The smoke is clearing on today’s "boycott" threat by the Red Sox — which is really a strike, but that word obviously has some baggage attached to it — so let’s see what we know, as opposed to what was conjectured or reported during the heat of battle this morning:
- The Red Sox came away from an October conference call having been told everyone traveling with the team would receive $40,000 bonuses for the inconvenience of going to Japan — including coaches, training staff and support staff, for whom that money is obviously a much bigger deal (bullpen catcher Manny Martinez makes $30,000 per year).
- The money was to come from proceeds earned by MLB for the exhibitions and regular-season games played in Japan.
- Yesterday, the A’s were informed their coaches would not be paid the $40,000 stipends — which appears to have been a surprise to them. It was certainly a surprise to Terry Francona and the Red Sox players when word trickled from the A’s to the Sox.
- Nick Cafardo reports the ball may have actually been dropped by the Players Association, which determines the allocation for the pool of money that goes to players and other team personnel. In previous Japan trips — including 2004 between the Yankees and Devil Rays — the coaches’ stipends came from the players’ pool.
- How much the coaches will ultimately receive is unclear because the amount of money MLB will have to divvy won’t be known until the games are over — but Kevin Youkilis says it could well be greater than $40,000.
- The Sox’ effort, according to media members interviewed on WEEI as Joe Castiglione and Dale Arnold (who, by the way, sounds great) waited for the game to start, apparently had support of both the Blue Jays and the Athletics.
- According to The Associated Press, the A’s were prepared to boycott as well, but received word from the Red Sox that "the right thing was going to get done," Huston Street said.
- All that remains to figure out is whether the coaches were left out accidentally or intentionally — and who was in charge of overseeing that.
It is indeed a good thing for the Red Sox to unite behind the lower-paid and often overlooked members of their team. Attempts here and elsewhere to portray it as a way to get out of the Japan trip, or as a greedy attempt for more money, just don’t make sense, given the comments from other teams and other players — especially those directly affected by the Sox’ actions.
Could the Red Sox have agreed to simply pool their own bonuses and pay the coaches themselves? Of course. Or the front office could have stepped in and agreed to do so. But that’s beside the point. The Red Sox and their players clearly felt their coaches had been promised something. They rightly decided it would not be right to go to Japan until that promise was fulfilled — whether by clearing up a miscommunication or by holding MLB’s feet to the fire.
Knowing MLB could not risk the disaster of losing the exhibitions and regular-season games, the players of both the Red Sox and Athletics used (or were prepared to use) the only leverage they had to rectify what they felt was an egregious wrong — their presence in Japan. Kudos to players from both teams for taking a stand for the "little guys" and fair dealings.
Update: In fact, part of the agreement is that the Red Sox players will pay the $40,000 themselves, with half the money to be reimbursed by MLB and the MLBPA. A terrific, classy move on their part.