There are still a lot of unanswered questions in the whole Adam LaRoche retirement story. One I continue to wonder about is whether, contrary to the official story, White Sox players actually brought private complaints to Ken Williams over Drake LaRoche’s presence in the clubhouse. As of now Ken Williams is wearing it all, saying it was entirely his decision to ask LaRoche to bring his son less often, but as I have discussed in other posts, that doesn’t really add up. Either way, I find that angle of it more interesting than general “what do we think of kids in the clubhouse?” talk, which seems sort of beside the point.
Another interesting angle: whether LaRoche might file a grievance against the Sox over how all of this went down. That possibility is discussed in this article from Andy McCullough, who spoke with MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark about the matter. The details are vague — because the entire situation is still vague — but the upshot would be that a team action and a possible reneging on a deal to allow Drake LaRoche in the clubhouse may or may not have pushed a player into forfeiting $13 million and that’s the kind of thing the union worries about, as it should.
Was there was a “deal” about LaRoche’s son’s presence in place? A report from Dave Kaplan of CSNChicago.com yesterday said there was and the Twitter account of Adam LaRoche’s company suggested that was the case, but there are obviously more questions. Was it a handshake deal or is there contractual language? Was it broad, saying “sure, your son can come to the clubhouse whenever you want him to” or was there room for Ken Williams to ask LaRoche to dial it back? Whatever the case, it’s important to remember that, even if there was no actual contractual language about any of this, LaRoche could still have a case, as Eugene Freedman — who is a labor lawyer — notes over at Baseball Prospectus. When it comes to employment arbitration, customs and practices and expectations matter, not just the language in a contract.
While it’s possible that all of the emotions here die down soon and LaRoche comes back to the team (his retirement papers have not been processed) my guess is that the end game of all of this is LaRoche carrying on with his retirement and a settlement between LaRoche and the White Sox being reached in which he’s given a portion of his 2016 money. It’s doubtful that anyone involved here really wants to have a full-blown arbitration involving LaRoche’s son and internal clubhouse policy.
Especially if players did complain to Williams about it, which would likely be revealed in the arbitration.