SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- No doubt, you've read and heard plenty about Adam LaRoche's sudden retirement from the White Sox because they changed their minds about how much time LaRoche's son Drake could spend in the Sox clubhouse.
The purpose of this article isn't to rehash all that. Instead, I wanted to examine the issue in general and in particular, how it might pertain to the Cubs clubhouse.
A note, first: White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf issued a statement early Friday afternoon:
"While we appreciate everyone’s attention and interest, we continue to feel that it would be premature to comment at this time. This is an internal issue, and we are in the process of holding a number of discussions with players, staff and the front office. As a result, we do not want to comment until that process is completed. I have instructed members of the organization not to talk about this issue and get our focus back on the field and winning baseball games."
So there's that. Now, on to the main topic.
Players' sons have been hanging around big-league clubhouses for decades. Adam LaRoche was, in fact, one of them himself, as his dad Dave LaRoche had a 14-year big-league career, including two (not very successful) years as a Cubs reliever in 1973 and 1974.
Adam LaRoche, though, seems to have taken this to a level not seen before. He was quoted in this Washington Post story three years ago about his son:
"We're not big on school," LaRoche said. "I told my wife, 'He's going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.'"
Keep in mind this was three years ago, so Drake would have been 11. I don't think there's any reason that an 11-year-old would be learning "more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom." Plus, that presence is in some ways unfair to the adult men who inhabit that clubhouse and have it as a summer-long sanctuary. It's been said that players are often closer to each other than to their families during the season; that's one thing that builds up team chemistry. I'm certainly not criticizing LaRoche for wanting to be close to his son; that's admirable. But I do wonder: at what job can you bring your kid to work every day, and further, as Will Leitch writes at Sports on Earth about the White Sox clubhouse and how it might compare to other such places:
But if it's like every other clubhouse that has ever existed, it's a sweaty, hot box of young cocksure men doing what young cocksure men have done when in close proximity to each for months at a time for centuries: You burp, you fart, you tell dirty jokes, you say things you don't actually believe to fit in with the group, you grow hideous facial hair, you talk about women in ways that are often not appropriate for a teenager, you burp and fart some more. You're 25 young men hanging out together, all the time, with no overarching adult authority.
I have to agree with that, and that's no place for a 14-year-old to hang out every day, in my opinion. I also agree with Leitch's conclusion:
LaRoche isn't just saying he wants to spend time with his son. He's saying a baseball clubhouse is a better place for his son than school. And I'm sorry: That's one of the most absurd things I've ever heard. I suspect, even in baseball clubhouses, I am not alone in thinking that way. If my dad tried to raise me in an electrical substation, he'd have been arrested, and rightfully so. The question is not, "Why isn't Adam LaRoche allowed to have his son live in a Major League clubhouse?" The question is, "How in the world did it take his team this long to make him stop?"
Many teams, including the Cubs, have "family rooms" where players' families can hang out during the game. The Cubs' will likely be bigger and nicer once the new clubhouse opens this year. I know that Cubs first-base coach Brandon Hyde has his son hang out with the team much of the summer -- he plays catch with him in the outfield before many games -- but I don't know how much of the run of the clubhouse the younger Hyde has. I saw Hyde's son in the Cubs dugout during Thursday's game, helping out with ballboy duties; I'm assuming the kid is on spring break while he's in Mesa.
The larger issue is, should this go on? At what other job can you bring your kid to work every day? (Answer: none.) The Cubs have no specific policy on children in the clubhouse and Joe Maddon allows the players to manage the rules and decorum of the clubhouse, according to Cubs spokesman Julian Green.
Which is fine on its surface. But you can see with the LaRoche issue how this can cause tons of trouble. It might be that Major League Baseball will have to set a league-wide policy on kids in clubhouses. I doubt MLB employees can bring their kids to work every day. It probably shouldn't be any different for players.