They say any press is good press but the Chicago White Sox may be beginning to differ. The White Sox and Executive VP Kenny Williams are being labeled the Big Bad Bully by some media after a not so run-of-the-mill clubhouse scandal.
I ran an article Tuesday about the sudden retirement of Adam LaRoche and with the player citing “personal reasons” as the driving force behind the decision. I offered compassion at the end of the piece. While the reason is certainly personal, I was more picturing a family health issue, not a disagreement of where and how often the player’s child is allowed at the workplace. Clearly, LaRoche found this to be a personal issue, and I’m not retracting my compassion, but it’s certainly a lot less life-or-death than what most, including myself, imagined.
There have been several articles published all over the internet on this story already, and it has taken a life of its own. Some – with click-grabbing headlines – have taken the side that LaRoche was “forced” into retirement by the EVIL White Sox for banning his 14-year-old son in the clubhouse. Others have labeled LaRoche as selfish, unwilling to compromise to a reasonable request from his bosses. The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in the middle. But that doesn’t grab the headlines, nor does it get you “likes” on Twitter.
The social media effect has really blown this story up, and I’m not only referring to the several media members who have leaked, flip-flopped, hot-taked, and done everything else to try to impact their following. It’s the athletes, both past and present, baseball and other sport, that have made the most fascinating impact on this story.
Good for you Roche! Nothing like father and son in the clubhouse..It’s a FAMILY game #FamilyFirst
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) March 16, 2016
When the best player in baseball is speaking against your organization, it does not put your team in the brightest light.
I have never been in any professional sports team’s clubhouse, and any athlete’s opinion would certainly contain more merit than mine, but every situation is independent of any other. Bryce Harper is a former teammate of LaRoche, has certainly met his son, and has more than likely spent time with him in the clubhouse. But things change, and he is no longer his teammate. Taking a stand like he did in his tweet is his prerogative, but he shouldn’t be calling out another organization. The Chicago Bears Kyle Long made a similar tweet, which irked me more, as a fan of both teams.
If you and your boy ever want to come hang out with the @ChicagoBears let me know. I grew up in locker rooms.
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) March 16, 2016
Again, Kyle has every right to tweet whatever he wants, but this is adding fuel to a fire that possibly shouldn’t even exist. Couldn’t both parties be equally to “blame” in all this, and isn’t it possible that neither should be torched for it?
I’m not the person to answer those questions but I have two points to be questioned that possibly will never be cleared up. First off, the timing of all related events is curious, to say the least. From all I have read, LaRoche had his son around 100 percent of the time last season – his first with the White Sox. He received permission from manager Robin Ventura to do so. His son was covered in various media pieces, and seemingly was loved by anyone that was a part of the clubhouse. The White Sox reported to spring training this season on February 19. It’s unclear when LaRoche’s son showed up for the first time, but why was the request of having his son around less often asked nearly a month after camp started? If this was a decision made because of the poor season – both the team’s and the player’s – couldn’t the request have been made in the offseason?
There are accusations that Kenny Williams “forced” LaRoche into retirement for the betterment of the team. After all, LaRoche was a well-below-average player last season and the White Sox were rumored to have been shopping him around during the offseason. There were several reports that the team would have taken on a large amount of his salary just to remove him from the team. If there is any truth to the vile rumor that Williams gave this ultimatum just to get rid of LaRoche, the timing would again have to be questioned. If the team really thought a ban of his child would have actually forced him into retirement, wouldn’t they have done that early in the offseason? The free agent market is now barren and the White Sox do not have an obvious replacement for LaRoche, so if Williams were to have actually been cunning enough to pull off such a scheme, there would be even more doubt in his logistics behind the whole move.
If Williams didn’t do it to “help” the team, what other reason was the move made at this time? There are plenty of reports stating that several team members approached Williams to complain about the son constantly being in the clubhouse and they forced Williams’s hand. Williams has a history of being hard-headed – this is a man who called franchise-icon Frank Thomas an idiot and told him to “stay out of White Sox business.” It would be ridiculous to believe that he would make this move, however, without backing from at least a portion of the clubhouse. The second question I have is who, and what lasting effect does this have on the team?
Logical deduction would suggest that any complaint was given from one of the new acquisitions to the team. If there was an issue last season, it may have come out during a disappointing season. There are plenty of new faces and personalities on the White Sox this season and they were possibly thrown for a loop when they were notified a young man would be in the clubhouse each day. The timing of the decision backs that, and would even back up that maybe one of the newest players was the one who took issue. Austin Jackson and Mat Latos both have very recently arrived at camp, and not to point the finger at them, but it raises an eyebrow.
Tension in a clubhouse is worse than a teenager in there and if this situation has caused that, then Ventura has another challenge on his plate this season. Williams, Ventura, and LaRoche are the only ones who know who is to blame for this mess, if anyone. The rest of us can speculate about what actually happened, but in 2016, it’s social media that will direct that speculation. Although impossible, it would be great if it were only the people with facts spouting their opinions as such.