Tampa Bay Rays Pitcher Blake Snell should stick to what he does well which is throwing the baseball.
Being a labor activist is not a talent he possesses.
Last week, when news leaked that baseball owners would, because of declining revenues and a hoped-for abbreviated half-season schedule for 2020, ask for additional financial concessions from the players, the young hurler publicly said:
“For me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof. 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?”
This comment has not gone over with fans and some former ballplayers.
Words like his, if taken seriously, could set the labor movement backward.
Former Red Sox player Lou Merloni, reacting to Snell on WEEI Radio, said:
“I can’t defend him. He signed a five-year, $50 million deal a few years back. It really kind of kicks in this year, because he makes $7.6 million this year. In his first two years in the league, he made league minimum, $560,000. You start doing the math, 7.5 down to 3.75, they want me to take some out of that, ‘So I’m gonna make like 2.5, bro. 2.5 bro! I ain’t making nothing.’ But you were making 500 the first two years. Even if they take 33 percent, your ass is still making $2.5 million. So to a guy that walked into the league making league minimum for two years, now all of a sudden to jump up and say you’re getting screwed by only making $2.5 million, I hope he realizes how stupid he sounds. I hope he woke up today, heard everybody playing his sound, and said, ‘Man, I sound like an ignorant fool, an uneducated fool.'”
Other ballplayers like Philadelphia Phillie outfielder Bryce Harper, who is entering the second year of a 13 year $330,000,000 contract (which translates to $26 million a year starting this season) defended Snell, saying:
“He ain’t lying, he’s right. He’s speaking the truth bro. I ain’t mad at him. Somebody’s gotta say it, at least he manned up and said it. Good for him. I love Snell, the guy’s a beast. One of the best lefties in the game.”
If Snell had to give back part of his salary, he would make about $2,500,000 after taxes.
If Harper had to give back part of his salary, he would make $8,710,000 after taxes.
The 36 million Americans who are out of work would take a fraction of that while most of them are struggling to get their unemployment claims processed.
So would the grocer or the health care worker or the pizza delivery driver who is making a pittance compared to professional athletes and the public health risk is greater with them than a ballplayer who will have greater access to testing and contact tracing than the average citizen.
It would seem that neither Snell or Harper will qualify in the near future for the Roberto Clemente Award.
That award, named after the great Pittsburgh Pirate who died delivering emergency aid to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua, recognizes baseball players (past winners have included Derek Jeter, Tony Gwynn, Curt Schilling, and Albert Pujols) who have committed financial resources and precious time to philanthropic causes and projects.
ESPN Commentator Stephen Smith seemed to recognize these issues when he blew up on the May 15 showing of First Take. Smith said:
“I don’t have any problem with how Snell feels. I don’t have any problem with how Bryce Harper feels. I think it was a dumb thing to say, particularly in this moment in time. ‘I gotta get mine. I gotta get mine.’ I’m sorry, Max Kellerman, I’m not Dr. Fauci, and I’m not trying to be, and I’m not going to get into the minutia of the thijjngs that you say as it pertains to the threats that entail the coronavirus. We all know, we’re living it right now. Gloves, masks, all of that stuff is necessary right now. Safety first, we get all that. I don’t need to regurgitate those kind of comments.”
“…. I have no problem with the Players Association’s position that ‘wait a minute, we already discussed this. We had already dealt with this. What’s the problem now?’ I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is how [Snell] came across. 33 million-plus people have filed for unemployment. ‘Oh I got to get mine!’ When you were scheduled to make $7 million dollars. It’s just a dumb thing to say. Bryce Harper, you signed a contract for 13 years, over $300 million. ‘I don’t blame him one bit!’ It’s just not smart to say that, that’s what I’m saying…. How smart was it to say that at a time like this? Remember, the owners want them to come back to the negotiating table. Remember there’s a CBA in 2020 to deal with. I mean, what are you doing?! You shut the hell up and let your Players Association speak. You shut the hell up!”
Baseball players (like Curt Floyd, Andy Messersmith, David McNally) and union giants like Donald Fehr and the late and recently elected Hall of Famer Marvin Miller fought hard over decades so players like Snell and Harper could live like Kings while other people struggle to stay healthy and put food on their family’s table.
While ballplayers should be assured they will play in as safe an environment as possible (players who do not feel safe should not be forced to compete,) they after their union representatives negotiate with the owners, should finalize a salary schedule for this season and probably the next one that conforms to the new financial reality.
Players like Snell and Harper would do well to act as the great majority of the recipients of the Roberto Clemente Award and remember what their predecessors did to get them the lives they take for granted.
They need to stop acting like spoiled brats, shut up, let their union representatives negotiate, and if safe, PLAY BALL.