Wells, Jays back Sox players on pay
With Boston's trip in jeopardy, Toronto caught in dispute
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As soon as Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells stepped into the visitors' dugout at City of Palms Park on Wednesday morning, manager John Gibbons called him over to relay a message.
"[Kevin] Youkilis wants to talk to you," said Gibbons, motioning to where the Boston first baseman was standing on the field.
Wells jogged up the steps and met up with Youkilis, who serves as Boston's union representative -- the same role Toronto's center fielder fills for the Blue Jays. Youkilis wanted to inform Wells that the Red Sox players were considering boycotting Wednesday's Grapefruit League game between the two clubs due to a dispute with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players' Association.
The Red Sox were upset after learning that Boston's coaching and training staffs were not receiving the same monetary shares as the players for the club's upcoming trip to Japan. After more than an hour-long game delay, during which the Sox players remained in the clubhouse, the issue was resolved.
Even if the players hadn't taken the field on Wednesday, Wells said he and the rest of Toronto's players completely understood and supported the stand that Boston's players took prior to the game. Wells was quick to point to the 2004 season, when the Yankees and Rays opened the season in Japan and there were no problems with compensation for the clubs.
"He just wanted to give me a heads up about what's going on," said Wells, referring to Youkilis. "I told him, obviously, we'll support whatever decision they make. ... They're looking out for their coaches and the staff and the manager. That's part of baseball, looking out for each other.
"When the Yankees and Rays took their trip, everybody got their share and everybody was happy. You just have to treat everybody the same, no matter what your label is."
Boston manager Terry Francona learned on the team's off-day on Tuesday that members of the coaching staff weren't receiving the roughly $40,000 each -- the stipend established for each player making the trip overseas. That strayed from the agreement that the Boston players believed they made during the offseason.
The players called a team meeting on Wednesday morning and decided to boycott the game against Toronto -- possibly even the trip to Japan -- until the matter was resolved. The game's original start time was scheduled for 12:05 p.m. ET, and at 12:08, the public address announcer at the stadium informed the fans in attendance of the dispute.
Understandably, the crowd erupted in a loud chorus of boos.
"They're part of this team," said Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, referring to the coaches and trainers. "They're as important as the players in our minds. I think it was a pretty easy decision."
"I think everyone was kind of caught off-guard, because this was kind of the deal from the beginning," he added later. "Then we found out for sure that the people that were supposed to be taken care of and compensated -- the staff members -- were not being [paid]."
Even though Gibbons and the rest of the Blue Jays were forced to wait around idly during the pregame standoff, Toronto's manager said he was happy to see the Red Sox players stick up for their coaches and trainers.
"You don't expect to see that," Gibbons said. "But I was kind of glad it happened and I was kind of impressed with those guys. Not only are they a very talented team, they've got something special over there. That's a team.
"They stuck their necks out for the coaching staff -- those guys they admire and stand by --- and that helps us all. There's only two teams that can get away with that: Boston and New York. That's good to see."
Wells also compared the situation to the playoffs, when participating teams receive shares that are handed down throughout the organizations. Even in the past two seasons, the Blue Jays received a part of the playoff shares for their standing in the American League East. Players, coaches, trainers and others within the organizations typically receive the shares.
"With the World Series shares, everybody gets the same thing," Wells said. "This should be no different. Obviously, they're trying to take a stand and they're going to make it known that it's not fair to those guys."
After the lengthy delay, the Red Sox came to a resolution with the league and the game against the Blue Jays went on as planned, with the start time adjusted to 1:10 p.m. A Boston spokesperson also announced that the Red Sox would be boarding their flight to Japan as scheduled Wednesday evening.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.