What can MLB teams like the Baltimore Orioles do differently (if anything) in a situation like that of Adam LaRoche in Chicago?
Adam LaRoche has never played for the Baltimore Orioles. He slugged a few home runs against them when he played in Washington, but that’s about it. However he surfaced in the news this week, in what I would call an odd situation.
LaRoche of course is the ChiSox’s DH. He abruptly retired this week, citing a “personal reason.” Most people hear that an immediately hope there’s nothing wrong with his health or with that of anyone in his family. And I’m no exception to that. LaRoche has a long-standing reputation as one of the good and jovial guys in the game.
Yesterday – one day after his retirement – reports surfaced such as this USA Today article, which I find very interesting. You all have heard of this story by now, but in a nutshell – it’s apparent that LaRoche retired because GM Kenny Williams asked him to bring his 14-year old son Drake into the clubhouse less. The term that Williams allegedly used was for LaRoche to “dial back” Drake’s time with the team.
Let me be up front here; I don’t have any children. I want them for sure, but I don’t have any right now. So admittedly I can’t tell you what it’s like to be a working parent and so forth. Furthermore, I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent who’s on the road as much as baseball players (or those with kids at least) are. So for what it’s worth, that’s my point of reference.
However my personal opinion is that the team and Kenny Williams are well within their right to do this. As Williams said in the aforementioned USA Today article:
"Tell me where in America you can bring your child to work every day?"
Willias was also very careful not to flat out ban Drake LaRoche from the clubhouse overall:
"All I asked him to do it dial it back, that was it. Simply you have to make a decision from management perspective, or an organization at large. We went into this season saying to ourselves, We going to commit and focus and not leave any stone unturned."
LaRoche apparently wasn’t willing to “dial back” his son’s presence in the clubhouse, so he took the not-previously-known third option and he retired. On one hand, I do respect LaRoche in the sense that we’ve all had issues with the powers that be at our jobs in the past. Furthermore we’ve all heard the phrase if you don’t like it, there’s the door. LaRoche apparently didn’t want to comply with the new regulation, so he walked through that door and retired.
Furthermore he did it with seemingly little fanfare and took the high road by simply saying it was a personal matter. However in reading up on this situation I’ve seen LaRoche applauded for opting to spend more time with his family as opposed to playing baseball. It’s important that we don’t forget that professional athletes are paid to play – it’s literally their job.
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So while I’m the first one to say that it’s not worth having a high-paying job if you never have the time to see your family or spend the money you get, that can go both ways. I have no doubt that Adam LaRoche is a great father who just wants to spend time with his son. And that’s laudable. However Kenny Williams is right in that not one employer in America allows employees to have their kids in the workplace 100% of the time. And by all accounts, Drake LaRoche was in the clubhouse everyday.
Heck, Williams even said that he wasn’t banning Drake. He just asked LaRoche to dial it back. Somehow in LaRoche’s mind it was all or nothing – so he opted to retire. So you might wonder how any of this applies to the Orioles or how this is anything more than fluff. Funny you should ask that…
…it’s issues such as these which will be big as baseball moves forward. From Ada LaRoche’s perspective, his employer is trying to limit his family time. I personally don’t think that’s true, but it’s his perception. But as families change and American life evolves, this type of thing might start becoming more of an issue.
I know people (my Dad being one of them) who think it’s insane that baseball offers three days of paternity leave to players if their children are born during the season. While I think it’s ridiculous that a player would retire over not being allowed to bring his son in 100% of the time, I do think that paternity leave is a good thing. As I said I’m not a father but I do want children; and you can bet your derriere that when those kids are born I’ll be dropping everything to be there.
It’s not so much about bringing your kids to work as it is about family issues. These are things which confront companies of all ilks nowadays, and I would submit that baseball teams at some point will be no exception.