Over the past three years, I grew slightly jealous of the bloggers of other sad teams who were given a little disarray to write about. Chicken and beer with the Red Sox. The Jesus Montero ice cream sandwich story with the Mariners. The Jonathan Papelbon/Bryce Harper fight with the Nationals. An event that reflects the team's penchant for severe disappointment, but in a fun-house-mirror kind of way.
The White Sox couldn't deliver it during the last three years, but they did somehow end up in a similarly absurd bucket of syrup just as they're launching another campaign to legitimize themselves. Worse yet, we can't even go whole-hog with cutting comments and hilarious jokes because a 14-year-old kid is at the center of it.
A summary, in case you missed it -- or blacked out from trying to wrap your mind around it:
- Adam LaRoche announced he was retiring on Tuesday.
- White Sox teammates and management urged him to take time to reconsider.
- Wednesday afternoon, a reporter leaks that LaRoche is retiring because the Sox mistreated him -- eventually revealing after playing hard-to-get that the Sox are banning LaRoche's son, Drake, from the clubhouse.
- Ken Rosenthal confirms and fleshes out the story, including a response from Kenny Williams explaining that it's not a ban, just a reduction of access.
- Reports say the players rallied around LaRoche and had a testy back-and-forth with Williams over a two-hour meeting.
- Other reports say that "several players" didn't like the arrangement.
- David Kaplan says the Sox promised that Drake could be around 100 percent of the time, although it wasn't in writing. His scoop conflicted with his earlier reporting, resulting in this classic bit of self-parody:
@BrianBilek_ I hadn't spoken to a phenomenal source yet. Now I have.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) March 17, 2016
- And Jim Bowden comes out in support of the White Sox with an off-the-rails tangent involving LaRoche's wife.
There may be problems on the White Sox' end of this. They may have overpromised access for the LaRoches (and they certainly touted the hell out of it last year). Kenny Williams may have delivered the news to the clubhouse in a way that isn't nearly as sensible as his public comments to Rosenthal and others. There may be yet another classic White Sox chain-of-command problem if Robin Ventura isn't the one responsible for setting these rules and sending the message. Williams' stance makes sense to me, and yet it's not at all a confidence-booster.
But there is no way to for the overwhelming majority of baseball fans -- and especially White Sox fans -- to relate to this.
From the discussions I've seen here and elsewhere, a majority of adults wouldn't think it'd ever be healthy or desirable to have their kid around them at their job every day (or in this case, having their own adjacent cubicle). And even if the parents did wish it were possible, they wouldn't think it'd be appropriate to ask of an employer or coworkers. I asked my dad whether it would've been OK to have me around his office every day. He just laughed, because of course it wouldn't be OK.
And of course there isn't a way for most of the labor force to compare their workplaces to a baseball clubhouse. It's not just the money and the travel and the demands and the celebrity and the rampant immaturity -- as the Papelbon incident last year showed, this is an environment in which assault of a coworker falls into a gray area somehow. Clubhouses are kept alien on purpose, and ballplayers reject outside attempts at normalization.
Which is their right. But that means it's not the public's responsibility to understand an environment to which they have no access, especially when it comes to a player with whom they have little connection. In this case, LaRoche introduced himself to Chicago with an awful season, which prevented a bond from forming with fans (aside from a Faith Day in August, maybe).
If LaRoche had Jose Abreu's numbers and were the toast of the town, 1) Williams probably wouldn't have made this request, and 2) if he did, the public would likely back LaRoche. Employees who perform get bonuses and/or preferential treatment -- that's one ballplayer thing that the rest of the world can understand, and that's not in LaRoche's favor here, either.
The decision is innately unusual, but it'd be wholly admirable if he simply drew a line with his priorities and called it a career. Even if he has the financial leverage to forgo $13 million and still live comfortably, it's still not a choice many people in his position make. Both sides would have their reasons for their stances, and perhaps LaRoche would emerge the more righteous party if the Sox were determined to have pulled off some degree of bait-and-switch.
But the passive-aggressive public-facing part of it -- taking the form of hashtag activism and his meat company's retweets -- comes off far more selfish than sympathetic. Considering he's made a national story of his son, he's inadvertently putting #FamilyFirst like one would a human shield. Endorsements from somebody like Chipper Jones don't help, either.
No rights are being trampled here. Striking a balance between professional obligations and family ones is a requirement for just about every adult. So is being able to cope with a change in workplace policies. The best mothers and fathers do it every day and still leave no question about their priorities. The ones who don't have to do it should probably be more cognizant of their fortune.