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Pitcher Blake Snell created controversy by announcing his reluctance to play in 2020 for reduced pay. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Blake Snell Doesn’t Have to Play Major League Baseball in 2020 — and That’s Okay

Like everyone else, the hurler should be able to decide for himself what is best for him and his career

Tampa Bay Rays’ star pitcher Blake Snell recently made headlines by publicly stating he would not play in 2020 for reduced salary because the risks associated with COVID-19 meant it was “just not worth it.” His remarks were widely panned by journalists and fans across the country for him being selfish and another example of greed in sports. However, such criticism is unwarranted, as any such decision he makes is well within his rights.

The 2018 American League Cy Young winner (21–5 with 1.86 ERA) struggled in 2019 due to injuries, posting a 4.29 ERA in 23 starts. Still just 27, big things are expected of him assuming he is healthy. Major League Baseball has bandied about the idea of playing an 82-game schedule if possible. Recently, they waffled on how much players would get paid, given the likelihood that games would be played in empty venues as a safety precaution.

Due $7.6 million in 2020, Snell would receive approximately 25% of that if the 82-game schedule occurs under the current owner proposal. The players had previously agreed to a 50% salary reduction for a shortened season but now owners want to reduce that further, claiming that no fans at games will dramatically reduce their income.

Snell explained, “If I get the ’rona, guess what happens with that? Oh, yeah, that stays — that’s in my body forever. The damage that was done to my body, that’s going to be there forever. So now I got to play with that on top of that. So, y’all got to — I mean — you’all got to understand, man, for to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening because the risk is through the roof, it’s a shorter season, less pay.”

Although the MLB plan to start the 2020 season would involve regular testing and close medical monitoring, Snell doesn’t believe the reward outweighs the risk unless he is getting his full pay. “I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me.”

Reactions to Snell’s stance have largely not been positive:

The fact of the matter is that if Snell decides not to play if there is some semblance of a season, it’s completely within his right. Just because he makes more money than the vast majority of Americans changes nothing. It’s highly likely that a worker in any income bracket would question remaining in their job if they faced increased health risk that also came with a significant reduction in their pay that had already been contractually agreed upon.

Snell’s choice of words may have been too direct to some, who have a hard time believing that a professional athlete who makes a lot of money to play a game could complain about a reduction in pay during a time where millions of jobs and businesses have been lost. At the end of the day, his decision to play or not play impacts none of those people. It is him setting personal boundaries of what he is and isn’t willing to do.

The outcry against the southpaw is likely more directly tied to the wide-spread yearning to start the baseball season during this difficult time and him being in direct contrast to those efforts. Big-league baseball players are on a national stage and frequently are stripped of their humanity because they are seen first as entertainers and athletes instead of people. It’s ok to be jealous of the lives their athletic ability has afforded them but that doesn’t mean they have to give up the same rights everyone else has as some sort of informal tax.

If Snell decides to “quit” his job because he is unhappy with his pay and work environment, he has the same right as everyone else. Being presumably wealthy shouldn’t change that. It would be great if the baseball season can start at some point and he is a part of it, but if he isn’t, that’s okay too.

The fact of the matter is that if Snell decides not to play if there is some semblance of a season, it’s completely within his right. Just because he makes more money than the vast majority of Americans changes nothing. It’s highly likely that a worker in any income bracket would question remaining in their job if they faced increased health risk that also came with a significant reduction in their pay that had already been contractually agreed upon.

Snell’s choice of words may have been too direct to some, who have a hard time believing that a professional athlete who makes a lot of money to play a game could complain about a reduction in pay during a time where millions of jobs and businesses have been lost. At the end of the day, his decision to play or not play impacts none of those people. It is him setting personal boundaries of what he is and isn’t willing to do.

The outcry against the southpaw is likely more directly tied to the wide-spread yearning to start the baseball season during this difficult time and him being in direct contrast to those efforts. Big-league baseball players are on a national stage and frequently are stripped of their humanity because they are seen first as entertainers and athletes instead of people. It’s okay to be jealous of the lives their athletic ability has afforded them but that doesn’t mean they have to give up the same rights everyone else has as some sort of informal tax.

At the end of the day, if Snell decides to “quit” his job because he is unhappy with his pay and work environment, he has the same right as everyone else. Being presumably wealthy shouldn’t change that. It would be great if the baseball season can start at some point and he is a part of it, but if he isn’t, that’s okay too.

Written by

Dabbler in history & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about diversity, culture, sports and education.

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