After three years of misfortune and misery, everything's coming up White Sox over the first 10 days of the season. They're tied for first place, they've locked up a series victory against a divisional opponent with a chance to go for the kill today, and while they have weaknesses to address or compensate for, they've yet to show a fatal flaw.
Here's another sign: Even when L'Affaire LaRoche resurfaces, it doesn't do any harm.
The LaRoche thing was going to come back into our lives. It was too odd of a story, and it cut too deep among certain demographic lines to end so quietly. It just happened to take the form of an exclusive ESPN the Magazine article by Tim Keown that doesn't really make it any less ridiculous.
It's not all a laughing matter, though. Let's sort out that part first:
Then there's this: LaRoche, along with Brewers pitcher Blaine Boyer, spent 10 days in November in Southeast Asian brothels, wearing a hidden camera and doing undercover work to help rescue underage sex slaves.
OK, I laughed, but only because I was not expecting that twist.
Working through a nonprofit called the Exodus Road, LaRoche and Boyer conducted surveillance in brothels and tried to determine the age of the girls -- known only by numbers pinned to bikinis -- and identify their bosses.
"Something huge happened there for us," Boyer says. "You can't explain it. Can't put your finger on it. If you make a wrong move, you're getting tossed off a building. We were in deep, man, but that's the way it needed to be done. Adam and I truly believe God brought us there and said, 'This is what I have for you boys.'"
This generates a question: "Why LaRoche?" Or, more specifically, "Why is LaRoche qualified to do this?" Keown doesn't answer this. Instead, he leaves it to the take-downers, and it's the most valuable part of the dissection at Deadspin, as Drew Magary raises the unintended consequences sex-trafficking victims face after the liberators leave.
(It's also hard to grasp the legitimacy of all the details because Boyer is the story's only source without the last name "LaRoche." He's the guy who called Kenny Williams "evil" -- in the biblical sense -- in the wake of LaRoche's first announcement. I don't trust his track record in keeping proper perspective.)
No matter how true it is, the fact that LaRoche even presents this gives Keown an incredible angle. It's just an angle that's diminished by Keown's other in-your-face attempts to paint LaRoche as unconventional.
So here's the deal: You need to forget everything you think you know about professional athletes. Adam LaRoche is different. He walked into the clubhouse for the first time every spring and greeted new teammates by saying, "Oh, hey, I didn't know we signed you." During spring training in 2010, with the Diamondbacks, he and his family pulled a trailer to Tucson, and he rode a bicycle from the campground to the ballpark every day. He's one of the stars of the reality TV show Buck Commander, in which he bow-hunts with a couple of ex-ballplayers, two country music singers and one member of the unapologetically redneck Robertson family, they of the Duck Dynasty dynasty. He also owns E3 Meat Co., which is run out of the Kansas ranch that's been in his wife's family for six generations.
It turns out I don't need to forget what I know, because those examples overlap with the reasons the Washington Post's Tom Boswell gave explaining why LaRoche was not a mold-breaker, but rather an archetype
Laroche is a folk hero among many ballplayers because 1) his father and brother also played, 2) he's a very good player, 3) he's a world-class big-game bow-and-arrow hunter (very cool to them), 4) he's got a buck-antler tattoo, 5) he has an outdoors TV show "Buck Commander" (also cool to them), 6) he's buddies with some country music stars, 7) he's an active evangelical (which puts him in tight with that slice of every clubhouse) and 8) he's a fabulous unselfish supportive teammate who goes out of his way to help teammates, understand their problems and help them. He lives his religion.
From there, my reaction to the ESPN article overlaps with the well-worn territory we've discussed since the first half of spring training. Give it the most charitable reading, and LaRoche has honorable intentions that are out-of-step and/or out-of-reach for the vast majority of modern America, and he never exhibits a complete grasp of his privilege, no matter how many times he says "I get it."
For instance, if the undercover brothel operation is true, and it made such a profound impression on his future ... well, that conflicts with the passive-aggressive sanctimony he and Boyer displayed after the word of his retirement broke. They painted -- or readily endorsed others painting -- the White Sox as the devil, and now the club hardly rates a mention. In fact, Keown doesn't give the impression he tried to pin down LaRoche's feelings about Williams, or who might've wanted to see less of his son around the clubhouse.
Maybe time and distance give LaRoche the ability to apply new weights to the driving forces beyond his retirement, and he's choosing to put the pettiness behind him. As strange as these forces are, that's his right. It just doesn't make everything as certain as Keown wants you to believe it is in LaRoche's world, and that makes him more like everybody else.
In the end, it works out well for the club. Keown was as generous as he could be in providing LaRoche's perspective, and yet the White Sox came out unscathed. That registers as a minor victory among six others this month, and counting.