After stepping up to the plate for team coaches, staff and crew yesterday by refusing to take the field for a spring training game, the Red Sox are now safely on their way to Tokyo, Japan to kick off the season after threatening to boycott the trip entirely. The team learned earlier this week that players were the only ones receiving stipends for the time overseas, and voiced that if their staff was not taken care of as well, they would not step foot on any plane.
Manager Terry Francona supported his player’s decision to not take the field in their spring training game until MLB resolved the issue for all parties planning to travel.
“I want to make this real clear,” Francona said on redsox.com. “This was not a case of players being greedy. This was a case of players uniting together. I think that’s part of the reason we’re good. There was no disrespect to baseball. We made sure the Blue Jays knew that. It was a very difficult position everybody felt we were in and it got resolved.”
The spring training game was delayed over an hour while representatives from the Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Players Association and MLB conversed until an agreement was reached to increase the stipend for the attending staffs on the trip.
“It was a misunderstanding,” said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell on redsox.com.
Francona actually spoke on the phone with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig twice during yesterday’s hectic midday happenings in Fort Meyers. Selig made it clear that his biggest concern was just to ensure that both games would be played in Japan in front of the sold out Tokyo Dome.
An hour and four minutes after the scheduled first pitch of yesterday’s game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox finally took the field after they got the official word from MLB that their coaches, staff and crew would be compensated in Japan. The Blue Jays were very cooperative in waiting out the temporary boycott.
“You don’t expect to see that, but I was kind of glad it happened and I was kind of impressed with those guys,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons on redsox.com. “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 are only two teams that can get away with that: Boston and New York. That’s good to see.”
With all of those issues behind them, the Red Sox set out to embark on another championship caliber season with high hopes to defend their 2007 World Series title. The club returns almost everyone from last year’s 40-man active roster and believes that the chemistry is there to make another magical run into the post-season.
The Sox open the year with a few tough series that could set the tone for the season. First they will face the Athletics for two games in Japan, followed by two more games in Oakland the first week of April. A three game series against the pesky Blue Jays follows on the road, and will take place before the Sox return home to Boston and Fenway Park.
Bostonians already have their calendars marked for April 8th, some may even consider it a holiday. It’s the day the boys come back to town, and not only that, it’s the day they receive their 2007 World Series rings. Trying to spoil the party will be the revamped Detroit Tigers lineup which features some new faces that make them another threat coming out of the AL Central.
Now if that’s not exciting enough, fans won’t have to wait much longer for more action because following the Tigers series, you guessed it, the New York Yankees are in town for their first visit of the season. Come on, what’s not to love about the next few weeks?
To put it simply, that beautiful time of the year has come again, no not spring, baseball season. The only thing left to wait for, those two magical words that give every team the idea that this could be their year.
A clean slate, a lineup full of optimism and a nation full of believers only means one thing, the time has come.
It’s time to… Play Ball! Get your Red Sox tickets now.