My uber-hot take on the Adam LaRoche/Kid in the clubhouse/retirement story is this: (1) it’s understandable that the White Sox didn’t want LaRoche’s son in the clubhouse every day; and (2) it’s understandable that, when confronted with that notion LaRoche, likely nearing the end of his career anyway, decided “eh, screw it, I’m retiring.” Maybe walking away from $13 million is hard for us to get our head around, but I get the situation, roughly, from both sides and can’t really see a basis for either criticizing the White Sox or LaRoche here.
Yet something still seems rather odd about this. It was crystalized in Dan Hayes’ story about the situation over at CSNChicago.com. Hayes spoke with White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and with Kenny Williams and there’s a somewhat conflicting aspect to their comments about it all.
Specifically, Eaton and Williams agreed that the White Sox players rallied behind LaRoche and his son in the Tuesday meeting where the decision to limit Drake LaRoche’s presence was communicated. Here are Eaton’s comments:
“We wanted Drake in the clubhouse, and we were backing Adam in every aspect,” Eaton said. “In that sense we’re going to miss him . . . 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. He wasn’t a big problem last year.”
“One thing with regards to this that I really have felt really good about is we felt that they were banding together,” Williams said. “But the way that they banded together to try to protect this young man and their teammate and everything — I told them, it’s admirable, and I love the bond that’s been created.”
So, the players were backing LaRoche and the guy who runs the team loved that bonding and banding together. Great! Except then why in the hell did Williams carry on with the policy about Drake LaRoche?
Williams talked about his concern over the “precedent” for future players, but this makes little sense. For one thing, LaRoche was entering his last year and was unlikely to be with the Sox long. In 2016, if Adam Eaton is to be believed, no White Sox player had an issue. Moreover, no one in 2017 or beyond, with LaRoche gone, was going to say “hey, that journeyman first baseman you had who isn’t here anymore? That guy? He got to do this, so why cant I?”
There have always, always, always been different rules for veteran players. Some of them get two lockers. Some of them get hotel suites instead of rooms. Some of them get separate charter flights for family or for visiting home. Hell, back in the day Jack Morris got a special deal where he didn’t have to even show up on days he didn’t pitch. Precedent? Robin Ventura or Kenny Williams or Rick Hahn can make literally any rule they want for other players and it would stick because this is baseball, not the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. More important than precedent is a clubhouse which, currently, is all on the same page and to hear Eaton and Williams tell it, they were all on the same page as being cool with Drake LaRoche in it every day.
So I think through that and it strikes me that this doesn’t make sense. In light of the above, the situation, as described by Eaton and Williams, does not satisfactorily explain the situation on the ground. What would, however, explain the situation is if current White Sox players were, in fact, unhappy with Drake LaRoche in the clubhouse and complained about it.
No player apart from perhaps a Derek Jeter, Jason Varitek or David Wright figure who is literally a captain of their team speaks for everyone in a clubhouse. There’s nothing suggesting Adam Eaton does for the White Sox at least. And he even notes in his comments that he’s a bit uneasy talking about the situation. Is he trying to create the impression of unity following a team meeting and an abrupt and unexpected retirement of player?
Likewise, no good executive, and I believe Kenny Williams is a good executive, throws his players under the bus. Williams, in this article and in his comments to Bob Nightengale of USA Today yesterday, takes full responsibility for the LaRoche retirement, to the point where he is willing to cast himself as something close to a villain, holding firm in his decision despite the fact that the entire White Sox team “bonded” and “banded together” to support LaRoche. It’s good for the outside world to believe that the players are united in every respect. It’d be bad if people thought some players were unhappy with Drake LaRoche and were the impetus for the new policy. Williams wearing it all, despite the fact the whole team allegedly banded together against him, prevents those bad things from happening.
I don’t claim to know what led to Adam LaRoche‘s retirement. I have no factual basis for contradicting what Eaton and Williams are saying here about no players being opposed to Drake LaRoche’s omnipresence in the White Sox’ clubhouse. But the situation as described seems incongruous. It does not seem to account for all of the variables of the matter as satisfactorily — and, per Occam’s Razor, as efficiently — as one in which some current players complained, Williams acted on those complaints and then took full responsibility in the interests of team harmony and not outing the guys who didn’t care for Drake LaRoche being there all the time.
I presume, eventually, we’ll hear more about what went into all of this. For now, we have no choice but to accept what people are saying about it. But what they’re saying about it all . . . seems off somehow.
UPDATE: I hadn’t seen this when I wrote this post, but um, yeah, this is what I’m talkin’ about: