PHOENIX -- Just like the Red Sox in Florida, there was a moment in time when the A's considered boycotting their Cactus League games on Wednesday and their season-opening trip to Japan. Like the Red Sox, the issue involved compensation for coaches and staff making the trip to Tokyo, where the two teams play a pair of games next week at the Tokyo Dome. Then cooler heads prevailed, the exhibition games were played and the A's prepared to airlift over the Pacific Ocean. The A's had five team meetings before playing split-squad games in Phoenix against the Angels and in Mesa, Ariz., against the Cubs on Wednesday, and they were anticipating at least one more small caucus before boarding the plane.
"There was discussion about whether to play the game today," said A's reliever Huston Street, the team's player representative, after the club dropped a 6-1 decision to the Angels. "There was discussion about how the money could essentially be handled. There was a discussion about going to Japan. There was a discussion about how to talk to the media about it. "The most important thing at this point is that we're going to Japan. Everybody is going to be fairly compensated. I've been assured, not only by my manager, [Bob Geren], but by the president of my team and the Players Association that everybody is satisfied with the end result." The issue arose on Monday, when Red Sox manager Terry Francona was informed that his coaches and staff traveling to Japan wouldn't be compensated for the trip, while 30 players designated by each team to travel would receive $40,000. The union negotiated the deal with Major League Baseball late last year, when Red Sox players said they'd refuse to approve the trip without just compensation. There's a pool of funds from the event that is split evenly between the union and management, but the coaches and staff were cut out to accommodate the 60 shares for the players. Each team is traveling with 30, but only 25 can suit up for either game.
MLB resolved the issue, but it wouldn't specify how that occurred."Everyone connected with the trip will be fairly compensated," said Rich Levin, a spokesman for the Commissioner's Office. Street said he didn't know whether fair compensation meant equal compensation. "I can't comment on that directly, because I have not been told," he said. "We've been told that everything was going to be fair. Bob asserted to me that they were comfortable with it. We just want to make sure that what's right is done." The day's controversy created an interesting backdrop for the A's, who were scratched from their previous Opening Day assignment in Japan five years ago because of the start of the war in Iraq. The A's were set to play the Mariners in 2003, but when the U.S. began bombing Baghdad, the trip was canceled because of security reasons and the two games were played in the U.S. "There were different circumstances back then," said A's vice president and general manager Billy Beane. "There might have been something a little bit more legitimate."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.