Hate Blake Snell if you must, but every athlete has a choice to make on coronavirus risk

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

The goal for many workers is to have enough money to no longer be a worker. Take this job and shove it.

Blake Snell is in the middle of a five-year, $50 million contract to pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays, so by virtually any standard he has achieved that. To the 2018 Cy Young Award winner go the spoils. 

And it’s why Snell went on his Twitch channel Wednesday and essentially said an abbreviated season with a salary cut wasn’t going to pay enough for him to play ball this season. 

Snell is set to make $7 million in salary in 2020. Major League Baseball’s proposed 82-game season would cut that in half under a deal the players association agreed to in March. With reduced revenue and no fans in the stands, MLB will reportedly float a revenue sharing system that Snell suggested could trim off another third of his pay. That would put Snell in the $2.3 million range.

Nice money, especially to pitch maybe 15 times. Turning it down won’t make much sense to some. There’s plenty of Americans who would crawl over hot coals for $2.3 million. Generally that’s because they have no other way of earning such an amount. Snell does.

He isn’t a typical laborer. He’s a business. And this, he explained, is a business decision.

It’s based on the risk/reward balance between potentially catching COVID-19, which can wreak havoc on a body even if you survive, and cash (not just what he’d make this season, but what the 27-year-old might make on his next deal, which could be far more than $50 million).

“[People say,] ‘Blake, play for the love of the game, bro,’ ” Snell said. “‘What’s wrong with you, bro? Money should not be a thing.’ Bro, I’m risking my life. What do you mean it should not be a thing? It 100 percent should be a thing.”

Rays ace and former Cy Young winner Blake Snell said the reduced pay MLB is proposing may not be enough to convince him to play amid coronavirus risk in 2020. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

“... Now all that money is gone,” Snell said of the decreased salary. “And I’m risking my life. And if I get the ’rona guess what happens with that? Oh, that’s in my body forever. That damage that was done in my body is going to be there forever. So now I got to play with that on top of it. 

“Y’all got to understand, man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening,” Snell continued. “Because the risk is through the roof. It’s a shorter season, less pay. Like, Bro, I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me.”

Snell said he’ll sit this one out and focus on preparing for the 2021 season when things hopefully are more settled.

This is the freedom that Snell, or every worker, has. You don’t want the job, don’t take it. Someone else will gladly fill Snell’s spot in the majors.

In his mind, it’s too risky for his future. Someone else will choose differently.

That’s the American Way.

You can hate on Snell for having a far higher threshold than you, but it’s his choice.

“I’m sorry you guys think differently,” Snell said.

This is what every professional athlete is contemplating as sports begin to churn toward a restart. Many are all in — NBA stars, for example, led by LeBron James and Steph Curry are pushing hard to play again even if they are far, far wealthier than Blake Snell. Others won’t be so willing.

It’s really the choice all workers are making. There are and will continue to be plenty of nurses and factory workers and grocery store clerks and front-line employees who make the same choice, even if the money is $50,000 annually.

Can they wait this out? Can they earn more long-term by protecting their health? Is this job worth it?

Snell’s position is intriguing because he’s considering future income as much as his current. The impact of the coronavirus is mostly seen in the macro — the death toll, the median age of death, etc. Snell is considering it in the micro, namely just him.

If he catches it and it diminishes his lung capacity long-term or weakens him enough to adversely affect his ability to pitch at an extremely high level, then he traded tens of millions and a long career for $2.3 million to pitch in empty stadiums in a shortened season during a pandemic.

There are other variables that come with the choice, of course. Teams will wonder about his commitment. Many of his fans will be alienated. 

If he can still pitch, though, he’ll be hired … and cheered. 

Mostly, though, Blake Snell has enough money to choose his own path. So he is.

More from Yahoo Sports: