To Play or Not to Play?

Major League Baseball players are remarkably like you and me. Sure, we do not get paid millions of dollars and have incredible athleticism but the life decisions we face, they do as well. Most of these men have families at home that not only sacrifice their time with their spouse or children during the season, but also know at any moment they could be traded and moved across the country. These sacrifices are not new to any athlete, but what is new is having to factor your family’s health. 
    Three weeks ago, the player’s association (MLBPA) and the owners reached an agreement for a 60-game season, but not everyone was ready to return. We find ourselves 12 days away from the first July Opening Day in MLB’s long history, but some will not be joining us.     

     Ian Desmond signed a 5-year, $70 million dollar deal prior to the 2017 season. I will be nice a say he has been average during that time, but he did make headlines when he announced he would be sitting out the 2020 season as to not make light of the BLM movement. Desmond posted on Instagram that while the health risks are a reason he will opt out, he also brought up not only the racial injustices but the state of minorities in baseball. 

      Only 8% of MLB players are black far behind white and Latin American ballplayers which are both around 28%.These numbers are concerning and Desmond may have a point that MLB must do more to get more African-Americans into the league, but it is important to point out that most young African-Americans (and most ethnicities for that matter) are playing other sports such as basketball, football and soccer. Desmond is the only player to opt out while citing social concerns.

      My next question is “What is next Ian?” How does Ian Desmond use his wealth and influence to affect true change? This is not a sarcastic question, but a genuine one. Desmond’s Instagram message was powerful, but the world needs more that social media posts, they need action!   

       Outside of Ian Desmond, the majority of players opting out are doing it because of health concerns. The most notable opt outs are:

  • SP David Price, LAD
  • 1B Ryan Zimmerman, WSH
  • SP Mike Leake, ARI
  • SP Felix Hernandez, ATL
  • OF Nick Markakis, ATL
  • C Buster Posey, SF

     In the cases of Posey and Zimmerman both have young children at home who are high risk of dying of COVID-19. That are at the age where they have made their money and the focus nownis in raising a family. 

      Posey posted a video explaining why he is not rejoining his team this season. Two newborns are about to be adopted by the Posey family, but unfortunately the babies arrived prematurely and are recovering in a NICU. The little ones are doing well reportedly but Posey made the difficult choice sacrifice not only his salary but a game he loves for the health of his family.      

The choice is not too hard for an individual, however when you add in the team and fan aspect it can be difficult to choose. Posey’s teammates will miss his leadership in a season where it will be invaluable, and the Giants fans will miss the face of the franchise after losing Madison Bumgardner.      Posey’s decision has been widely applauded, but the cesspool of social media will show some fans believing that Posey owes it to the fans to play no matter what because the “…fans need a distraction.

“MLB players do not owe us anything especially when it would come at the cost of a loved one’s health.Some players are in a situation where they really do not have a choice as to opting out or not. The most obvious situation is Mookie Betts. Mookie is due to be a free agent after this season, BUT only if he plays this year.

The MLB service time clock determines when you become a free agent after entering the league.If Betts sits this season out, he will not have enough service time to be eligible for free agency. Betts’ full salary this year would have been $27 million. The 60-game prorated salary is just under five million.
 When Mookie hits free agency he will be the top target. Pre COVID it would not have been crazy to think he could get over $400 million dollars. He will still be paid handsomely but it may be a couple years before the market is able to pay out a $400 million dollar deal. 
     I could see Mookie signing a 1-year mega deal hoping the market rebounds. The Dodgers will be happy that they get at least 60 games with the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout.
          Despite some players opting out, a large majority of players will be suiting up. Mike Trout has expressed concerns but seems to be ready to go, Fernando Tatis, Jr. even makes wearing a mask look cool and the young stars like Acuna, Vlad, Jr., Juan Soto can’t wait to get back on the field. Speaking for baseball fans everywhere, “We can’t wait either!”

Brandon Ferst ESBC Podcast Owner


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