Blake Snell said something out loud many players are likely thinking.
"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," Snell said on his Twitch channel. "It's a shorter season, less pay.
"No, I gotta get my money. I'm not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that's just the way it is for me. 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?"
Here, again, is one of the central rubs as Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association try to put several square pegs in round holes. Both sides are desperate to play. They will have to decide at what cost.
On the negotiating table is a shortened season filled with concessions and caveats spawned by the coronavirus pandemic. Baseball stopped March 12 in Florida. The two-month point has passed with hopeful proclamations and little resolution in between. An initial pursuit of a May restart is long invalid. Now, the timetable is centered on June for spring training and the start of July for the season openers. Governors in both Arizona and Florida said this week they would welcome pro sports teams -- without fans -- to their states.
To get there, the MLBPA and league need to figure out safety first. A revenue split is moot if everyone who may be on the field is not comfortable with the health protocol. Once that is determined, then arguing about the money can begin.
So, Snell argues as close to full compensation as possible is the only acceptable tradeoff for the danger of playing.
"Bro, I'm risking my life," Snell said. "What do you mean it should not be a thing? It should 100% be a thing. If I'm gonna play, I should be getting the money I signed to be getting paid. I should not be getting half of what I'm getting paid because the season's cut in half, on top of a 33% cut of the half that's already there -- so I'm really getting, like, 25%.”
Snell, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018, was supposed to make $7 million this season. The players’ union agreed to an initial pay cut in negotiations with the league shortly after spring training stalled. They were adamant then that salary negotiations for 2020 had ended.
But, the owners sent a proposal Monday suggesting a 50-50 revenue split between the two sides for whatever season exists in 2020. It’s a non-starter in the view of the union, which the owners know. And it’s the perfect way to prompt the disdain Snell presented.
However, comments like Snell’s will also produce their own public relations problems for the players. He immediately had to defend himself. He later had to further explain himself, telling the Tampa Bay Times he knows he will be perceived as greedy, then said that was not the case.
In the end, this is not the 10-team KBO. This is a 30-team, multi-billion dollar league trying to find a path amid a fuel-injected political environment. Snell’s comments don’t help the process. Though, they do provide some insight on how many hurdles remain.
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