For the first time in nearly 30 years, there will be no baseball played at Kauffman Stadium on Opening Day. What the Groundhog could not predict was that spring will have to wait this year until Major League Baseball owners and Major League Baseball players complete their collective bargaining agreement which has led to a lockout of the players.
If this were any other year, I’d be simply crushed and angry. If this were any other year, I’d have broken plans with friends for Opening Day tailgating and plans to smoke meats and drink beers. If this were any other year, I wouldn’t have turned on the television to see a throng of people crowding into a passenger train in a Ukrainian city and I wouldn’t have seen one woman wearing a backwards Yankees baseball cap.
It provided much needed perspective.
By now, over a million and what may now be two million refugees uprooted their lives in the past two weeks to leave their homes in Ukraine. At least one of them is a fan of Major League Baseball. Talks in Jupiter, Florida between representatives from both sides of the MLB labor negotiations have played like petulant children arguing over their toys. Rich people fighting with richer people.
There are surely some labor challenges coming out of this pandemic including the location of jobs, working from home, forgiving student debt, making college free, and increasing the minimum wage. None of those, however, include a competitive balance tax of $238 million dollars.
And yet, a worker will get up and head to their McDonald’s job today, while Mike Trout will not. That random woman on the train in Ukraine will be sent to a new home, hopefully only temporarily, while Whit Merrifield will wake up in his million dollar home.
This is not passing any judgment on people fighting to make what they feel they are worth and for business owners to work to make more money. This is simply my frustration that I even have to use the word “fighting” to describe it, when it’s comical to change the channel and see a Ukrainian McDonald’s worker picking up a stinger missile and aiming it at a troop convoy.
The minimum salary for a Major League baseball player is $535,000. The players are, naturally, asking for that ceiling to be raised. Anyone who joined the Ukrainian military during this conflict will be paid $3,400 a month, or around $40,000 US dollars a year. That was a significant pay raise announced last week.
I am going to miss baseball each and every day it isn’t played. But that pales in comparison to what that woman with the Yankees cap on the train is feeling today. It seems that there are miles between the owners and the players, but that cannot hold a candle to the miles between Kiev, Ukraine and Jupiter, Florida.
(Get daily perspective from our man Chris Kamler on the tweet machine, where you can find him acting as @TheFakeNed)