Reflecting on the Saga of Adam LaRoche

Jul 18, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche (25) reacts to striking out with the bases loaded during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 18, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche (25) reacts to striking out with the bases loaded during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Now that Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has closed the Adam LaRoche saga by stating that the former first baseman will stay retired for good, here is a reflection on what has been a tumultuous week.

Imagine being the son of a major league baseball player. It must be neat, Eh? Having access to a big league clubhouse. Being able to take ground balls on the field pregame. Having your own locker. Having your dad retire as a result of his employer telling him that you couldn’t spend as much time around the clubhouse. Wait, what about that last part?

Drake LaRoche has been able to experience a lot of the perks of being the son of a major leaguer. He gets to hang around the clubhouse. He can take reps in the infield during warm-ups, and his father, Adam, wants his boy to be able to live like a big leaguer as often as possible. Drake has his schooling done at home. Therefore, the time spent with his dad did not have a large effect on his schoolwork. So, Drake was able to spend a lot of time with his father. I mean a lot of time.

Drake spent so much time with his father that Ken Williams, the White Sox Vice President, asked Adam to simmer down on the father-son bonding time. This does not seem to be an unreasonable request. After all, Major League Baseball is not a child’s playpen, and if Drake spends every moment around the Chicago White Sox, other players can’t be held to a different standard when it comes to raising their kids. Opinions are very split on this matter. Many feel that the White Sox were right to limit people in the clubhouse who were not members of the team, while others see the Sox as wrong and LaRoche as an admirable family hero. Both theories have steam, but before I give my final verdict, here is some more backstory.

Like his son, Adam LaRoche grew up around the big leagues. His father, Dave, played in the bigs for 14 seasons and made the all-star game twice, along with throwing a legendary lob pitch to strike out Milwaukee’s Gordon Thomas. Adam wanted to give Drake a taste of what his childhood was like, and that is very noble. The White Sox were not the first team to get familiar with Drake LaRoche, as Adam had his son around for a few years while he was with the Washington Nationals, who apparently had no objections. So, Adam’s side of the story is that he wanted to have his son around with him all day every day, and the world could certainly use a lot more fathers who have that mentality.

Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Now, here is how the White Sox looked at things. Major League Baseball is not daycare. It is a workplace, and like any workplace, there will be people who have problems with having children around. Now, if every White Sox player decided to have his kid/kids around him on a regular basis, that would be madness, and it is possible that Drake LaRoche could have inadvertently caused such anarchy to happen. So, it seems perfectly reasonable for the White Sox to tell that Adam that while it was perfectly acceptable for Drake to have his share of experiences with their ball club, having him around all the time just wasn’t in their best interest. It would be easy to assume that the Ken Williams made a reasonable request on behalf of his organization, but here is where things get interesting.

Most professional athletes who have children would love to be able to spend time with them in spite of their work, but LaRoche took things to a different level by specifying in his contract that his son would be allowed in the clubhouse. The White Sox seemed not to have a problem with LaRoche’s request, as they agreed to his demands. Now one might ask themselves why the White Sox would have a problem with Drake LaRoche spending time with his dad if they had agreed to Adam’s demands in principle. What Adam did not mention in his contract, however, was the exactly amount of time that Adam would like to spend with Drake, which turned out to be a lot. Here is LaRoche’s full statement, which is very powerful to read, but does not specify 100% how often he wanted his son in the White Sox clubhouse.

Drake LaRoche became the 26th member of the White Sox. He became close to the players. He took ground balls in the infield right along with the guys, and he even had his locker installed in the locker room right next to his dad’s. Yeah, doesn’t seem like your average baseball father-son duo. It is evident that Kenny Williams thought Drake to be somewhat of a clubhouse distraction. But what did the White Sox think about it? Well, reports circulated initially that A few White Sox players complained to the front office about Drakes time in the clubhouse, but it as more details surfaced, it appears that the opposite is true. In fact, in my mind, the players are a little too behind Drake LaRoche, and the face of the franchise is leading the charge.

Chris Sale is a one of the best pitchers on the planet and probably a little too good for his employers. Here is he what he had to say about how Kenny Williams handled the situation.

“We got bold face lied to by someone we were supposed to trust. This isn’t us rebelling against the rules; it’s us rebelling against B.S., plain and simple”. Sale refuses to explain fully how Williams lied to them, only saying that Williams contradicted himself, and comes off as a man trying to either create or get traded to a contender. The latter makes more sense. The nonsense did not stop there, as Chicago’s center fielder, Adam Eaton, said that the team “lost a leader” in the younger LaRoche. So a 14-year-old kid is considered to be a leader of a Major League Baseball team.

Feb 28, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox infielder Adam LaRoche (left) poses for a portrait with son Drake LaRoche during photo day at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

That makes a world of sense.

The White Sox have cleaned out Adam LaRoche’s locker, but, as a tribute to Drake *rolls eyes* they have kept his locker in loving memory. Since Drake LaRoche was such a vital member of the White Sox family, here are some additional things the team can do as a tribute to “a leader.”

.Wear armbands with the initials DL on them for the duration of the 2016 season
.Hand out signed pictures of Adam and Drake as an opening day promotion
. Have a special “Drake LaRoche night” on the 4th of July and have him recreate Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech
. Sign Drake to a contract and have him replace Carlos Sanchez as the team’s every day second baseman
. Bring in Celine Dion to perform a rendition of “my heart will go on” before Opening Day, with a photo montage of the young man playing on the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard.

None of this is a direct criticism of Drake LaRoche. He is, by Sale’s account as well as several of his White Sox teammates, a terrific young man who is mature beyond his years. However, the White Sox players are taking this whole situation way too hard. But, why should they let a silly thing like the upcoming season get in the way? Adam LaRoche is not wrong for retiring to be with his son. Also, I think we can safely assume that LaRoche’s age and declining performance had a large role in his decision. If LaRoche was two years younger and had just come off a 25 HR, 100 RBI season, I don’t think he would have walked away from the game. Instead, at 36 years old was coming off of a year in which he was barely able to hit over the Mendoza line. After that conversation with Kenny Williams, it’s a good bet that LaRoche thought to himself: “I’m 36 years old, my performance is declining, and my son is more important to me than all the money in the World.

I do not believe that Kenny Williams is wrong for his handling of the situation either. Every team has their way of running things, and Adam LaRoche is not above the way the White Sox operate. So if Williams doesn’t think a clubhouse should always be open to kids, I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with that. But don’t take my word for it. Take it from a son of a major leaguer who grew up to be a major leaguer himself.

Aaron Boone grew up the son of Bob Boone, a hard-nosed catcher who spent 18 seasons in the show. Boone said that when his father played with the Phillies, he “used to ride the big wheel around Veterans Stadium”, but later acknowledged that every team has its policy. That applies well with LaRoche, as the White Sox and Nationals had different ideas when it came to balancing parenting and playing first base.

So, now that this saga has come to an end, I feel that nobody is a villain. Let Adam LaRoche retire in peace. Let Kenny Williams try to build a winning baseball team, and to all Chicago White Sox players, let yourselves focus on the season ahead.