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.
“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.”
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.”