Child care becomes a $13-million issue for Adam LaRoche and the White Sox
Tony Clark left a message for Adam LaRoche on Wednesday. A day later, when Clark visited the Dodgers while making his rounds as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Assn., he said he still had not heard back.
“As you might expect, Adam’s taking a deep breath amid everything that’s gone on,” Clark said at Camelback Ranch, where the Chicago White Sox are training adjacent to the Dodgers. “Adam’s got his space to do what he needs to do with his family for the time being.”
LaRoche, a power-hitting first baseman, informed the White Sox this week that he intended to retire with a year and $13 million left on his contract. It was a decision he made after being told by club President Kenny Williams that his 14-year-old son should appear less frequently in the clubhouse.
The fallout has resulted in fury among White Sox players and head-scratching outside the industry. Clark indicated the union may file a grievance on LaRoche’s behalf.
The White Sox welcomed Drake LaRoche when the team signed his father to a two-year, $26-million contract last winter. The team outfitted him with a uniform and gave him a locker inside the clubhouse. The teenager travels with his father during the season, receiving home-schooled lessons.
During meetings earlier this month, Williams informed LaRoche that Drake was still welcome in the room, but he could not attend camp on a daily basis.
“I just felt that it should not be every day, that’s all,” Williams told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. “You tell me, where in this country can you bring your child to work every day?”
The situation incensed LaRoche’s teammates, according to reports. White Sox ace Chris Sale rebuked Williams in front of the team and told him not to appear in the clubhouse again, Yahoo Sports reported. The players also contemplated a boycott of a Cactus League game, ESPN’s Karl Ravech reported.
All clubs deal with this issue during the course of the season, as players bring their children into the clubhouse at times. But LaRoche presents a special case. He and his brother Andy, who spent parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, grew up around the game through their father, Dave, a veteran of 14 big league seasons.
Adam chose a similar path for his son, who operated as something a sidekick starting a few years ago while his father played for the Washington Nationals. He aided both the Nationals and then the White Sox as something of a clubhouse attendant apprentice.
Out of respect to LaRoche, a well-liked veteran of 12 big league seasons, several Dodgers declined to discuss the situation on the record. The players understood Williams’ point — that the White Sox would be setting a precedent that would be difficult to match if others asked for similar accommodations for their children. But the players also expressed admiration for LaRoche’s decision.
Clark suggested the coming days would shed more light.
“The question becomes when a player makes a decision to retire, that means one thing,” Clark said. “If there is a discipline involved, that means something different. We are 24 hours removed from everything that you are aware of. And I can suggest to you that we are likely aware of a little bit more, but aren’t in a position to suggest what tomorrow is going to look like, as a result of what happened yesterday.”
One avenue for a grievance would be the language of LaRoche’s contract. Williams has said the deal did not guarantee Drake’s constant presence with the team. But on Wednesday night, Chicago radio host David Kaplan reported that allowing Drake in the clubhouse was “a condition of LaRoche signing there.” The Twitter account for E3 Meat, a company owned by LaRoche, replied with a thumbs-up emoji and the message, “you are on to something.”
At the very least, the timing of the squabble invites questions. LaRoche disappointed in his first season for the White Sox, hitting .207 with 12 home runs. Williams chose to raise the issue of his son in March, rather than during the winter.
Another question is who determines the composition of a clubhouse: Should it be the responsibility of the employers or the players who inhabit the room? Clark suggested communication is critical in this area, with the implicit criticism of the White Sox’s handling of the matter obvious.
“I have found in all the years that I’ve played, that a level of respect and professionalism between the players and management often serves everyone best,” Clark said. “When that comes into question, it raises issues during the course of the season.”
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