Adam LaRoche is by no means still a star—last season for the White Sox, LaRoche hit only a meager .207 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI’s in 127 games. If anything, LaRoche figured to be a guy who would only start against right-handed pitching, and who would play more for his defense than offense. Unfortunately for the White Sox, however, his departure affects far more than just the stat sheet.
When the initial story broke last week, here were the “facts”: after spending the majority of the last season in the team’s clubhouse, Drake LaRoche, Adam’s 14 year-old son, was to now be limited in how often he could be in the clubhouse, as ruled by team president Ken Williams. After the decision was made, Adam LaRoche retired from Major League Baseball, walking away from 13 million dollars. Almost immediately, other White Sox players, including ace pitcher Chris Sale, publicly bashed team officials for their decision:
“We’ve been told three different stories, so we don’t know who to believe, or even who to believe it originated from. First, he said it was the players (who complained about LaRoche’s son). Then went to the coaches. Then came in here and told us it was the owner. I think if the right person had handled it, it would have been completely different.” (Chris Sale, per USA Today)
Center-fielder Adam Eaton even went as far as to say that Drake was “a leader” within the clubhouse. It’s a little far-fetched for a major league baseball player to call a 14 year-old a leader, but Eaton was upset, seemingly rightfully so. Both players insisted that the whole team loved Drake, and that this had to have been a decision entirely made by team officials outside of the clubhouse.
But it wasn’t. And herein lies the problem.
According to USA Today, several players complained to team management about LaRoche’s son. The Unified Front of players for Drake LaRoche, Sale and Eaton, seemed to both believe it was false. This kind of rift will tear a team apart, forcing the question of who can be trusted on a team with playoff-hopes. To sustain winning ways, a team must feel entirely comfortable with each other, meshing on every level, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Look at the monumental collapse of the 2011 Boston Red Sox. Once manager Terry Francona lost control of the clubhouse, the team lost 18 of their final 24 games to be eliminated from the playoffs after holding a 9 game lead going into September.
LaRoche may be overreacting to a seemingly reasonable measure. No 14 year-old should be in a major league clubhouse every day, and Williams was only reportedly asking that there be a small drop-off in how much time Drake would spend with the team. However, the team’s reaction to the ordeal spiraled out of control, far too quickly to sweep this matter under the rug, leading to what will most likely be a clunky start to the season that will derail the White Sox’s 2016 playoff hopes.