Tuesday, Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche announced that he was retiring from baseball after team president Ken Williams asked him to bring his 14-year-old son Drake around the clubhouse a little bit less. Not never. Not a lot less. Just slightly less. Then Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal spoke to Williams, who explained his side this way:
“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.”
A few points about this. The first is that Adam LaRoche is free to do whatever the hell Adam LaRoche wants. If he opts to walk away because it’s not worth it to him to play baseball for $13 million if means being with Drake less than 100 percent of the time, that’s his right that brave men have fought and died for. More power to him.
Second, just because he has the freedom to quit baseball over this doesn’t make him right. Or Ken Williams wrong. For 13 million bucks, your boss ought to have the right to tell you to dial it back a bit on having your kid around. Especially when you’re a first baseman who hit .207 last year with 12 HR, 44 RBI and slugged .340. And yes, performance absolutely factor into this. If you want to have the juice to dictate who and who won’t be hanging out in the clubhouse 24/7, you’d better be someone management is afraid of alienating. And .207 hitters don’t intimidate anyone.
What I don’t understand is what Williams did wrong here. Apparently the White Sox players have all taken LaRoche’s side and to hear the reports, Drake is the kindest, nicest, most enjoyable 14-year-old to be around since Jesus what hitting his freshman year at Nazareth High. But can we put any stock in that? I mean, what are the Sox players going to say? “I find the kid really annoying and besides, I don’t want a co-worker’s teenager around when we’re sitting around swapping groupie stories”? Asking someone about another person’s kid is like asking if a dress makes you look fat. There’s only one answer to the question. And the White Sox players are giving it.
The fact is, nobody’s 14-year-old is someone adults want to be around all the time. By any clinical definition, every kid that age can objectively be considered insane. I mean that. They check every box on the mental health checklist. And I don’t care if we’re talking about Drake LaRoche, a young Tim Tebow or my own kid. (And he’s a Boy Scout.) They’re nuts. Moody, narcissistic, hormonal, inarticulate carbon blobs. More sofa than human, with Xbox controllers for hands. You love your own kid in spite of all that. But somebody else’s, you’ll say you do, but you don’t.
The bottom line is that the White Sox, based on LaRoche’s status with the team, appropriate rules of the workplace, nature and common sense, made a reasonable request. They asked one of their players to do the right thing and put the focus on trying to make the team better, which is what the job is supposed to be all about. And for that, he took his bat and ball and went home. Does that make him a great dad? Sure. Whatever. Good for him. But it makes him a lousy baseball player and he did the fans of Chicago a huge favor.