Adam LaRoche is a left handed, power hitting, slick fielding first baseman for the Chicago White Sox...or at least he was until the other day when he suddenly announced his retirement from baseball at age 35. When the announcement came down I was shocked. He might not be in his prime, but he is still an outstanding player. Oh, and by retiring he will forfeit his $13,000,000.00 salary for 2016. The explanation he gave was "personal reasons."
I'm particularly interested in this story because LaRoche is a former Washington National, and I enjoyed watching him play there. By all accounts, he was not only a terrific player but a great clubhouse guy, popular not only with the fans but with his teammates as well. The little guy in the picture? That's Adam's son, Drake. They are practically inseparable. In his time in Washington, Drake was a constant clubhouse presence, sort of a team mascot.
It's not every day when a professional athlete voluntarily walks away from 13 million dollars. While it's true that during Mr. LaRoche's 12 year career he has banked nearly 70 million dollars, still...walking away from 13 more is rare. My first thought was...maybe his wife is ill, maybe some sort of family thing.
But then the story came out that the reason he was retiring from the game was indeed a family matter. White Sox general manager Ken Williams had apparently asked LaRoche to stop bring his son to work every day. It was Williams' position that a baseball clubhouse was not an appropriate place for a kid to spend all of his time, and besides, if every player brought their kids to work the place would turn into a zoo and somebody would end up getting hurt. LaRoche's response was, ok, if I can't bring my boy to work, then I won't come either.
The reaction has so far been overwhelmingly positive in favor of LaRoche's stand. Former teammates have tweeted their support. Fans have hailed his devotion to his son. It's been a love fest.
So, why do I think he's nuts?
Listen, I love my kids, love being with them, love sharing life with them. I've even brought them into my office on occasion. But is it an unreasonable request for an employer to ask an employee to leave their kid at home once in a while? No matter how much money LaRoche makes, he's still an employee. The boss gets to make the rules, and if he says no kids in the clubhouse, well, that's the way it's got to be, right? The White Sox planned their season assuming that Adam LaRoche was going to be their first baseman. Now they've got to come up with a plan B because their guy got all butt hurt because Drake can't come to work with him? I'm sorry. Be a professional! Doesn't the kid have, like...school or something?
The cynic in me is thinking that this is all a stunt to get LaRoche out of Chicago. Maybe he wants to play for someone else and he thinks that by threatening to retire, the Sox will trade him somewhere else. If not, and it actually IS all about the kid, sorry, it's stupid. Yet another pampered athlete that can't manage to play a game for which he gets paid an insane amount of money, unless he gets his way.
Is this yet another job that Americans won't do?