It finally comes out: Several White Sox players complained about Drake LaRoche

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When the Adam LaRoche news broke last week — which, from now on, we will refer to as DrakeGhazi — the claim was made that the process was set in motion by Ken Williams. Chris Sale and Adam Eaton unambiguously claimed in the media that no player on the White Sox’ roster had a problem with Drake LaRoche. Adam LaRoche said, in his statement, that his only issue was with Ken Williams, strongly implying the same. Even Ken Williams — at least publicly — said that limiting and/or barring Drake LaRoche’s access, which led to Adam LaRoche’s retirement, was his call.

As I said when this story came out, it didn’t add up. Sale and Eaton’s talk of the clubhouse being unified and Williams’ nodding about the “bonding” of the clubhouse over all of this didn’t make sense. Rather, I and many others surmised, this was likely a situation in which White Sox players — maybe several of them — complained to Ken Williams about Drake LaRoche’s presence and Ken Williams (a) was doing their bidding in limiting/barring Drake LaRoche’ and (b) took the heat for it so there was not a clubhouse rift. Occam’s Razor suggested that this was the more likely situation, no matter what the official line was.

Occam’s Razor did not fail us. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports:

. . . while the early evidence frames this as a Williams vs. LaRoche battle over clubhouse time for LaRoche’s son, multiple baseball officials with direct knowledge of the Adam LaRoche brouhaha told USA TODAY Sports a different tale.

Several players and staff members privately complained to White Sox management recently about the constant presence of LaRoche’s 14-year-old son, Drake, in the clubhouse.

While one may be tempted to say this doesn’t much matter now because LaRoche is gone, the fact is that the behavior of all of the parties in the past few days makes this a pretty big deal.

There was a heated team meeting about this on Tuesday. A meeting Chris Sale said presented a White Sox team entirely on the same page regarding the LaRoches. So much so that a boycott of Wednesday’s spring training game was considered. In the following days Sale accused Ken Williams of lying when he said that players or coaches complained and he hung up the LaRoches’ jerseys in his locker. The team kept Drake LaRoche’s nameplate up on his locker in his memory. Yesterday Adam Eaton talked about how Drake LaRoche was a team leader, for crying out loud.

Now Sale and Eaton — and, one presumes, some other players for whom they were speaking — know that what they initially believed was not true. They now know that there was not unanimous acceptance of Drake LaRoche. At the very best the Sale-Eaton contingent have to be embarrassed at how far out on the limb they got on this, portraying clubhouse ambivalence as clubhouse unity. More concerning, however, is that the Sale-Eaton contingent may now feel as though their teammates lied to them. Either by voicing disingenuous support for the LaRoches while they secretly complained or by keeping silent and allowing that impression to be created.

There will be some tempted to play the role of savvy cynic and say “eh, Sale and Eaton probably knew others complained and were just being dramatic.” I think that’s pretty unlikely. To say the things they said and to act in the manner they did — remember, they were talking about boycotting a game over this — while knowing that others in the clubhouse didn’t agree with them would itself be an act of clubhouse dissension. They’d be publicly rubbing their teammates’ noses in the matter and passive-aggressively calling them out. That’s not something players would do lightly or easily. No, I believe they took the stance that they did because they truly believed they were in an us (players) against him (Ken Williams) situation. I believe that they believed that no uniformed White Sox personnel had an issue with Drake LaRoche. Remember, when Ken Williams privately suggested that to Sale, Sale accused him of lying.

They have now found out they were wrong. Moreover, I presume that they will soon find out who, exactly, complained about Drake LaRoche. They will find out whose complaints set the ball in motion for the retirement of one of their favorite teammates and whose silence led them to, quite frankly, take some pretty ridiculous public positions on the matter. And then they’ll have to spend the next six and a half months working, traveling and living with them.

That ought to be fun.

Bryce Harper is really just a tiny bit better Adam Lind when you think about it

Associated Press
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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post writes about an important matter facing the Washington Nationals over the next year: what to do about Bryce Harper, who is entering his walk year and will be a free agent a little over 12 months from now.

That’s a fine and important question. The Nats do need to decide whether to offer Harper a long term deal, when to offer it and, above all else, how big that deal should be. Should it be $300 million? $400 million? Should it be conventional or unconventional, with opt-outs and such? It’s not every day that a generational talent comes along and it’s even more rare that the generational talent hits free agency at the age of 26, so the decisions facing the Nationals are not easy ones.

Boswell acknowledges that bit of trickiness, but he also, strangely, spends a whole lot of time trying to portray Harper as an ordinary talent. He starts with health, comparing him poorly with Stephen Strasburg, who is ranked 30th in games started over the past five years. In contrast . . .

In those same five years, Harper ranks 90th in games played, just 126 a season, and now he says he should have skipped quite a few more games in 2016 when he had a balky shoulder. That’s almost six weeks out per season.

Nowhere in the column is it mentioned that the several weeks he missed in 2017 was the result of a freak injury in wet conditions and that, despite that, Harper worked his tail off to come back and be ready for the postseason. Not that Boswell doesn’t mention the postseason of course . . .

Harper, for the fourth time, failed to lead his team out of the first round and has career playoff batting average and OPS marks of .215 and .801. By the high standards of right fielders, he’s Mr. Average in October.

I suppose it’s not Boswell’s job to refrain from insulting a player on the team he covers, but he certainly seems hellbent on insulting not only Harper, but our own intelligence via comparisons like this:

In the past five years, in those 126 games, Harper averaged 26 homers, 72 RBI and a .288 average. Over the last nine years, Adam Lind averaged 128 games, 20 homers, 70 RBI and hit .273. That’s selective stat mining. Harper is much better, in part because he walks so much. But Harper and Lind in the same sentence?

“A person can eat delicious chocolate cake or lead paint chips. The chocolate cake is much better, but chocolate cake and lead paint in the same sentence?” I guess Boswell gets points for acknowledging that it was a misleading comparison, but if he thinks it is, why make it in the first place? If you want to eliminate this one as an outlier, cool, because he makes a lot of other comparisons like that in the piece.

This is not necessarily new for Boswell. Here’s something he wrote about Harper in 2014:

Harper has not driven in 60 runs in either of his two seasons. He has only five RBI this year. He’s never had more than 157 runs-plus-RBI. Ryan Zimmerman has had between 163 and 216 six times. Adam LaRoche, no big star, has had 175 or more three times. Fourth outfielder Nate McLouth once had 207. Can we get a grip? Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player. If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twice. Harper is in a self-conscious, fierce scowl-off with baseball. Rendon dances with it and grins. Baseball loves relaxed.

That was written 16 games into his age-22 season.

I’m not sure what Boswell’s beef with Harper is. I’m not sure why he’s contorting himself to portray him as an ordinary player when he is fairly extraordinary and, most certainly, a special case when it comes to his impending free agency. In his career he already has 26.1 career bWAR, 150 homers, an MVP Award under his belt and, if it wasn’t for that freak injury in August, would have a strong case for a second one. Guy has a career line of .285/.386/.515 and he turned 26 four days ago. He’s younger than Aaron Judge.

My view of things is that players should ignore the media for the most part, but they don’t always do that. Sometimes the hostility or criticism of the local press — especially from the most respected portions of the local press who have the ability to shape fan sentiment — gets to them.

Which is to say that, if this kind of noise keeps up, I wouldn’t be shocked if Harper puts up a line of .340/.480/.650 in 2018 and then walked the hell out of D.C. for New York or Chicago or L.A. or something. Would anyone blame him?