Yesterday, a very weird thing happened. Adam LaRoche, who had one year and $13 million remaining on his contract with the Chicago White Sox, decided to retire. Although leaving $13 million isn’t something regular people get to do, the retirement wasn’t all that weird in itself. The thing is, Adam LaRoche retired because management told him his 14 year old son, Drake, should spend less time with the team at the ballpark.
According to reports, this request came largely from team vice-president Kenny Williams. Ken Rosenthal released a statement from Williams, an excerpt of which is reproduced below:
“There has been no policy change with regards to allowance of kids in the clubhouse, on the field, the back fields during spring training. This young man that we’re talking about, Drake, everyone loves this young man. In no way do I want this to be about him.
“I asked Adam, said, ‘Listen, our focus, our interest, our desire this year is to make sure we give ourselves every opportunity to focus on a daily basis on getting better. All I’m asking you to do with regard to bringing your kid to the ballpark is dial it back.’
“I don’t think he should be here 100 percent of the time – and he has been here 100 percent, every day, in the clubhouse. I said that I don’t even think he should be here 50 percent of the time. Figure it out, somewhere in between.
“We all think his kid is a great young man. I just felt it should not be every day, that’s all. You tell me, where in this country can you bring your child to work every day?”
What do you make of something like this? Williams’ take seems to be reasonable until you take a closer look at the situation itself. Based on the subsequent reports, it appears that the only person who has a problem with Drake in the locker room is Williams. That’s a problem.
Williams mentions that no job in America would allow you to bring your kid to work every day. That’s mostly true, except that being a professional baseball player is not a regular job. Guys get paid to catch and hit a ball. The White Sox don’t sit at a desk for 8 hours a day while Drake runs around the office and wreaks havoc.
It has been reported that the White Sox players considered not playing in today’s spring training game to support Adam LaRoche. Ken Rosenthal wrote that Williams faced a wrath of White Sox players at a meeting about the situation today, including ace pitcher Chris Sale who told Williams to get out of the clubhouse and stay out. Manager Robin Ventura didn’t even agree with Williams’ approach. Dave Kaplan, a Chicago radio personality, said that the team agreed for Drake to be part of their clubhouse culture prior to signing LaRoche in 2015.
Despite the fact that I have no idea how the hell a 14 year old kid in March is able to spend every day with his Dad’s baseball team, the only thing that should really matter is how the people who have to deal with Drake feel about him being there. If the players aren’t bothered by the kid hanging around the clubhouse every day, then why should the VP.
It’s spring training for goodness sakes.
If it bothered Williams so much, he should have discussed it with the team, coaches and management before taking it up with LaRoche. While I’m assuming he probably expected LaRoche to make the concession for him, there’s no reason he should have gone about it in this way.
Furthermore, if the White Sox said Drake could be part of their clubhouse culture, what has changed in the past year that pissed Williams off?
Is he so bothered by the situation that he reached a point where he couldn’t take it anymore? He simply had to do something about the distracting cancer of a 14 year old who just wants to shag some fly balls.
No matter what Williams’ reasons are, in trying to improve his clubhouse culture, Williams was able to unify the clubhouse. Unfortunately, the club is unified against Williams as a result of a decision nobody but Williams seems to be on board with.
If Williams wants to talk about focus and getting better, having the team focus on a completely unnecessary distraction in spring training is not giving every opportunity for your team to get better. This is not a typical employer-employee relationship. Apparently Kenny Williams doesn’t understand that.
Update: This is an update on March 20, 2016. There are now reports that a number of teammates and staff members complained to Williams about Drake. Also, it was reported that Drake was around for about 120 games during the 2015 season. I wanted to update this because it totally changes my opinion and makes my whole article a waste of writing space.
If there are people who have an issue with it, then that’s a problem. Also, my lack of research and half-assedness in writing this post led me to believe this was more of a spring training thing and then he would go back to school and do regular kid stuff. 120 games during the season. Come on, man. That’s utterly insane. If I were a player on the team, I’d sure have a problem with some kid spending all his time in the clubhouse with the guys.