 billion.
The figure reached $10.7 billion in 2019, the last full season played without the COVID-19 restrictions that began in in March 2020. That season was delayed four months, abbreviated to 60 games, and played without fans in the stands.
Last year MLB played at limited capacity in most of the 30 ballparks until mid-season because of health and safety protocols.
Manfred said two years ago at the World Series in the Globe Life Field bubble that MLB had accrued $8.3 billion in debt just to get through the 2020 season.
Even though 2022 had the start of spring training and the regular season delayed by an offseason lockout of the players, MLB has bounced back, Manfred said.
The new Basic Agreement included an expanded playoff schedule, going from 10 to 12 teams, and a three-game Wild Card Series in one ballpark, and those changes helped generate interest.
“Look, I think we’ve had a phenomenal year,” Manfred said. “In September, we saw the benefits of the new playoff format. We had weekend draws we hadn’t seen since 2014. The three-game Wild Card round performed really well on a weekend against football.”
MLB recently struck deals with streaming TV services, Apple for seven years at $85 million a season and Peacock, worth $30 million a year for two seasons. Attendance overall was back to 95% of 2019.
“I’m excited about how it went overall,” Manfred said. “I think the postseason in general has been great. And I look forward to 2023 being even better.”
Next year new on-field rules take hold, including a pitch clock, a ban of infield shifts and larger bases. The return of the ghost runner at second base to open extra innings is “still to be determined,” Manfred said.
The matter needs to be discussed among the players as a collectively bargained issue, Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLB Players Association said Sunday in Houston.
“Fans and players like it. The clubs like it. It seems like it has legs to me,” Manfred said.
Judging by earnings, the fans really like it.