MESA, Ariz. — The Adam LaRoche retirement drama will either bring the White Sox clubhouse together or tear that franchise apart.
Trying to end a bizarre story that’s drawn worldwide attention, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf gave a vote of confidence to his baseball leadership team on Sunday, releasing a statement that wrote off the LaRoche situation as a misunderstanding.
Reinsdorf also issued a gag order to all White Sox employees, telling them to stop commenting on the LaRoche decision and extending a news cycle that has the rest of the industry talking.
Right around the same time, Cubs manager Joe Maddon met with his “Lead Bulls,” a group of about 12 established players, to reinforce everything from the dress code (“if you think you look hot, you wear it”) to rules for kids in the clubhouse (out of the room three hours before game time).
Maddon believes White Sox manager Robin Ventura – a calm presence and a universally respected player who’s now in the final year of his contract – will guide his team through this media storm.
“Your focus wants to be on getting your team ready to play the season,” Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. “And then you get the noise coming from different directions, it can be distracting, there’s no question about it.
“We’re not focused on them. We have our own way of doing things here. I would never want to interfere with anybody else’s clubhouse or their organization. That’s up to them.
“But I just know from (Robin’s) perspective, it’s got to be distracting. But I also believe he’ll do a great job with it, because that’s who he is.”
The 15 minutes of fame is just about up for Drake, LaRoche’s 14-year-old son who constantly hung around the team and had his own locker before White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams intervened (either unilaterally or on behalf of others inside the organization bothered by the workplace arrangement).
At the age of 62, Maddon knows who he is and understands what is important to him. Modern players will begin to tune out a lot of that stuff, anyway, if you try to lay down the law.
“Back in the day, when you’re a minor-league manager, you put all these rules up on the wall,” Maddon said. “And then you have the organization stuff (where the) hair is at a certain length and no facial hair. And if you can’t have an earring, take it out and then put it back in after the game.
“I’m here to manage the team, not make rules. So I learned my lesson with that – to not get nuts about it. Furthermore, it’s just counter to what I am inherently as a person.”
Maddon expects his veteran players to police the clubhouse and believes he will get more accountability by including his players in the process. But even “Respect 90” – a fancy way to say run hard to first base – is an all-inclusive policy on some level.
“I often kid about how we don’t have any rules around here,” Maddon said. “But you do. You have almost like a force field that’s not actually a fence. Guys know if you go past a certain point, you might get stung a little bit. But you don’t have to actually see the fence there.
“Whether somebody from the outside looking in considers it lenient, wise, revolutionary, whatever, I just think it’s the right way to do things.”