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

174 Comments

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.

White Sox to extend protective netting to the foul poles

Getty Images
1 Comment

Recently two more fans suffered serious injuries as the result of hard-hit foul balls at major league games. One of those fans was hurt at a White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field earlier this month. In response, the White Sox have taken it upon themselves to do that which Major League Baseball will not require and extend protective netting. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The White Sox and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority are planning to extend the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field down the lines to the foul poles, according to a source.

Exact details will be announced later, but the changes will be made as soon as possible this season.

If recent history holds, they will not be the last team to do it.

Major League Baseball has taken a laissez-faire approach to protective netting over the past several years, requiring nothing even if it has made recommendations to teams to do something. The last time it made a suggestion was in December 2015 when teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate. In the wake of that recommendation only a few teams immediately extended their netting, primarily because if you ask a business to do something but say it is not required to do anything, it is not likely to do anything.

It would not be until September 2017, after a baby girl was severely injured at Yankee Stadium, that the rest of baseball was inspired to extend protective netting in keeping with MLB’s recommendations. Indeed, it was a land rush, with all 30 teams extending their netting by Opening Day 2018. While a generous interpretation would have everyone seeing the light simultaneously, my slightly more experienced eye saw it as a “don’t be the only team not to have extended netting by the time the next lawsuit hits” approach.

In the wake of the two recent injuries Major League Baseball issued a statement about how it “will keep examining” the matter of additional protective netting while, again, mandating nothing. Now that the White Sox are extending netting to the foul poles, however,  it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which other teams follow suit. Sooner or later, enough will likely have done so to create critical mass and make any team which has not done so to make the effort out of self-preservation.

Or, more generously, good sense.