Drake LaRoche should be with kids his own age.
His love for baseball should be channeled into playing the game with other 14 year-olds.
He should be commiserating with other young teens. He should be forging bonds with his fellow youth, which could prove invaluable for the rest of his life.
He doesn’t need to be with grown men—25 millionaires—on a daily basis. And he certainly shouldn’t be hanging around their inner sanctum ad nauseam.
Drake LaRoche’s dad has—actually, had—a really cool job: he was a big league baseball player.
Adam LaRoche retired last week from the Chicago White Sox, walking away from $13 million in the process and leaving his teammates in the lurch, because the team frowned on his son, Drake, spending as much time around the team as the youngster had been doing, which was basically everyday.
I’m not anti-kid. Let’s get that straight. And I’m certainly not anti-dad.
My folks divorced when I was, oddly enough, 14, so I know how much a boy needs a dad at that tender age.
But as much as I loved my dad, I didn’t want to go to work with him and I didn’t want to spend every waking hour with him.
Of course, my dad was a computer programmer, not a big league baseball player. He didn’t play for the Tigers and he didn’t go to work with Norm Cash, Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan.
Would that have been cool, if he did? Absolutely!
And I would have been thrilled to occasionally step foot in the clubhouse, and to put on a Tigers uniform and shag flies and maybe even take some batting practice.
But it would have gotten old if I could do that everyday.
Plus, my dad would never have entertained the idea of me hanging around with grown men twice my age whose colorful language and habits could very well be off-putting for an adolescent boy.
I spent my time with the kids in the neighborhood. Some of those kids are still friends of mine, and I’m now 52 years old.
Adam LaRoche isn’t being a good dad. He shouldn’t be aggrandized for standing on principle and walking away from $13 million.
He’s showing Drake that if you don’t like the rules, or if they change, then all you need to do is take your bat and ball and go home.
LaRoche is a multi-millionaire, I’m guessing, so maybe he feels he can afford, financially, to not earn his $13 million salary this year.
But what if he was one of the blue collar stiffs earning $15 an hour who fill the ballpark to watch him play? I doubt any of those dads could walk away from their job because their employer changed a rule in the workplace.
And what about young Drake? Now he has the burden of knowing that, indirectly and through no fault of his own, he cost his family $13 million.
What kind of a thing is that to place on a 14 year-old boy?
Adam LaRoche is being selfish. He left his team in the middle of spring training, when it’s very difficult to find a suitable replacement.
Of course, the way LaRoche hit last year (.207 BA with 133 strikeouts in 429 at-bats), you don’t need to be a cynic to theorize that his bat won’t be missed all that much.
But the fact is that the White Sox were counting on LaRoche to bounce back and he was certainly big in their plans for 2016. He wasn’t slotted in as a bench guy.
Now he’s gone—walking away under the guise of standing on principle.
The White Sox share some blame, too.
Apparently LaRoche had Drake tugging at his pant leg in Washington as well, so when the White Sox signed Adam LaRoche away from the Nationals a year ago November, it wasn’t like they didn’t know of the “thick as thieves” relationship between father and son. In fact, LaRoche had a clause written into his White Sox contract that addressed the presence of his son around the team and its facilities.
I don’t know what the clause specified—there seems to be some dispute over that—but somehow I doubt White Sox management thought it would be a 24/7 thing with Drake LaRoche.
So White Sox GM Ken Williams, undoubtedly acting on the behest of owner Jerry Reinsdorf, asked Adam LaRoche to “dial it back” with the presence of Drake around team facilities.
There was seemingly no give and take and apparently no attempt to find a happy median, because LaRoche retired, at age 36. It’s odd that it would come to that, when this seems like a situation that screams for compromise.
Some of LaRoche’s teammates, notably lefty ace Chris Sale, came to the defense of their now-retired first baseman. Fine. That’s expected, but do you really think that every White Sox player was on board with Drake LaRoche hanging around everyday?
And do you think that Williams asked Adam LaRoche to re-think the omnipresence of his son, without players confiding in the GM privately that the arrangement made them feel uncomfortable?
What teammate is going to publicly complain? They’d be vilified, which is ironic, because they’d also be right to voice concern. But the being right part would be initially drowned out by the knee jerk reaction and portrayal of the complainer as anti-family. That’s guaranteed.
It should be noted that Adam LaRoche himself is the son of a big league player—pitcher Dave LaRoche, who played 14 years in the majors.
But Adam LaRoche was born in November 1979, and Dave LaRoche’s big league career ended in 1983, when Adam was just three years old—not enough time for Adam to be old enough to even appreciate what his dad did for a living, let alone be exposed to it everyday of his life.
Maybe it’s Adam LaRoche’s feeling of “missing out” on the coolness of his dad being a big leaguer that drove him to involve Drake so heavily with first the Nationals, and then the White Sox.
Regardless, Williams and the White Sox certainly have the prerogative to establish guidelines for the presence of sons (and daughters) of their players around team facilities.
I don’t want to hear sad stories about how professional athletes don’t ever get to see their kids.
Yes, there’s a lot of travel involved, and a baseball season essentially starts in February and could last into early-November. I get it.
But what about home stands? And a bulk of the season takes place in the summer, when the kids aren’t even in school. And you still get almost all of November, all of December and all of January to spend time with the offspring.
Oh, and Drake LaRoche is home-schooled, which is another column altogether.
It’s not standing on principle if you don’t engage in dialogue to find common ground and a compromise.
It’s selfishness and entitlement, plain and simple.
And those are two terrible things to teach a child.