LaRoche statement: If it's Sox vs. family, I choose family; Sale sounds off
The situation in the Chicago White Sox's training camp has gone from bad to worse.
On Tuesday, 36-year-old designated hitter Adam LaRoche abruptly announced his retirement, presumably because he had the worst season of his career in 2015 and was dealing with a back injury this spring.
On Wednesday, news broke that LaRoche walked away because White Sox Vice President Kenny Williams requested he "scale back" his son Drake's unlimited clubhouse access.
The Sox were off on Thursday, but the simmering controversy reached a full boil Friday morning at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, just hours before the White Sox would play the Cubs and before LaRoche issued a statement to the media (see attachment with this story).
Ace starting pitcher Chris Sale, who reportedly got into a screaming match with Williams on Wednesday and told him to get out of the clubhouse, blasted the White Sox's vice president on Friday.
"Lying, plain and simple," Sale said of Williams. "We got boldfaced lied to by someone we're supposed to be able to trust. You can't come tell the players it was the coaches, and tell the coaches it's the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we're all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn't happen.
"We're not rebelling against the rules. It has nothing to do with the rules. It's a much deeper issue, and all this negative attention around so much positivity that was here before. We were rolling. We were having a great time. The drills are crisp, everything was clicking. And it just took someone to come in here and throw a wrench in the plans."
When LaRoche signed a two-year, $25 million contract with the White Sox before the 2015 season, there was no language in the deal that said Drake LaRoche could have unlimited access to the clubhouse, according to Williams.
But LaRoche apparently had an agreement with general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura, so 14-year-old Drake was a constant presence last season at road and home games, as well as this spring in Arizona.
Drake even had his own locker and uniform.
Last week, Williams decided enough was enough and he asked LaRoche to reduce Drake's clubhouse time. Williams' explanation to Sale, center fielder Adam Eaton and the rest of the Sox clubhouse was not well-received.
"Kenny said quite a few things, contradicting statements a couple times," Sale told reporters at Camelback Ranch. "He came to the players, said it was the coaches. Went to the coaches, said it was the players, and then came in here and told us it was the owner. So, we're not exactly (sure) who it's coming from, where it originated from. That's why we're still trying to figure out where it all came from."
Sale hung Adam and Drake LaRoche jerseys in his locker Friday in a show of solidarity.
"If the right person had handled it, I think it would have been completely different," said Sale, who clashed with Williams in 2012 when the White Sox tried converting him from starter to closer. "This isn't us rebelling against rules. This is kind of us rebelling against BS, plain and simple. It's not the fact we have a problem with the rules. We have to wear suits on the plane, we all dress up nice, carry ourselves in professional manners. But when it comes to what goes on in the clubhouse, the right person has to handle that and that's Robin.
"He's the top; he's the leader of this clubhouse ultimately, and if there's something that needs to be said in here he can say it and it's taken with respect because he's fighting with us. And quite honestly, he has taken heat for us before that he doesn't deserve. So we have faith in him and we trust him."
Eaton sided with Sale.
"It's Robin's clubhouse," Eaton told reporters. "It's our clubhouse. We should be the one to police what's going on in here."
Williams issued a statement Friday: "While I disagree with Chris' assertions today, I certainly have always appreciated his passion."
White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf arrived at Camelback Ranch later Friday and also issued a statement: "While we appreciate everyone's attention and interest, we continue to feel 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."
In perhaps his most damaging remark Friday, Sale said the LaRoche imbroglio will make it difficult now for the Sox to attract free-agent talent.
"I don't see how it couldn't," Sale said. "I don't see why someone with a handful of offers on the table could look and say, 'You know what, that's a mess I don't want to go into.' No. It's unfortunate for everyone else involved because this ultimately comes down to the White Sox. This is Rick (Hahn) and Robin and Jerry and the players and the coaching staff.
"They are going to get heat for something they don't deserve. Rick, I truly believe, is trying to build a winning team. We have a lot of respect for that guy. We have a lot of respect for Robin. He's leading the charge. We just don't have room for outside distractions."
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Latest statement from Adam LaRocheHere is the full statement that White Sox player Adam LaRoche gave the media on Friday.
"Given the suddenness of my departure and the stir it has caused in both the media and the clubhouse, I feel it's necessary to provide my perspective.
Over the last five years, with both the Nationals and the White Sox, I have been given the opportunity to have my son with me in the clubhouse. It is a privilege I have greatly valued. I have never taken it for granted, and I feel an enormous amount of gratitude toward both of those organizations.
Though I clearly indicated to both teams the importance of having my son with me, I also made clear that if there was ever a moment when a teammate, coach or manager was made to feel uncomfortable, then I would immediately address it. I realize that this is their office and their career, and it would not be fair to the team if anybody in the clubhouse was unhappy with the situation. Fortunately, that problem never developed. I'm not going to speak about my son Drake's behavior, his manners, and the quality of person that he is, because everyone knows that I am biased. All of the statements from my teammates, past and present, should say enough. Those comments from all of the people who have interacted with Drake are a testimony to how he carries himself.
Prior to signing with the White Sox, my first question to the club concerned my son's ability to be a part of the team. After some due diligence on the club's part, we reached an agreement. The 2015 season presented no problems as far as Drake was concerned. (My bat and our record are another story!).
With all of this in mind, we move toward the current situation which arose after White Sox VP Ken Williams recently advised me to significantly scale back the time that my son spent in the clubhouse. Later, I was told not to bring him to the ballpark at all. Obviously, I expressed my displeasure toward this decision to alter the agreement we had reached before I signed with the White Sox. Upon doing so, I had to make a decision. Do I choose my teammates and my career? Or do I choose my family? The decision was easy, but in no way was it a reflection of how I feel about my teammates, manager, general manager or the club's owner, Jerry Reinsdorf.
The White Sox organization is full of people with strong values and solid character. My decision to walk away was simply the result of a fundamental disagreement between myself and Ken Williams.
I understand that many people will not understand my decision. I respect that, and all I ask is for that same level of respect in return. I live by certain values that are rooted in my faith, and I am grateful to my parents for that. I have tried to set a good example on and off the field and live a life that represents these values. As fathers, we have an opportunity to help mold our kids into men and women of character, with morals and values that can't be shaken by the world around them. Of one thing I am certain: we will regret NOT spending enough time with our kids, not the other way around.
At every level of my career, the game of baseball has reinforced the importance of family to me. Being at my father's side when he coached. Playing alongside my brothers as a kid and as an adult in the big leagues.
Likewise, it has been great to have my son by my side to share in this experience as I played.
In each and every instance, baseball has given me some of my life's greatest memories. This was likely to be the last year of my career, and there's no way I was going to spend it without my son.
Baseball has taught me countless life lessons. I've learned how to face challenges, how to overcome failure, how to maintain humility, and most importantly, to trust that the Lord is in control and that I was put here to do more than play the game of baseball. We are called to live life with an unwavering love for God and love for each other. These are lessons I try to teach my kids every day. I truly am blessed to have been granted each of those experiences.
Thank you to all of my previous managers, past teammates and friends across the league for making these past 12 years such a wonderful journey, and for providing me with memories that I will never forget -especially the ones with my son by my side.
I will leave you with the same advice that I left my teammates. In life, we're all faced with difficult decisions and will have a choice to make. Do we act based on the consequences, or do we act on what we know and believe in our hearts to be right? I choose the latter."