Loyalty Drama: The Strange, Sudden, Ethical, Unethical Retirement Of White Sox First Baseman Adam LaRoche


Yesterday,  baseball’s Spring Training was shaken when Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche unexpectedly announced that he was retiring, effectively giving up his guaranteed 13 million dollar salary. LaRoche had suffered a down year in 2015, but he was healthy, and assured of a place in the ChiSox line-up. The reason for the precipitous decision was mysteriously and ominously reported as caused by a “personal matter.”  Was there dire illness in the family? What would make a healthy athlete walk away from his team mates and so much money?

Today, the club revealed the surprisng answer. Last year, LaRoche’s son, Drake, 14, spent most of the season with his father and the team and even had his own locker in the home clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field. Drake was with also with the team in this year’s spring training. White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told LaRoche that he would have to limit the amount of time his son spent in the clubhouse this season, and in response, LaRoche announced he was quitting.

Again, the threshold question to so much ethical analysis is crucial: What’s going on here?

1. Williams’ request was reasonable, and even late. It’s not appropriate for a player to have a child regularly present in a major league team’s workplace environment. It isn’t professional, and it isn’t fair to the other players. There may be special circumstances involved that led the team to be lenient last season, but obviously, this arrangement creates an unworkable precedent, raises issues of liability, and is at very least a distraction.

2. If LaRoche said, “Either my kid stays, or I go,” he was wrong, and left Williams no choice but to say, “Go.” Would Williams have chosen differently if LaRoche were not a fading, older player coming off a bad season? I hope not, but in such scenarios “The King’s Pass” a.k.a. “The Star Syndrome,” often sets in, with a double standard being established to accommodate an outstanding performer.

3. For a ballplayer to quit on his team this late, after the roster is set and his abilities have been assumed in constructing the team, is a disloyal and destructive act unless there was a a very good and ethical reason motivating it. The son is 14, and that’s a crucial time for a boy. If LaRoche feels that he needs to be a full-time dad more than he needs 13 million dollars, and that helping his team score runs this season is not as important as his being a father, good for him. He has an ethical alignment of priorities.

4. Even then, however, something was mishandled. This issue should have been addressed after last season, and if Williams didn’t raise it earlier, LaRoche should have.

5. If, however, LaRoche was thinking about retiring anyway and used his son and Williams as an excuse, that would be contemptible. This seems unlikely, but since the entire incident is strange, not much more unlikely than any other explanation.

I prefer to believe, however, that Adam LaRoche chose his duties as a father over 13 million dollars.

That would be nice.


6 thoughts on “Loyalty Drama: The Strange, Sudden, Ethical, Unethical Retirement Of White Sox First Baseman Adam LaRoche

  1. Kids do present a problem as noted by Dustin Baker’s young son almost getting run over in a game.

    Father’s taking their son’s on a road trip or extensive time at home games is not an exception. Terry Francona grew up at the ballpark. Other players have done it. LaRoche’s father, Dave, also was an MLB pitcher for several years and LaRoche grew up in that environment.

    My opinion is that just possibly he has had it with the grind. Sometimes the incredible money just isn’t worth it. But his logic or reasoning is rather convoluted. You like to think the best, but this may not be the case. La Roche used to be the Christian leader when he was with the Red Sox leading prayer services. Does faith play any part? Reality is his skills are eroding rapidly and must to move on to the next stage of his life.

    Ryan Dempster walked away from the Red Sox a few years back and left 13M on the table. Gil Meche was due 12M by KC and could not play. The money was guaranteed so the Royals had to pay. Meche retired and that meant no money. Incredible.

    • I wrote abut Meche as an ethics hero. Dempster was classy as well. What bothers me about LaRoche, if it was like either of them, is that he wouldn’t just say it was the grind and he wanted to spend time with his family, not make it a confrontation with the team.

      And I suspect that last season, when the Sox saw tehmselves as contenders with new signee LaRoche as a lynchpin, the Sox made a special exception for him that they weren’t willing to make for a 36 year old on the shady slope, and maybe even wanted to get him to quit.

  2. Also concerned about the kid. He’s now way too much in the spotlight. Wait until his siblings are old enough to hear about the four or five million after taxes Dad didn’t earn when they will be haggling over their inheritance.

    And what happened to the reports that LaRoche’s back locked up? The article I first read reporting his retirement mentioned nothing whatsoever about the kid (other than his being with his father a lot) and spoke only of his terrible production last year (.207), his being injured a lot last year, the pressure he felt for not living up to his massive contract, and the recurrence of his back spasms the day before.

  3. This is all on Williams. If he had a problem with it he should have brought it up at the end of last season to wait until after spring training started to bring it up tells me that he thought that he could put LaRoche in such a position that LaRouche had to do it, or it as you said he was trying to force him to retire.

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