Red Sox Boycott Japan Trip

The Boston Red Sox refused to take the field for their final spring training game in Florida on Wednesday and threatened to boycott their flight to Japan for their season openers unless their coaches and other staff are paid for the trip.

Fans filled the stadium, the national anthems were sung and the Boston and Toronto Blue Jays lineups were announced, but the game did not begin at its 12:07 p.m. scheduled start.

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the sport’s lawyers were dealing with the situation.

“We’re trying to work it out,” he said.

Mike Lowell told The Boston Globe the team voted unanimously not to take the field for their final spring game or to board the plane later Wednesday for Japan.

Manager Terry Francona and his players were upset after learning staff members are not going to get a $40,000 stipend. The Boston Herald reported players insisted part of their agreement to make the trip included the fee — for them and the coaches.

Stark: Red Sox Are Going
At the end of the day (literally) the Red Sox will get on that plane and will head for Japan. I’ve been around that team twice in the last week, and I have no doubt that these guys completely understand the profound global ramifications of this trip. Nobody needs to explain to them that this isn’t just another road series on their pocket schedules. This is an event of major significance for the sport, for the franchise and for the nation they’re about to visit. So in the end, I think they know they have to go.

But for the same reasons, these players are dead right to stand up for their coaching staff. It’s outrageous for Major League Baseball to renege on that $40,000 reward to people who work this hard. You can’t ask these men to dramatically disrupt their lives, their body clocks, their schedules and their preparation for one of the most important seasons in team history without some meaningful compensation. Heck, I bet MLB is spending more on chartering a plane for Bud Selig and his coterie than it would cost to compensate this coaching staff. Sheez, the least Bud can do for these guys is give them some frequent-flier miles.

— Jayson Stark,

“I did not have an off-day yesterday. I had the phone glued to my ear because I was promised some answers and I haven’t even received a phone call,” Francona said Wednesday. “So I’m a little bit stuck. What I want to do this morning is get excited to play a baseball game and what I ended up doing is apologizing to the coaches and being humiliated.”

The World Series champions are scheduled to begin their season against Oakland on March 25 and 26 in Tokyo.

The Red Sox clubhouse was closed to reporters because of the dispute.

“We had an agreement,” Curt Schilling, one of a handful of Red Sox players who talked with Major League Baseball on ground rules for the trip, told ESPN’s Claire Smith.

“Some of the promises have already been taken away, now this,” Schilling said. “As far as the players are concerned, [withholding the coaches’ bonuses] can’t happen.”

”When we voted to go to Japan, that was not a unanimous vote,” Lowell told the Globe, “but we did what our team wanted us to do for Major League Baseball. They promised us the moon and the stars, and then when we committed, they started pulling back. It’s not just the coaches, it’s the staff, the trainers, a lot of people are affected by this.

“I’m so super proud of this team,” Lowell said, according to The Globe. “When we put it to a vote it was unanimous. We’re all in agreement that we’re not going to put up with this.”

That the players would consider such action “is really appreciated, to say the least,” Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan told Smith. “It means as much as the money itself.

“While we’re very fortunate, a lot of people don’t realize what we do. It’s nice to get recognition from the players.”

Shortly before the scheduled game, Coco Crisp and Dustin Pedroia stretched for a few minutes on the outfield grass before returning to the clubhouse. Blue Jay players took batting practice as usual, but the Red Sox did not.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had been scheduled to pitch, left the stadium to pitch at a game against Minnesota’s Triple A affiliate. He is scheduled to be the Opening Day starter in Tokyo against Oakland.

Credit: ESPN