Rozner: White Sox won't soon forget LaRoche era
Not since Michael Jordan's announcement in October 1993 has the retirement of a Chicago athlete brought the international media to unimaginable frenzy.
It's completely understandable.
This is an important story because of the wide-ranging implications of a man walking away at 36 from a game he loves so much, leaving behind $13 million.
And let's face it, Adam LaRoche was a legend on the South Side.
During his 477 days as a member of the White Sox, and in a haunting 127 games, LaRoche contributed a minus-0.8 wins above replacement.
That kind of production might not be easily duplicated, though if you look at designated hitters with at least 400 at-bats in 2015, LaRoche was last in nearly every category, and among American League hitters he finished 81st with 12 home runs.
If you're keeping score at home, that's $1 million collected for each home run he hit in 2015.
There were so many memorable moments that it's difficult to pick out the quintessential LaRoche highlight from 2015 as he led the Sox to a fourth-place finish, 10 games under .500 and 19 games behind the division-winning Royals.
Suffice it to say that LaRoche was a major contributor to everything that occurred on the South Side during the 2015 season.
But nothing compares to the artful manner in which he quit on his teammates a few days ago, even while they pleaded with him to stick it out and do the job he signed up to do.
Instead, he left a trail of scorched terrain that will absolutely be his lasting legacy.
Boiling down perhaps the strangest and dumbest Chicago sports story in decades, LaRoche took his ball and went home because the team that signed his checks was looking for a more professional and focused clubhouse in 2016 after it was a baseball laughingstock in 2015.
Without strong leadership in the clubhouse, the inmates ran wild and played some of the worst fundamental baseball -- and made some of the most embarrassing mistakes -- you could possibly see professionals make.
And they did it over and over and over again with no accountability.
An influx of new players recognized quickly some problems, and with some holdovers bewildered by the constant presence of an extra LaRoche in the clubhouse -- participating in virtually all aspects of team activity -- they had conversations with management about this uncomfortable arrangement.
Ken Williams, as he's never been afraid to do, took the hit for everyone in the organization when he questioned whether this was really necessary.
And rather than just take his bad back and bad bat home -- which some believe was going to happen anyway -- LaRoche decided to bring his teammates and an entire organization down with him.
He didn't have to turn this into an international scandal. He didn't have to drag foolish teammates into it. He didn't have to heap distraction on a team that should be thinking only about the awful baseball it played in 2015, and how to win more games in 2016.
LaRoche didn't have to do it -- but he did.
While pundits from around the world -- who lack a basic understanding of a baseball clubhouse -- tout him for Father of the Year, they will be blissfully unaware of the destruction he has left in his wake, as teammates take up a cause that should not be on their list of concerns.
They whine of disruption as they create the very commotion themselves by making this the core issue, instead of winning games the only issue.
While they complain to owner Jerry Reinsdorf about their horrible working conditions and that awful Williams guy, they might consider thanking Reinsdorf for paying them millions upon millions for being bad at baseball.
They should apologize to the owner and the fans for being so tone deaf, for a total misunderstanding of their job description, and resist the urge to ask Reinsdorf if next they can kennel their pets at the ballpark to avoid the loneliness animals suffer during the interminable major league season.
So we can't quite finish the Adam LaRoche chapter in White Sox history as the fallout may last some weeks or months, but nevertheless can remember fondly his contribution to a glorious 2015 season and the organizational unity he has helped create in 2016.
His time in Chicago will certainly not be forgotten any time soon and his impact as lasting as any of the greats who have worn the uniform.
Bon voyage, Adam LaRoche, and thanks for everything.
Really, speaking for all Chicagoans, thanks a lot.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.