Well, I don’t recall anyone leaving baseball like this before.
When last we visited Adam LaRoche a couple of days ago, he was retiring from baseball (and abandoning his 13 million dollar 2016 contract to play for the Chicago White Sox) because team executive Kenny Williams asked that he not have his 14-year-old son Drake living and traveling with the team, as well as being being perpetually in the clubhouse, as he was all last year. Today LaRoche released a remarkable statement explaining his decision.
It is well worth reading. I’ll have some comments at the end about the bolded sections, marked by me with letters. Now, here’s Adam:
Given the suddenness of my departure and the stir it has caused in both the media and the clubhouse, I feel it’s necessary to provide my perspective. Over the last five years, with both the Nationals and the White Sox, I have been given the opportunity to have my son with me in the clubhouse. It is a privilege I have greatly valued. I have never taken it for granted, and I feel an enormous amount of gratitude toward both of those organizations. (A)
Though I clearly indicated to both teams the importance of having my son with me, I also made clear that if there was ever a moment when a teammate, coach or manager was made to feel uncomfortable, then I would immediately address it. I realize that this is their office and their career, and it would not be fair to the team if anybody in the clubhouse was unhappy with the situation. Fortunately, that problem never developed. (B) I’m not going to speak about my son Drake’s behavior, his manners, and the quality of person that he is, because everyone knows that I am biased. All of the statements from my teammates, past and present, should say enough. Those comments from all of the people who have interacted with Drake are a testimony to how he carries himself.
Prior to signing with the White Sox, my first question to the club concerned my son’s ability to be a part of the team. After some due diligence on the club’s part, we reached an agreement. The 2015 season presented no problems as far as Drake was concerned. (My bat and our record are another story!) (C)
With all of this in mind, we move toward the current situation which arose after White Sox VP Ken Williams recently advised me to significantly scale back the time that my son spent in the clubhouse. Later, I was told not to bring him to the ballpark at all. Obviously, I expressed my displeasure toward this decision to alter the agreement we had reached before I signed with the White Sox. (D) Upon doing so, I had to make a decision. Do I choose my teammates and my career? Or do I choose my family? The decision was easy, but in no way was it a reflection of how I feel about my teammates, manager, general manager or the club’s owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
The White Sox organization is full of people with strong values and solid character. My decision to walk away was simply the result of a fundamental disagreement between myself and Ken Williams.
I understand that many people will not understand my decision. I respect that, and all I ask is for that same level of respect in return. I live by certain values that are rooted in my faith, and I am grateful to my parents for that. I have tried to set a good example on and off the field and live a life that represents these values. As fathers, we have an opportunity to help mold our kids into men and women of character, with morals and values that can’t be shaken by the world around them. Of one thing I am certain: we will regret NOT spending enough time with our kids, not the other way around. (E.)
At every level of my career, the game of baseball has reinforced the importance of family to me. Being at my father’s side when he coached. Playing alongside my brothers as a kid and as an adult in the big leagues.
Likewise, it has been great to have my son by my side to share in this experience as I played.
In each and every instance, baseball has given me some of my life’s greatest memories. This was likely to be the last year of my career, and there’s no way I was going to spend it without my son.
Baseball has taught me countless life lessons. I’ve learned how to face challenges, how to overcome failure, how to maintain humility, and most importantly, to trust that the Lord is in control and that I was put here to do more than play the game of baseball. We are called to live life with an unwavering love for God and love for each other. These are lessons I try to teach my kids every day. I truly am blessed to have been granted each of those experiences. (F)
Thank you to all of my previous managers, past teammates and friends across the league for making these past 12 years such a wonderful journey, and for providing me with memories that I will never forget–especially the ones with my son by my side.
I will leave you with the same advice that I left my teammates. In life, we’re all faced with difficult decisions and will have a choice to make. Do we act based on the consequences, or do we act on what we know and believe in our hearts to be right? (G)I choose the latter.
On the whole, it is hard to find fault with LaRoche’s message. He does not blame the team, and the statement is reasonable and gracious in tone and content. His beliefs about parenting are eccentric: he has said that he isn’t a great advocate of school and believes that his son is better served hanging out with his father and his baseball teams. Well, who knows? He may be right. His is a difficult decision for parents to identify with, since most of us would feel obliged to work for the 13 million dollars and sacrifice time with their children for the child’s sake. It must be nice not to have to worry about money.
As for the bolded passages:
A. LaRoche’s introduction is as fair and reasonable as it could possibly be.
B. I would bet my head that LaRoche is very wrong. Someone, perhaps many, in the clubhouse or on the team, complained, probably last year as well, and that this is what triggered Williams’ action. The kid was popular, and nobody wanted to be the public villain, so they asked for anonymity, and Williams took the fall. In some of his statements, Williams said that he played bad cop because he was in a position to take the heat.
C. As for the so-called agreement, it was oral only, and oral agreements modifying written contracts are unenforceable, as LaRoche’s agent undoubtedly explained to him. It was a foolish promise for the team to make—what if all the 25 players wanted their kids underfoot?—even if, as I suspect, no one dreamed that LaRoche would carry it as far as he did.
“The 2015 season presented no problems as far as Drake was concerned” might not be everyone’s view: LaRoche himself had a terrible season. Was he thinking more about Drake than concentrating on playing ball? I would not be surprised if the team brass concluded that they wanted to see how well he hit this season, when he wasn’t trying to be a full-time father while he was being paid to play baseball.
D. LaRoche had no grounds for displeasure. Such an understanding by its nature was subject to being changed if it didn’t work out in any number of ways. My guess is that players complained and that LaRoche’s poor season made the arrangement seem like a bad one to the team. They could change it, and his remedy was to quit. I’m sure they didn’t think he would do it, but he did.
E. LaRoche’s priorities are beyond reproach, if a bit extreme.
F. Play Ball!
G. “Do we act based on the consequences, or do we act on what we know and believe in our hearts to be right?”
Both, I would hope.
4 thoughts on “Adam LaRoche Drama Epilogue: A Reflection On Life, Kids, Baseball And Ethics”
I think one significant statement there might be, “then I would immediately address it.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d just give up your practice. It might involve talking to people about what you’re trying to accomplish, taking steps to make the kid less obtrusive. I don’t know what happened, but if there was a flat “reduce time” instruction then that would kill off any opportunity to resolve differences. If complaints were bubbling up, one possible response from the VP could be, “We talked about this possibility last year, and Adam said he’d address any issues. Should we talk to him?”
Jack, your suspicions are very likely valid. Unless he’s looking for a tar and feather experience, a team vice president would not make such a request arbitrarily. I do think the last paragraph/comment (G) sets up a dangerously false dichotomy. The right choice, by definition, must have the best (total) consequences. Otherwise, it would not be the right choice.
Update: as I assumed…