Since the games being played this month don’t count, every story gets put under the microscope. So when Adam LaRoche suddenly retired because he couldn’t bring his son with him to spring training, everyone felt the need to share their opinion. Jimmy Wulf thinks everyone is overreacting, and that Kenny Williams and Adam LaRoche are simply acting rationally.
On Tuesday, Adam LaRoche, a 36-year-old part-time first baseman who put up a .634 OPS last year, retired. By now you’re exhaustively aware why this seemingly unremarkable event jolted the Hot Take Industrial Complex into extreme overdrive. Every site – from your favorite to least favorite (this one included) – has already thrown out at least two pieces with an opinion on each end of the spectrum, and the further out, the better.
Central to many of these hot takes is the need to identify a clear villain in the situation. It’s hard to find an opinion that doesn’t hinge on either White Sox Executive Vice President Kenny Williams being a blind fool, or LaRoche being an entitled millionaire unfairly imposing on and impacting the workplace environment. In the former, Williams is either a (probably “Machiavellian”) evil genius willing to be ice-cold in pursuit of saving $13 million, or a blithering idiot doing the same thing without realizing there would obviously be a clubhouse backlash for doing something so transparently opportunistic. In the case of the latter, assumptions are necessarily made to support the argument about how Drake LaRoche is seen in the clubhouse. Then, Adam LaRoche is invariably compared to the co-worker in your local professional ecosystem who over-imposes on the office by bringing in their kids whenever they need and yadda yadda yadda. The fact that the clubhouse will never be a kid-free zone either way will be glossed over. There’s also likely to be a tangential veer to the precipice of the bottomless pit of a homeschooling debate.
In order to even have a hot take on the situation as it stands today, you need to rely on facts not in evidence while making assumptions every which way to support your initial argument, like an analysis report written by Ted Wells. We don’t know how united the clubhouse is behind Sale in their opinions. We don’t know what motivated Williams to take action initially. We don’t know anything at all about Drake’s education nor his well-being. We don’t, most critically, know what the level of agreement was initially between Williams and LaRoche (written, verbal, verbal-misunderstanding, or none), and unless it’s inked in the contract it’s unlikely we ever will.
Here’s a scorching-hot take: Neither Williams nor LaRoche are notably evil, entitled, or idiotic. With a deficit of hard details available, I’m going to give Williams, with 15 years under the belt leading Chicago’s organization preceded by a decade-long career as a pro ballplayer, the benefit of the doubt that he understands the basics of clubhouse dynamics, and didn’t make this move without initially believing he was doing the right thing. With a total lack of context, I’m going to give Adam LaRoche the benefit of doubt that he’s not a horrible parent. Last, I feel safe betting that in a clubhouse of 25 players and varied coaches, staff, etc., there’s a solid group of people who like having Drake around, at least a few folks who don’t, and a plurality of players who don’t really give a hot damn one way or another.
There are at least some reports that Williams received private complaints about Drake prior to making this move. Sure, does that look exactly like what spin would look like? Yes, but that doesn’t invalidate it either, when it offers a much simpler and more logical motivation for his actions than the Blind Man Machiavelli theory constructed by his detractors. The most likely explanation for how this went down, in broad strokes, is that Williams got a couple of real complaints in the more open spring-training environment, made a decision he thought was in the best interests of helping a young team focus and win, and failed to answer the bell with effective spin control when the whole thing blew up in his face. To be clear, this isn’t a defense of Williams and management – either he didn’t go through Ventura and the coaching staff before reacting, or they as a group badly mis-read the majority opinion. Either way, there’s some level of earned fault but that doesn’t make them monsters.
Conversely, Adam LaRoche doesn’t need to be denying his son education or socialization or friends or whatever with the arrangement he’s chosen, and Drake doesn’t need to be disrupting the (solemn? Frat house? both?) clubhouse environment with his presence. To even pretend to hold a credibly-formed opinion on that side of the situation is ludacrisp. So let’s all just take a deep breath, understand that most bad outcomes come from good people making good decisions, hope it resolves itself more amicably than it began, and return the Hot Take Industrial Complex back to a dormant state.
Read why Lisa Carney thinks that the LaRoches should be allowed to stay, what makes Justin Gorman think that Kenny Williams is a shrewd businessman.
Follow Jimmy on Twitter @JimBoSox9.