Friday, March 18, 2016

Thoughts on Adam LaRoche and Kids in the Clubhouse

By now, you all are probably familiar with the story out of ChiTown in which Adam LaRoche left the team and apparently retired because the White Sox asked him to not bring his 14 yo son, Drake, into the clubhouse quite so often.  It is really unclear what all led to this state of affairs, but the fallout is still raining down with several White Sox players blasting management, LaRoche making a formal statement, White Sox management insisting there is another side to the story and players from outside the organization chiming in.

Apparently LaRoche's 14 year old son was an almost daily presence  in the White Sox clubhouse where he hung out with his old man and apparently kind of functioned like an unpaid clubhouse boy.  By all accounts, the kid is well behaved and everybody seems to agree that his behavior is exemplary and not an issue.  LaRoche claims that an agreement on the part of White Sox management to allow his son access to the clubhouse was a major part of his decision to sign a free agent contract last year.  It is unclear how formal this agreement was and the White Sox dispute some of the details but are not specific in their denials.  Word of the team's wishes were apparently conveyed to Adam LaRoche by team President Kenny Williams who says it was a team decision, but he, Williams delivered the message so as to deflect the expected backlash away from GM Rick Hahn.  The team's argument is they wanted the team to be more focused this year and to eliminate as many distractions as possible.

What we have right now are very few answers about what actually happened or why and a whole shipload of questions:

1.  Even if you completely believe LaRoche's story about the "agreement" at the time of his signing as a free agent, the very fact that he felt the need to bring it up and insist on assurances seems to indicate that he realized that what he was wanting to do was outside the norm of many MLB clubhouses and could become an issue.  So, what exactly was Drake's role in the clubhouse and how was is different?  Was the arrangement a carryover from what he was already doing in the Nationals clubhouse or was it something that started in Chicago?

2.  If the action by White Sox management is a response to what happened last year, why did it take them until the middle spring training to act?  Would it not have been better for all parties, including management for this to be hashed out ASAP after the season ended?  Did something happen in the last few days or weeks to trigger this action that nobody is talking about?

3. I personally have questions about what or who this is more about, Adam LaRoche or his son.  It is hard enough to be a 14 year old young man in this world without seeing your name in the headlines as being the cause of your father no longer being a major leaguer and losing $13 M and having this debated for days or more in the national media.  Might it have been better for LaRoche to have a quiet man-to-man talk with his son and just have him not come around the clubhouse as much to keep him out of the media glare?

Reading about his incident brought back a lot of unpleasant memories of the 2002 Giants and Dusty Baker's open clubhouse policy for players kids.  I know I have always felt like they ended up being a distraction which contributed to the Giants collapse in the World Series.  Of course that doesn't explain how they got to the World Series in the first place if it was all that much of a distraction, but nevertheless, I have felt that way ever since.

In the bigger picture, it would seem that teams are going to need to be more proactive in setting clubhouse rules regarding friends and family in the clubhouse and are going to have to make them uniform for all players on the team.  I could even see this issue coming up in the CBA negotiations to make policy uniform across all of MLB.

What do you think about the Adam Laroche situation?


  1. I think LaRoche is financially set-for-life, was having back problems, was going to be on the bench behind Abreu (again) and, ultimately, needed a convenient excuse to walk-away on his terms.

    And I certainly don't see what the White Sox did as anti-kid. The White Sox actually encourage kids to be a the club house. That's their current policy. And it hasn't changed. Plus, it wasn't like he banned the kid or threw a hissy fit. What he wanted was a bit more focus on baseball instead of family in the locker room so what he asked for is the kid to not be there 100% of the time.

    I don't think the White Sox did anything wrong here. In my company there is an absolute 'no kids at work, ever' policy. What we do is dangerous. It was the same at my Grandfather's companies (logging, mining, road construction). You just don't bring your kids into those kinds of places. And that White Sox could, and do, allow it is something that no fathers (or mothers) can do in so many workplace environments, and he got bent out of shape because he couldn't do it every day... It's really eye-rolling for me.

    So when I see the tantrum-retirement because he was asked to dial-it-back (not stop it, just dial-it-back) I don't see 'noble father fighting the Corporate Suit' as has been played out in the media. I see a convenient excuse to go out without the 'quitter' label.

    1. I feel like there is way more to this story than what we've seen and heard in the press. Not sure what it is, but there is something that just seems to be missing from the story.

  2. By most accounts, it sounds like Drake LaRoche (whose name is now well-known because of this) was not an issue. This will end up costing the White Sox a shot at extending Chris Sale and maybe Adam Eaton. The kid was in the clubhouse, as much as, 120 games last year. That's probably excessive, but it's not really the issue now.

    The issue is coming down to how Ken Williams handled it. A two hour "contentious" meeting that ends in a well respected veteran retiring isn't the best course. According to Eaton, the players rep, laroche actually had a clause in his contract. If that's true, he'll be getting paid still. This may have just been the straw that pushed the players over the edge in their disdain for Williams.

    1. From the way the clubhouse reacted, it seems to me this is just the tip of the iceberg. It feels like there must be deeper issues between management and the players and this issue is just the flash point.

  3. The comments from Moses and Bryce here are great points on each side of the debate. I think I side more with Moses though, as this is all a bit eye-rolling for me as well. I did see a Tweet from a national writer (I can't remember who though) that made it sound like a few players had voiced concerns over the son being in the clubhouse so often. Honestly, if the White Sox cornerstone players decide not to stay with the club longterm, it will be a result of the franchise's record on the field, not its policy with players' kids.

    I always look back to the Giants, as I feel they are a model franchise in the league right now. Yes, Baer has created a great family environment in San Francisco (look at the Crawford's, for example). However, I do not believe the organization allows players' kids to just roam freely or come and go as they please around the facilities. That, in my opinion, takes away the #2 focus of any sports franchise... winning (#1 is obviously making money).

    Cove Chatter

    1. Agree that it sure seems like there must have been some concerns coming from some of the other players that we don't know about. I find it very odd that this went down in the middle of spring training and not during the offseason.

  4. Kid should be in school, period. I know LaRoche is on record saying he doesn't really believe in school and feels his kid will gain more learning from the club house. That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I see nothing wrong with his kid being at some of the afternoon/night home games, but to argue MLB club house > school is a crazy. There is no way anyone will convince me that a bunch of guys who's average level of education is probably high school, at best "some" college, is the best group of educators one could have. And that is not even counting the ones who don't speak English.