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The Chicago White Sox Might Have the Most Woke Clubhouse in Baseball

The White Sox have been involved in several clubhouse controversies this year. All of them have been about control.
July 25, 2016, 5:41pm

Forget about the embarrassing saga of Drake LaRoche, and the juvie antics of class cut-up Chris Sale: The Chicago White Sox just might have the most politically, economically and socially woke clubhouse in all of Major League Baseball.

Word on the street is, the White Sox players recently refused to pay clubhouse dues during a visit to Seattle's Safeco Field because the Mariners front office changed its policy of how the visiting clubhouse manager is paid. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Mariners ownership now takes "60 percent" of the money players give to Jeff Bopp and "redirects it" into an account managed by the team. Heretofore, teams across MLB would pay its visiting clubhouse staff a certain wage (probably pretty low in most cases) and players would augment it in the form of tipping — with the clubhouse manager dividing up the tips however he saw fit.

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told Rosenthal that the White Sox are the first team to object, to this degree, to the change. Rosenthal writes:

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.

Marvin Miller is smiling, though, from beyond the grave, at White Sox players not taking the Mariners power grab while lying down. And it's about power, after all. The White Sox players want to protect their friends and acquaintances in the clubby business who care for them, but the Mariners front office clearly is stepping into players' (i.e. players union) domain. It's also another example of ownership, while enjoying more than its share of the fruits of a $9 billion industry, being impossibly cheap with its employees who don't have leverage.

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Are major leaguers ever going to do something like this for minor league players? Probably not, but minor leaguers aren't in the major leagues. A major league clubby is another matter. MLB players might live in a bubble, but the Sox seem to know injustice when they see it. Check out this additional Rosenthal tidbit:

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."

The players weren't buying that explanation. As Rosenthal says, expect this to be part of the collective bargaining negotiations.

The White Sox were righteously lampooned for how they complained about how upper management dealt with the presence of Drake LaRoche, the young son of former slugger Adam LaRoche. But the root of the disagreement was about control, and the players saw management overstepping its bounds when it came to clubhouse practices — a domain widely considered to be the responsibility of the players and manager.

The same thing goes for the Sale's uniform-cutting tantrum, an amusing if not acceptable response by Sale to the team dictating the players wear throwback jerseys that Sale found uncomfortable. Players, owners, they're all getting rich. What's left is all about control.