Following Baseball’s Wages

Americans pay mega lip service to the notion of work being sacrosanct. The Bible, the good book of the Jeebus lovers says that “if a person won’t work, he shouldn’t eat,” (the JBE version paraphrase). But what about those working two and three minimum wage jobs and still finding it hard to buy groceries, pay rent, let alone having any money left over for a movie and a bag of popcorn? God help them if they happen to have a health crisis.

Does Christianity speak to the issue of justice and wages? If a man (or woman) is working, providing services to  others, shouldn’t they at least receive a wage they can live on, and not have to work 75-80 hours each week merely to survive?

Some of the largest and most profitable companies in the U.S.—we’re talking McDonald’s and Wal-Mart—cost taxpayers nearly $153 million a year, according to the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Information.

Wednesday was Tax Day, and a group called Fight for $15 staged their largest action to date. They chose Tax Day to highlight taxpayer largesse going to companies that can afford to pay workers fair wages, rather than pocketing profits while receiving corporate welfare.

Rallying for wage increases, Ellsworth, Maine.

Rallying for wage increased, Ellsworth, Maine.

According to yesterday’s Democracy Now broadcast, “some 60,000 workers walked off their jobs in more than 200 cities, bringing together fast-food workers, home-care aides, child-care providers, Wal-Mart clerks, adjunct professors, airport workers, and other low-wage workers.”

While these workers were staging their labor action, I was driving back from Brunswick, listening to day baseball, and Wednesday’s Red Sox/Washington Nationals game.

I’m more likely to listen to the Red Sox on the radio than I am to watch them on television and NESN. Part of this is habit—I grew up appreciating baseball on the radio. There’s something calming about a baseball broadcast, especially on a warm summer night. You can also write, read, or do other things while keeping track of the game’s progress. It doesn’t hurt to have a broadcast duo like Joe Castiglione  and Dave O’Brien.

It was Castiglione who was talking about Branch Rickey (not sure of the context) and he mentioned a comment that Ken Coleman (a veteran announcer who had two stints as a Sox radio broadcaster) made about the minimum baseball salaries in the early 1960s. In 1962, the minimum salary was a mere $7,000 a year. The stars, guys like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and a few others made close to $100,000 a year. What struck me was Castiglione saying that Coleman told him that “75 percent of major leaguers in 1962 made the minimum” or not much above it. That’s why players used to have to get a job in the off-season.

Baseball salaries have escalated over the past 50 years since the league minimum was $7,000.

In 2014, Major League Baseball upped the minimum to just over $500,000 per year (the actual amount was $507,500). That would be an increase from that $7,000 amount in 1962, of 7,100 percent!

If you extrapolate that to the minimum wage issue, using baseball as your barometer, then a $15/hour minimum wage isn’t unrealistic. Say what?

The federal minimum wage in 1962 was $1.15. If that wage tracked the minimum salary of baseball players, then it should be $15.39. Certainly a level more livable than the current $7.25/hour.

What’s even more mind-blowing relative to baseball salaries are the astronomical rise of salaries being paid to the upper-echelon players over that same period. In 1962, Mickey Mantle was baseball’s highest paid player, making $90,000 per year. The next year, Willie Mays made $105,000.

MLB salary history.

MLB salary history.

If you compare Mantle’s salary to Alex Rodriguez’s $29 million he made in 2014, the rise would be an unbelievable 32,000 percent! It’s almost unfathomable, but no one seems to bat an eye these days.

But for people that serve us our food, care for our failing seniors in their homes, watch our children, and perform a host of other less high profile tasks, business leaders and local boosters bloviate that “we can’t have that.” No, “we’ll have to raise prices,” they threaten. Then raise prices!

Have you been to a ball game at Fenway or another MLB stadium lately? Ticket prices have gone up, along with the food concessions. No one seems to be complaining about that or staying away in droves.

Speed It Up

I’m watching the replay of this afternoon’s Red Sox home opener as I prepare to post tomorrow’s (Tuesday) blog post. NESN rebroadcasts each game shown on the New England-based television home of Boston’s professional baseball franchise. They call it, Sox in 2. The beauty of these reruns is that they get condensed into a two-hour time frame. I’m watching what was originally a 3:01 affair won by the Sox, 9-4.

There was a time when pro baseball games averaged slightly over two hours per contest. Now, even a pitcher’s duel is apt to approach the three hour mark. Back in the day, no one had to tell pitchers to “speed it up,” and there was no need for the baseball equivalent of a shot clock, either. Any pitcher worth his salt knew that the defensive players behind him benefited from his working quickly. In fact, the highly successful Atlanta Braves rotation, which included Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, followed the adage of their pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, who preached a variation on the original “work fast, throw strikes, change speeds” preached by Ray Miller, when he was pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His Baltimore staffs were successful ones, and included another HOF-er, Jim Palmer, along with other successful pitchers Mike Flanagan, Dennis Martinez, and Steve Stone.

Clay Buchnolz has nice hair.

Clay Buchnolz has nice hair.

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Not Your Friends

Gallup released a poll last June indicating that 60 percent of whites and 48 percent of nonwhites expressed having confidence in the police. What explains the 12 percent gap? Maybe better, what about the 40 to 52 percent of us that have little or no faith in law enforcement?

Trust in the police has been declining even among whites.

Like almost everything else in America that touches on ethics, justice, and dare I say it—truth—has been on the downward slide. That’s just one of the characteristics of collapse.

Still, there are plenty of folks out there who view the police (like the military) as above reproach. The uniform and shield erects an impenetrable wall that makes them immune to criticism. The police, however, are far from being the bastions of goodness and morality that some like to see them as. This article demonstrates a different side of policing—and it isn’t about “protect and serve,” an outdated myth.

Not since the late 1960s and early 1970s have these kinds of questions increasingly been on the minds of Americans not cowered and co-opted by the mainstream media embracing a pacifist/reformist ideal about government and its protectors, like the police.

I used to work in an office with one of these “the police can do no wrong” type of tools. Come to think of it, she was a tool about just about everything else—business and politics, too—but when it came to the law enforcement fraternity, she’d rather rip your eyes out than tolerate anyone talking trash about the po-po. Her dad was a cop, so I guess that was part of the problem.

Does everything in America have to be about this kind of irrationality? I guess so.

The police are not your friends.

The police are not your friends.

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Another Opening Day

This will be one of what will probably be a smattering of baseball-related posts over the coming months. Since today is Opening Day in all but two of the 30 Major League Baseball cities, I thought I’d get this up today, rather than my usual Tuesday posting day.

I recognize that spring and baseball are still synonymous for many. In New England, the Red Sox just might be able to push the Patriots from the epicenter of sports fans’ attention for a few months, although in these football-saturated times, it seems that pigskin prognostication or the draft, or Darrelle Reevis leaving town (or some other NFL-related story) is forever talked about on stations like WEEI and among the sports talking heads in The Hub.

Two teams (the Cards and Cubs) actually initiated the start of the 2015 baseball season on Sunday Night Baseball for television, but for all intents and purposes, I’m calling Monday the true Opening Day for the rest of the MLB. Thus begins another, too-long, 162-game schedule that will eventually lead to the crowning of a World Series champion—that won’t be ‘til mid-October, however, when if it is played in New England, with games starting after 8:30 at night, we’ll again see players in ski masks and huddled around dugout heaters, as the games get played in sub-40 degree temperatures yet again, just like April baseball. Continue reading

Some ‘Splainin to Do

I’ve been putting up regular content here at the JBE since 2012 when I first launched this site. The primary purpose of creating this WordPress platform (my first time designing my own website, btw) was launching my personal brand. At the time, given what was happening—basically, getting down-sized—plus, I was reading Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and others; personal branding seemed to be the proper exit ramp to free agent nation.

The most important aspect of the JBE now looks like it’s been centralizing where I blog. That’s one reason why I chose to include one as part of the website in the first place. At the time, my plan was to write about reinvention and other things central to my personal brand.

With all that’s transpired over the past three years, the blog remains the primary reason I keep the site up and running. My efforts the past year to reinvigorate my own freelance writing is the reason why I also maintain another site where I post my freelance writing clips and keep my online portfolio up-to-date—something that seems like it would be a requisite for a free agent writer these days. The personal brand thing—I’m not as bullish on that anymore. Continue reading

Savoir-faire

I would never try to usurp or upstage my sister’s quest to be the French-speaking sibling in my family of origin. I’m happy to concede that status to her.

One interesting fallout from her interest in Francophone culture is that I’ve started noticing (paying attention?) to how often French words, or derivatives of the language, pepper our own. Take for instance my recent obsession with the band Pavement, detailed three weeks ago here at the JBE, and their song, Embassy Row. I mean, is there a more clever mid-90s slacker songwriter than Stephen Malkmus? Literate, witty, and if you pay attention, you pick up interesting tidbits, including a French word, or two.

The debonair Stephen Malkmus.

The debonaire Stephen Malkmus.

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Season to Season

One of these days, it’s going to start feeling like the season called spring that began last Friday. Not only hasn’t it been very warm over the past few days, the winds of March have made it feel like we’re still in the grip of winter’s icy claws. Of course, this stretch of March has some checkered history.

Actually, Saturday wasn’t too bad. Compared to Sunday’s wind-tunnel-of-a-day, the upper 30s made my run in the morning quite pleasant. Miss Mary actually coaxed me out for a 5-miler. Knock on wood, my leg and hip issues from last year at this time seem to be in my rearview mirror.

I’m sure it won’t be long before I can put away my heavy field coat, ax, and not spend part of each day chopping and lugging firewood to fill the wood box. I’ll be able put my fire-building skills away, too—save for an occasional fire in the ole’ fire pit this summer.

May flowers

April showers will give way to May flowers.

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Trip Planning

Back in the day, before Google siphoned all the fun out of planning that special vacation journey, travelers had to rely on non-Internet tools to route their vacations. Some of these old-school accouterments were things like maps, gazetteers, and a handy-dandy atlas.

Now, all you have to do is ask Google (or Siri), “what’s the way to San Jose?” and before you can say “Swiss cheese for brains,” you’ll be routed on your way.

Growing up, I remember the year our family took a vacation trip to Burlington, Vermont. I think I was 13, or maybe even 14-years-old. My sister was two years younger. I still fondly remember that first trip to Burlington, a vibrant college town, nestled alongside Lake Champlain.

Of course, traveling with the ‘rents sometimes meant that Dad, Herman, or Winter Carnival King of ’51, required quadrants so he’d know his bearings along the way. If he didn’t get them from Saint Helen of Immaculata, he might get a bit cranky, and of course, it might become hell on wheels between the two of them. I think I get some of my driving impatience from my dad when I’m logging time behind the wheel on a trip, and I get lost somewhere between points A and B. Maybe it’s just a male thing. Can I even publicly state that men and women are different? I sure hope so.

Hitting the open road!

Hitting the open road!

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Progressive Revelation

To value truth in a world that demonstrates at every turn that lies and false narratives are preferred, leaves seekers with a steady diet of dissonance.

Last week, I visited the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community in New Gloucester, a mere 20 miles from my home. This was the first time I’d ever ventured on the grounds. My experience (and subsequent return visit) was much different than I expected.

Like many things in this world, when you make time to push past surface information and often, a false understanding, you are sometimes rewarded. Rather than relying on only the internet and Google for my “Shaker 101” brief, I’ve been reading materials acquired at my local library, as well as information provided by the accommodating staff.

Shakers believe in something called “progressive revelation.” In reading about this concept—the idea that there is a constantly spinning center at the very core of their faith—allowing them to reshape their beliefs when necessary, I was struck by how similar this is to my own current way of seeing the world and the ongoing education and I’d even say—deprogramming—that I’m engaged in, as I attempt to break free from the lies and disinformation stream offered up by traditional sources.

The Truth is Out There!

Is the truth out there?

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