MLB Analysis: A deeper look into Blake Snell’s refusal to play

William Parlee
New York Yankees, Nolan Arenado
Aug 26, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) reacts after lining out in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Nolan Arenado, in an interview with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, let his feelings regarding the MLB proposed plan and his reactions to the Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blakes Snell’s video in which he said he wouldn’t play for less money with the health risks being so high.  Arenado was very thoughtful in his responses to Rosenthal’s questions.  There isn’t very much writing on my part in this article as it’s pretty much straight from the Rosenthal interview.  I guess that many New York Yankee players are more in line with Arenado’s comment than Snell’s.

Many players like Trevor Bauer of the Indians and a host of other players in the past several weeks have let their feelings be known.  But on Wednesday night Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Black Snell took it to a new level.  Snell went on his Twitch channel and unloaded on the MLB.

The players already agreed to a 50% pay cut due to the season that will be reduced by 50% of the games.  In the latest plan, the owners want to limit player compensation because the COVID-19 pandemic will force games to be played without ticket sales and concessions revenue.  The owners consider it revenue sharing the players consider it a salary cap, something they have rejected since the 1970s.  Snell, who originally was to earn $7 million this season in the second year of a five-year, $50 million contract, was having none of it.

This interview with Ken Rosenthal was edited by me for interest and clarity.

  • Let’s start with Snell’s comments. He said, “I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine.” When you heard about that, what did you think?

I think he was being honest, just being real. He made a lot of good points. There are some points he made that were true, that are facts. A lot of it gets misperceived. Trying to get the public to understand us, it’s not going to work very well in our favor.  We’re baseball players, right? We make great money. Regardless if we don’t make the money we want, we’re still making great money. A lot of people in this world are struggling a lot harder than us.

I guarantee if you read the comments, you’re probably thinking, “You don’t have to work 12 hours a day. You’re not the one without a job. You’re still getting paid.” Those people have a right to say that.

  • What do you say to the public? What would you want the public to know about your position?

I know some people think, “They just want to play if they get all their money.” We’re not going to get all our money regardless. We understand we’re not going to get paid everything we thought we were getting this year. But we still want to go out there and play and earn our contracts and put on a show for the fans. It’s important for us to play, important for free agency, everything. Players understand that. It’s pretty sad now what’s going on in our country. It would be great to bring joy. And I think baseball is a great sport to do that.

  • Snell said, “The risk is through the roof.” Do you agree with that?

It’s hard to say. People are risking their lives in a lot of bigger ways than we would be. It’s a risk, but I don’t think it’s as risky as what other people are doing to make ends meet, to try to earn money.

Arenado was referring to health care workers, first responders, and those that have to go out every day and face the public like grocery store workers.

“I understand what he’s trying to say. It’s a risk, yeah, but I don’t think MLB would approve of this if the government or whoever is in charge of making sure we’re good to go didn’t approve of it.  I feel like that wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t going to be OK to play.”

  • Some players also have said, “We’re taking all the risk. That is why we are so adamant about not taking an additional pay cut.” How do you view that?

I get that. And I agree. It is a risk. We did negotiate a deal. I think that’s the thing: We negotiated a deal. Now let’s go play. Let’s get to work. That’s where we as players are coming from. Obviously, there are discussions about revenue (sharing) and changing it up a bit. But we already discussed that. Let’s get to work now.

Arenado did not make it clear as to if he was willing to accept revenue sharing to get to play this season.

  • The league will propose a series of protocols about health. What do you want to see most in those protocols? What is your biggest concern, health-wise, about playing?

In a very long response, Arenado said he was aware of the CNN program that Commission Manfred was on where he detailed all the steps that MLB would take to assure player safety, and he was happy with those steps.  He also added: “They wouldn’t approve of this plan if those questions weren’t about to be answered.”

  • An AP story today said the union asked the owners for their financial records. If the owners did that and you saw the clubs were in distress, would you be more open to hearing what they have to say?  

I’m going to listen to our (Players Association). I believe our PA is looking out for our best interests. They’re trying to get us back on the field. We want to play baseball. Don’t ever believe that we’re not trying to get back out there, or (union chief) Tony (Clark) doesn’t want us to get back out there. He wants us to get back out there. But it’s gotta be right.  Paraphrasing he said, I don’t know if seeing the books would change my mind if there is a deal to be made it will be made.

  • How much does it bother you when fans think and say, “The players are greedy. They don’t get it. The players don’t have a clue?”

The fans have the right to say and believe what they want. I get that it’s frustrating. Baseball players get paid a lot of money and then to see us not be able to come to a deal yet, they’re probably like, “You get paid all this money, and you’re complaining about this and that.” It’s not really about that. We want to put on a show for them. That’s our whole focus as baseball players. But there are a lot of things that have to get done first. But if you ask us as baseball players, we look at it as a job. We want to go back and do our jobs as soon as we can.

When he was asked how it would look if a deal couldn’t be reached, he responded:  It would look bad, it would be disappointing. We hope it doesn’t come to that.  We don’t feel guilty. We want to go out and play. The people of this country and fans deserve to see the greatness of some of these players we have in the game.

I thought Nolan Arenado’s responses were very thoughtful with a full understanding of the issues affecting both sides.  But at the same time, he also called for the Players Association to stand their ground and not give away the ship just to get to play.  I think he truly believes a deal can be reached because he and many other players just want to play some baseball this season.  It’s too important not to get a deal.

If you would like to read the entire interview, you can find it here.