Under an agreement reached between the umpires and MLB, umpires deemed to be at risk because of their age, health issues or other reasons will continue to get paid if they opt out. If just one regular season game is played this season, the umpires will receive at least 37.5 percent of their salaries, per the terms of the deal.
The 60-game MLB regular season begins July 23. A number of players have decided to skip the season over concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic, including San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, the 2012 National League MVP who announced Friday that he won’t play in 2020 after he and his wife adopted premature infant twins who are in neonatal intensive care.
Other players who have opted out of the season include Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price, Colorado Rockies utility man Ian Desmond and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake.
The AP reports there are 76 full-time MLB umpires, with 20 of them age 55 or older. Umpires from Class AAA, many of whom already have served as MLB substitutes during vacations or sick leave, will take the place of the umpires who opt out.
Last week, veteran umpire Joe West said he didn’t believe the number of U.S. deaths attributed to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was accurate.
“Those statistics aren’t accurate, I don’t care who’s counting them,” West told USA Today on Wednesday. “The government has been giving these hospitals extra money if someone dies of the coronavirus. So everybody that dies is because of coronavirus. I don’t care if you get hit by a car, it’s coronavirus.”
In turn, the MLB umpires’ union distanced itself from West’s comments about the number of covid-19 deaths, saying they didn’t reflect the group’s stance on the pandemic.
West, 67, was deemed to be at high risk by MLB officials and was offered the chance to opt out, which he declined. He worked a Tampa Bay Rays intrasquad game on Monday, wearing gloves but not a medical-type mask. On-field personnel are not required to wear masks, though they are encouraged to do so.