Adam LaRoche’s Sudden Retirement
I read an article this morning by Doug Padilla of espn.com about Adam LaRoche‘s sudden decision to retire which I found off-putting.
While I agree with Padilla’s general premise that the White Sox request that Laroche’s 14-year-old son spend less time in the locker room was not unreasonable in light of the fact that allowing LaRoche’s son Drake unlimited access opens the door to all the players having relatives in the locker room whenever they want, I strongly disagree with Padilla’s suggestion that LaRoche, by deciding to retire, is “taking his ball and going home” (i.e., being immature) and not “honoring his contractual commitment” to the team. In light of the actual circumstances, these intimations are just full, sucking-up-to-management BS.
LaRoche is 36 years old, is coming off a poor season in 2015, and his back is bothering him this spring, limiting him to only two Spring Training games played so far. LaRoche can smell the end of his career, he has probably earned enough money in baseball that he doesn’t really need the extra $13M, and he obviously wants to spend more time with his family. What is wrong with that?
Padilla’s article also repeatedly states what a great kid Drake LaRoche is. Kids who get plenty of love and attention from their parents, and the setting of appropriate boundaries that typically come with plenty of attention, by and large tend to be great kids. Also, as Padilla’s article notes, when Adam joined the team last year, he asked if Drake could spend time in the locker room, and manager Robin Ventura gave his permission. No wonder Adam feels like the team is going back on the prior understanding!
Finally, what I find so off-putting about Padilla’s intimations is that LaRoche’s retirement is actually a great benefit to the team. If teams had their way, they would never sign a player like LaRoche, or just about any player for that matter, for more than one year at a time. The only reason teams give out multi-year deals is because with the free agency and arbitration rules, they have to.
That’s the only reason why the Sox gave LaRoche a two-year $26 million deal going in to his age 35 season in the first place. The team was hoping for a much stronger 2015 season from LaRoche than they actually got.
Even assuming that LaRoche’s agent negotiates a small buy-out of the last year of LaRoche’s contract, the Pale Hose are going to save at least $10 million they would otherwise have to pay to a most likely over-the-hill 36 year old DH/1B with back problems, who, as Padilla notes, was going to be fighting for plate appearances on this team anyway. That’s at least $10 million the Sox can either add to the bottom line, or, if they are in contention late July, they can use to take on salary to acquire players from losing teams looking to dump salary, instead of having to give up top flight prospects.
In other words, there is just no way that LaRoche’s retirement well before the regular season has even started, is anything other than benefit to the team. If LaRoche feels he’s accomplished enough in the game, and he’d rather spend his time trying to develop his son into the third generation of professional ballplayers in the family, rather than raking in another $13M while spending most of his time sitting on the bench or being worked on in the trainer’s room, why take little digs at him for deciding to do what is probably in everyone’s best interests?