Opinion: The White Sox are right

Ritchie Mulhall

Richard Mulhall

Not to steal sportscaster Scott Van Pelt’s thunder or outshine his headline on ESPN the other day, but I agree with him and echo his sentiments: The White Sox are right.

On March 15, Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche said he intended to “step away from baseball” to retire, leaving many wondering why the 36-year-old slugger would abruptly walk away from a $13 million-contract. LaRoche said he would wait and honor a request from teammates to reconsider his retirement before making his final decision in an official announcement.

The following day, LaRoche’s rationale behind abandoning his post was revealed. The White Sox placed a restriction on his 14-year-old son Drake entering the team’s clubhouse on an everyday basis. The administration’s decision to set limits on the amount of time LaRoche’s son could spend in the clubhouse presented the 11-year veteran with an ultimatum:Continue playing the game he loves or spend time with his son?

Much to the team’s chagrin, LaRoche chose the latter. This situation was not a matter of money or honor. The decision came down to a family-first mentality in LaRoche’s eyes.

Father-son relations, especially in America’s great pastime, have been glorified since the 1989 film “Field of Dreams”, so naturally most people from the outside looking in were inclined to side with LaRoche. How can an organization be so cruel as to ban his son from the clubhouse? Who are the White Sox to take a man away from his son?

Well, taking a similar approach to Van Pelt, I’ll tell you who the White Sox are: they’re his boss, and that’s their clubhouse. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams defended his stance, “name one job in the country where you can bring your child to work every day.”

LaRoche exposed his son to baseball in a fashion I assume many other players wish they could. It’s a privilege to be able to do your job and spend quality time with your children simultaneously, but we need to remember that’s exactly what that capability is: a privilege.

Like Van Pelt said, “I admire the love and commitment LaRoche has for his son,” but not every day is take your kid to work day. There are lines that must not be crossed when you are a professional athlete, and LaRoche was toeing that line. Sure, Golden State Warriors’ point guard Steph Curry’s daughter Riley looks adorable when she sometimes joins her dad during post-game press conferences, but that’s the key word: sometimes. Curry knows what he is permitted and not permitted to do and ensures his daughter’s sporadic appearances don’t overstep the boundaries set by the Golden State Warriors.

Riley is an infrequent presence in the locker room, not a constant distraction.

Now that’s not to state Drake became a major distraction. LaRoche’s teammates even took a liking to him last season, as evidenced by the team’s actions a couple weeks ago. The players united and threatened to boycott the spring training game to support LaRoche. White Sox manager Robin Ventura was forced to intervene and convince the team to play.

The White Sox even gave Drake his own locker last year, “where he was a constant presence,” Van Pelt said.

Last year, LaRoche signed a contract with the White Sox under the condition his son could be present with the team. LaRoche apparently would not have agreed to the terms of the deal had that condition not existed. 

The issue of kids in clubhouses is worth discussing because if every player wants to bring their children to work with them, the locker rooms would become zoos. It would be an absolute fiasco.

The White Sox didn’t say LaRoche’s son still couldn’t frequent the clubhouse. They didn’t even bar Drake from ever hanging out in the clubhouse again. They simply requested he dial down his visits, and LaRoche refused to comply with his employers.

As ESPN’s Buster Olney writes, “The White Sox don’t have a problem if you bring your kid to work. Just not all the time.”

At the end of the day, Chicago has a right to limit LaRoche’s son’s visits and LaRoche has the responsibility to be professional. And if that means leaving his kid at home while daddy goes to work like every other parent, then so be it.

Richard Mulhall is a sports columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].