Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
We've spent days in the weeds of the economic argument between Major League Baseball and the Players Association, trying our best to dissect and translate issues like revenue sharing and contract language.
That's all necessary. But sometimes a conversation with a person who is out of those weeds can serve to reframe the big picture of an issue.
On Thursday I was a guest on National Public Radio's The Takeaway, which as you likely know is... quieter than anything Chris Carlin has ever done. At the end of a 10-minute conversation about specifics, host Shumita Basu asked a simple question: Who benefits from baseball's return?
The answer: Owners benefit because they can recover some revenue. Fans benefit because they get to watch baseball on TV. Players benefit because they will earn money and play the sport they love.
But one of those groups is not like the other. It's hard to find a serious downside in this for owners and fans.
For players? They get to earn money by going out into a world where the coronavirus continues to spread and cause illness and death. We'd call that a downside.
They would hardly be the only group in this country and world assuming that risk. Minimum wage workers and first responders everywhere are putting their lives on the line to keep the country running.
But it's understandable even for wealthy ballplayers to worry about their own health and that of their families. Put yourself in their situation. There is no bank account balance that can assuage the concern about contracting the coronavirus and passing it to a family member.
Earlier this week, we spoke to a prominent agent who said that "no question" some players will sit out this season for this reason. They will look at the possibility of taking a further pay cut from an already prorated salary and deem the risk not worth the reward.
Tampa Bay pitcher Blake Snell gave voice to this view on Wednesday night.
"I gotta get my money," Snell said on his Twitch channel. "I'm not playing unless I get mine, okay? 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? Like you know, I'm just, I'm sorry."
Later, Snell texted Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, "I mean, honestly, it's just scary to risk my life to get COVID-19 as well as not knowing and spreading it to others. I just want everyone to be healthy and get back to our normal lives 'cause I know I miss mine!"
Major League Baseball is in contact with health officials and consultants who are working hard to implement frequent testing and ensure safety. They have already presented an outline of the these concepts to the Players Association.
But if you were Snell or one of his colleagues, you would probably want hazard pay, not a pay cut. That's not the way this is going to play out. Everyone in the industry -- which is facing potential losses of $6 billion this year, according to sources -- will take a haircut, players included.
But the players are not "holding out," as Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker put it this week. They are worried about contracting a deadly disease, and weighing the economic need to play versus a risk that they will assume.
Support staff will share that risk, from bus drivers to clubhouse attendants to hotel workers to trainers. Owners and fans will not.