I have often used this space to shine a spotlight on the fact that the players who entertain us are not robots. They have families, medical maladies, personal lives, good days and bad days – just like the rest of us. They often get traded and sold, put on waivers, released, sent down to the minors only to be recalled and then sent down again on the whim of a general manager. They are also held in captivity by the team that signed them for the first six years of their career. And more to the point here, they’re away from their spouses and children for a minimum of six months, returning only during home stands that are increasingly becoming more brief.
For most us, family is what grounds us. It trumps everything, including the work we do to raise and support our family. Even the most conservative and “stingy” employers know it is wise (in the long run) to back off and give an employee some space when a family issue arises. So given that context, how then are we supposed to understand what is going on in Chicago over the past few days with Adam LaRoche and the White Sox?
Even while the story continues to unfold, there are certain things that we know to be true…… And none of them put White Sox management or baseball in general in a good light…………
A few days ago, Adam LaRoche abruptly retired forfeiting $13 million in salary for this year. He did so because Kenny Williams (right), the Sox General Manager, asked him to “cut back” on the time his 14 year old son was spending in the clubhouse. This, in LaRoche’s mind violated an agreement that he believed he had with the White Sox as part of his contract for his son to be with him 100% of the time. Whether this was a handshake agreement or actually worded into the contract is still not clear. Nevertheless, LaRoche believed the agreement existed.
Almost immediately, teammates came to his defense causing the kind of disturbance no team needs with days remaining before the opening bell. Among the most vocal was Chris Sale (left), the ace of the White Sox staff who explained that “It’s not the fact we have a problem with the rules. We have to wear suits on the plane, we all dress up nice, carry ourselves in professional manners. But when it comes to what goes on in the clubhouse, the right person has to handle that and that’s Robin (Ventura). He’s the top, he’s the leader of the clubhouse ultimately and if there’s something that needs to be said in here he can say it and it’s taken with respect because he’s fighting with us.”
The interesting thing is that Drake (his son) is not (nor has he ever been) on trial here. When LaRoche was with the Nationals, the players loved him. And he was never just “hanging around “. He had duties and he worked hard……. And Dad made sure he did. He also carried three weeks of homework around with him.
Apparently though, the White Sox clubhouse had a few detractors who complained to Williams. Williams took them (incorrectly) to be representing the team and the whole thing went downhill from there. Last year, the team had a disappointing and disastrous season during which dissension in the clubhouse was widely played out. With the addition of new and more team oriented players like Jimmy Rollins, Todd Frazier, and Brett Lawrie things were hoping to be different. Not so much now.
Look, I sort of get it. How many of us (if we wanted to) would be permitted to bring our kids to work? But the overriding concern here is that an agreement was negated in midstream. And that is not only wrong but it creates a precedent that should send shudders through the Players Association and players in general. And that’s just the business side of it.
Because on the human side of it, baseball looks even worse. Telling a man to make a choice between $13 million and his son is chilling………it never should have happened, but it did and because it did a dark light is shining on the business of baseball at a time that should be spent preparing and celebrating the inauguration of a new season……………
Wake up baseball. You’re on the wrong side of this one. As for the White Sox, look at the bright side…….you’ve got an extra $13 million to divvy up among your shareholders…….Really?