There is some optimism and some pessimism in the camp of the Chattanooga Lookouts.
It depends on the topic.
Lookouts officials have been monitoring the contraction front since November and the coronavirus front since March, with constant speculation in abundance regarding both topics and tangible information hard to find.
Regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, each day that passes without a cemented plan for Major League Baseball to resume adds to the likelihood that the Lookouts may not play at all in 2020. ESPN recently reported that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told the 30 big-league teams, "While I fully anticipate that baseball will resume this season, it is very difficult to predict with any accuracy the timeline for the resumption of our season."
Such a statement may offer hope to the action-starved fans of the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and other MLB teams, but that same statement continues to leave the Lookouts in the dark.
"MLB holds all the cards here, and they will decide what they want to do and what they don't want to do," Lookouts president Rich Mozingo said this week. "They're not going to send minor leaguers somewhere if the major leaguers aren't playing, and if the major leagues come out and say they're going to play the second half of the season in Arizona or Florida, that's not going to bode well for the Chattanooga Lookouts.
"If we don't play a baseball season this year, then we're looking at 19 months between deposits in our bank account, and that's decimating to any business out there. With that said, what if we resumed and somebody did get really sick on our watch? That way outweighs the positives of putting a few dollars in your pocket here and there."
Should the Lookouts not play in 2020, there would be issues of returning money to season-ticket holders and to the sponsors of in-game entertainment, fireworks displays and those who have advertisements on the AT&T Field outfield wall. The obvious hope, should that predicament arise, would be that fans and sponsors would roll over their commitments to 2021.
It's a depressing short-term outlook for sure, but optimism can be found on the contraction conversation.
Lookouts co-owner Jason Freier said earlier this month that Chattanooga "is not likely to and certainly should not be contracted." Freier cited the centrality of the Lookouts within the Southern League and the deep history of baseball in this city that dates back to 1885, and the proximity from Chattanooga to its parent club, the Cincinnati Reds, is an obvious plus as well.
The New York Times last November had a story that listed the Lookouts among 42 minor league teams that faced contraction, but MLB quickly issued a response stating that the article's list was inaccurate. The Boston Globe recently reported that the Lowell (Massachusetts) Spinners of the New York-Penn short-season league, one of the 42 teams that appeared on the contraction list, would be retained and upgraded to a Single-A affiliate.
"Major League Baseball is committed to keeping baseball in Lowell," MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem told the Globe in an email.
Of course, saving Lowell would result in a casualty for another team that did not appear on the initial list, but Lookouts officials are hopeful the $200,000 invested in AT&T Field during the offseason to enhance the clubhouses and batting cages sent an appropriate message.
"The most frustrating part to this has been that we've never known what the target is," Mozingo said. "We haven't known that if Chattanooga did X, Y and Z, would that get us on the right side of the list? What's the criteria, and who is making these decisions? We haven't known any of that at all.
"The Chattanooga Lookouts are not going away. I don't sit up at night worrying about that."