Morning, friends! Another day, another twist in the will-they-won't-they-return saga of pro sports. As if the problems facing baseball’s potential reopening weren’t treacherous enough, a pitcher has sparked up a whole new brushfire.
Baseball’s players and owners had reached a deal in March to play for a prorated portion of their salaries — if they play half the games, they get half their contracted salary. But the owners now apparently want to tie paychecks to revenue rather than contracts. The players, in turn, see this as management trying to institute a backdoor salary cap. (Labor strife? In baseball? Well, I never …)
Enter Blake Snell, a 27-year-old former Cy Young winner for the Tampa Bay Rays, who’s thrown gasoline onto the smoldering labor fire by declaring outright that he won’t play for less than his full salary. (Contracts are per season, not per game, so he theoretically has legal ground to stand on … if he wants to stand there, that is.)
Thursday, Snell was answering questions on his Twitch channel, and once he started discussing the possibility of playing for less money than he expected to get, well … his rationale may not have come out the way he intended.
"Y'all gotta understand, man, for me to go — for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof," he said. "It's a shorter season, less pay.”
Well, that’s reasonable. A man has to protect both his health and his paycheck.
"No, I gotta get my money.”
Uh, that may not be the best tone to take right now, Blake.
“I'm not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that's just the way it is for me.”
My man, you really need to back away from the mic, this is not going the way you think it is.
“Like, I'm sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I'm making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?”
OK! We done? We’re done. Yeah, that could have gone better, and Snell realized it, because he later texted a reporter with the Tampa Bay Times and put a bit more polish on his words. "I mean, honestly, it's just scary to risk my life to get COVID-19 as well as not knowing and spreading it to the others,'' Snell texted. "I just want everyone to be healthy and get back to our normal lives cause I know I miss mine!"
Here’s the thing, though: he’s not entirely wrong. Yes, he makes a ton of money. But he earned that money, and he’s entitled to it … or at least a reasonable, mutually agreed percentage of it. That’s the definition of a contract.
The bigger issue, though, got a bit lost in his “I gotta get my money” take: the risk that he, and anyone else who literally leaves the house, is taking right now. We are all at equal risk of contracting COVID-19. That doesn’t mean we’re all at equal risk of getting sick or worse, but the possibility is still there.
Snell has every right to sit out the 2020 season — and, presumably, forfeit the 2020 season’s pay — if he judges the risk to his long-term health is too great. It’s the same calculus we’re all facing now.
The more our country reopens, the more the question of risk will come into sharp focus for all of us. In sports, player after player will have to weigh the risks as Snell has: Could I get sick? Could I get someone in my family sick? Could I suffer long-term effects from this? And, yes, am I getting paid enough to take this risk?
The players might just decide the risks aren’t worth it, no matter how much we (and they) want games to start up again.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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