White Sox players recently protested Mariners’ clubhouse dues policy
Chris Sale’s destruction of throwback jerseys on Saturday was not the only recent act of vehement protest involving the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox players left Seattle on July 20 without paying clubhouse dues and tips, objecting to a new Mariners policy that redirects 60 percent of the dues into an account managed by the team, according to major-league sources.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that the White Sox were the first club to refuse payment to Seattle’s visiting clubhouse manager, Jeff Bopp.
However, this is not an issue driven only by the White Sox’s players.
Dipoto acknowledged that other clubs have reacted with "curiosity" to the Mariners’ policy, and another team, the San Francisco Giants, quickly reversed an adjustment to its own procedures last season when visiting players complained.
The players’ association, seeking uniformity in clubhouse protocols — as well as safeguards against management intrusion into the clubhouse space — has raised the issues in collective bargaining, sources said. The current labor agreement expires Dec. 1.
Clubhouse attendants long have been part of baseball’s hidden fabric, serving players’ various needs. The players, in turn, consider "clubbies" an extension of the player fraternity and often tip them generously.
The White Sox players withheld their money because Mariners management unilaterally entered a financial relationship that historically has existed between only players and "clubbies," sources said.
Strong reactions by White Sox players to perceived injustices are nothing new, as Sale’s eruption over throwback jerseys and subsequent five-game suspension by the team again demonstrated.
During spring training, Sale confronted executive vice president Ken Williams and criticized him publicly after the team refused to allow first baseman Adam LaRoche’s son, Drake, to remain a consistent presence with the club. Other players also were upset, and LaRoche retired over the decision, forfeiting his $13 million salary.
The dispute between the White Sox players and Mariners management fits the recent pattern.
A group of players, including Sale and player representative Adam Eaton, met with Mariners assistant general manager Jeff Kingston during the team’s recent visit to Seattle, expressing concern that the majority of their dues were going to the team and not directly to Bopp.
The Mariners revised their policy last offseason before hiring Bopp to fill their opening for a visiting clubhouse manager.
"Jeff walked them through the detail of what we’re doing," Dipoto said. "There has been some curiosity with other teams in the league, but nobody reacted the way the White Sox did. The fact that they decided to leave town without paying, clearly it’s their choice. They don’t have to. There’s no rule that says you must."
Sale and Eaton, through their agents, declined comment.
Most teams allow the visiting clubhouse manager to handle dues as well as individual tips. The clubhouse manager uses the money to purchase food and other items for the players and redistributes a percentage of the tips to his assistants.
The Mariners’ policy allows Bopp to receive 40 percent of the dues plus all of the tips, in addition to his salary from the club, Dipoto said. The other 60 percent of the dues helps pay for food and the salaries of clubhouse assistants.
Players typically pay $50 a day in dues when on the road and tip above that. Dipoto said that the Mariners’ portion does not cover the team’s costs and that the club implemented the policy in part because it wanted to manage the hours of underage employees and their overtime.
The Giants, for different reasons, had a run-in with visiting players early last season after they hired a new visiting clubhouse manager, Abe Silvestri, who had previously been director of baseball operations at Washington State.
Silvestri needed to move his family to San Francisco, so the Giants gave him a significant increase in salary, GM Bobby Evans said. In exchange, the club required Silvestri to direct all of the tip money to his staff.
Evans changed that stipulation early in the season, after the Giants’ first home series against the Rockies.
"Visiting players didn’t give an explanation to Abe why they weren’t paying dues," Evans said. "After the fact, we were given a heads-up from other teams coming in. So, we made him tip-eligible."
"The players didn’t fully understand. We were really trying to help make the experience even better for the players, create a deeper level of accountability and process so they would be more assured of getting their money’s worth."
Sounds simple, but players do not always see it that way. To be continued in collective bargaining.