Adam LaRoche’s decision to step away from the game of baseball (and a $13MM salary) earlier this week surprised most of the baseball world and left his teammates stunned. The subsequent reports that LaRoche’s decision stemmed from a request made by White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams that LaRoche’s 14-year-old son, Drake, not be allowed in the clubhouse on a daily basis anymore in 2016 (as he has been for the past five seasons of Adam’s career with the Nationals and White Sox) added quite a few wrinkles to the story. That news has triggered reactions from teammates and the media alike in addition to yielding several additionally newsworthy items, which we’ll compile here…
- White Sox players have emphatically sided with LaRoche in the matter, so much so that the team considered boycotting yesterday’s Spring Training game, reports ESPN’s Karl Ravech. Manager Robin Ventura intervened and convinced the players to take the field, but the clubhouse is none too pleased with the front office’s decision on the matter. Per Ravech, there’s a division between the clubhouse (including the players and Ventura) and the front office.
- CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan reports a number of elements on the decision, including the fact that allowing Drake to be in the clubhouse every day was actually a requirement for LaRoche to even sign with the Sox in the first place (Twitter link). According to Kaplan (link), LaRoche would not have signed with Chicago had he not been promised full access for his son, and both Ventura and GM Rick Hahn agreed to the situation before LaRoche was signed (link). Furthermore, Kaplan hears that White Sox players had a “very heated” meeting with management wherein high-profile players, including Chris Sale, “really went after” Williams. Kaplan describes the meeting as “very contentious,” noting that the Sox clubhouse think highly of LaRoche and his son.
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan hears the same, tweeting that Sale “absolutely lit up” Williams over the situation. In a full column, Passan echoes the sentiment that Drake was welcome in the clubhouse and goes on to opine that, while the White Sox’ request was not necessarily misplaced, it was poorly timed. Implementing this new philosophy midway through Spring Training should never have happened, Passan writes, suggesting instead that it should’ve been handled before camp opened. Moreover, Passan tweets that the Sox roster feels that Williams isn’t around the clubhouse enough to understand the dynamics.
- Outfielder Adam Eaton spoke to CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes about the matter yesterday, firmly voicing his support for LaRoche and Drake. “We wanted Drake in the clubhouse, and we were backing Adam in every aspect,” said Eaton. “…He chose family over allowing his son to be in the clubhouse and we respect what he had to do. … We can say we enjoyed Drake LaRoche in the clubhouse and everything he brought in the clubhouse. He brought perspective. He helped out and around, he wasn’t a burden by any stretch of the imagination.” Eaton says that both Adam and Drake are “probably the most respected people” he’s shared a clubhouse with, noting that Drake often helped by cleaning players’ cleats and assisting in drills. “Never a trouble in the clubhouse,” Eaton repeated.
- USA Today’s Bob Nightengale contests that the Sox were in the right to make the request of LaRoche. Williams’ main point in speaking to Nightengale is that there is nary a business anywhere else in the country where a parent can bring his 14-year-old child to work every day. The longtime Chicago exec made it clear that he thinks highly of Drake, and the decision was in no way related to his conduct in the clubhouse. “Simply, you have to make a decision from the management perspective or an organization at large,” said Williams. “We went into this season saying to ourselves, ‘We are going to commit and focus and not leave any stone unturned.'” He also notes that he didn’t ask that Drake be completely absent, but rather simply dial back the frequency with which his son spent days in the clubhouse. Nightengale opines that it would be a shame for such a respected player to see his career end in this way, writing that LaRoche should “rip up his retirement papers” and return to the club on Friday.
- The issue of children in clubhouses is not unique to the White Sox organization, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, examining some of the policies and measures recently implemented by the Red Sox pertaining to this exact manner. Rosenthal also provides further details on Sale’s words for Williams (links to Twitter), adding that Sale told Williams to get out of the clubhouse and stay out.
- In a second column, Rosenthal reports that neither Hahn nor Ventura agrees with Williams’ approach. Asked why he made the decision and broke the news to LaRoche himself (as opposed to Hahn or Ventura), Williams told Rosenthal: “This had the potential to piss people off and I’m the best one to absorb the heat. Period.” A pair of sources also told Rosenthal that the agreement mentioned by Kaplan, in which Drake was permitted to be in the clubhouse on a daily basis, “might only have been verbal” as opposed to anything that was put in writing.