Cubs

Cubs don’t see any winners in White Sox vs. Adam LaRoche

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Cubs don’t see any winners in White Sox vs. Adam LaRoche

MESA, Ariz. — There are no winners in the showdown between the White Sox and Adam LaRoche.

After a very good offseason that might have turned them into playoff contenders, the White Sox are dealing with the kind of drama and distractions that led to the Ozzie Guillen-Kenny Williams breakup.   

And after a very good career representing a prominent baseball family, LaRoche will be most remembered for walking away from $13 million because the White Sox wouldn’t give his kid unrestricted access to the clubhouse.   

What if the White Sox won 97 games last year and LaRoche was coming off an All-Star season?

We’ll never know the answer to that question — or exactly what happened inside the clubhouse — but this strange spring-training story doesn’t really have any heroes or villains. Only shades of gray.

[RELATED: Report: Upset White Sox players considered boycotting game after Adam LaRoche retirement]

“I don’t think it would have been an issue if he drove in 100 and hit 25,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Thursday at Sloan Park. “Like (LaRoche) normally does. It’s a shame.”

“Success cures a lot of problems, right?” veteran catcher David Ross said. “When things aren’t going well, unfortunately, in just about every business, you start to look and you nitpick where you can maybe clean up areas.”

Rizzo doesn’t have any children, but he goes out of his way to hang out and joke around with the kids in the clubhouse, spending time with Ross’ son, Cole. Rizzo also helped first base coach Brandon Hyde’s son, Colton, become sort of a team mascot/lucky charm when the Cubs got hot last summer and surged into the playoffs.

“It’s a dream for me to be able to have my son here hanging out,” Rizzo said. “I don’t think you need to draw a line, to be honest. Obviously, if all 25 guys are bringing in their kids and it’s a zoo and it’s a circus, then you get together as a group and police it.

“If there’s someone in here causing a ruckus, I’m sure guys (would) police it on their own. But for him to be allowed to go in there – and then all of a sudden can’t – is just bizarre.”

By all accounts, Drake, LaRoche’s 14-year-old son, wasn’t the issue, acting respectful and knowing his place inside the clubhouse. It’s also easy to understand why the White Sox wouldn’t necessarily want every moment to be bring-your-kid-to-work day.

“I feel bad for both sides,” said Ross, who briefly played with LaRoche on the Atlanta Braves in 2009. “I’ve had my son here the last two days. I cherish that. I don’t take that for granted. It’s a special thing. It is a game, but it’s also a workplace.

“My family is way more important than my job (and) sometimes you got to make decisions about your core values. And I think Adam made his decisions on what his core values were, what’s important to him in life. More power to him.

“But the White Sox are running a business (and) they make the rules. We don’t make the rules. If I made the rules, this would be a crazy place.”

[MORE CUBS: Joe Maddon expects Cubs to police their own clubhouse]

Are the White Sox making up the rules as they go along? As executive vice president, did Williams also speak for others within the organization bothered by the LaRoche arrangement? Was there a handshake agreement? 

“If I had a year under my belt with an organization and my son was allowed in — and all of a sudden he wasn’t — I would have a problem with it,” Ross said. “For sure.”

“If there’s a policy in place, you understand and you respect it,” Rizzo said. “But just to come out of the blue – I can’t grasp that.”

Ross acknowledged the Boston Red Sox needed to set some ground rules at Fenway Park, but described it as a one-meeting deal. Adam Warren – who pitched in The Bronx the last three seasons – never noticed any issues with the New York Yankees.

“I love seeing the kids,” Warren said, “because I can see myself having a son one day in here, looking up to their dad. I just think that’s really neat. I know what kind of dad I want to be when I have kids. I want to be very involved with them. I look up to guys who have them in here and respect that.”  

LaRoche can afford to retire at the age of 36 after earning more than $70 million in The Show. Friday’s Cubs-Sox game at Camelback Ranch just got a lot more interesting. 

“At the end of the day, you give your heart and soul to this game,” Ross said. “You do sacrifice a lot when it comes to family for this game. There comes a point in time when you’re tired of sacrificing for your job.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”