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Adam LaRoche’s retirement gets explained, and becomes more confusing

Hard to imagine anyone was foolish enough to speculate that Adam LaRoche‘s decision to retire Tuesday was based on fringe issues like mounting injuries and declining skills.

Naturally it was a dispute prompted by a disagreement over the regularity with which LaRoche could bring his son to the clubhouse, of course.

Here’s a tweet from The Score’s Julie DiCaro saying sources told The Score’s Matt Abbatacola that multiple players complained to team president Kenny Williams about LaRoche bringing his son to the clubhouse every single day.

That development would have seemingly led to the confrontation between Williams and LaRoche that Ken Rosenthal broke open Wednesday–after a taunting Dejan Kovacevic tweet!–where Williams requested that LaRoche dial back the presence of Drake (his 14-year-old son) in the clubhouse.

“I asked Adam, said, ‘Listen, our focus, our interest, our desire this year is to make sure we give ourselves every opportunity to focus on a daily basis on getting better. All I’m asking you to do with regard to bringing your kid to the ballpark is dial it back.’ “I don’t think he should be here 100 percent of the time – and he has been here 100 percent, every day, in the clubhouse. I said that I don’t even think he should be here 50 percent of the time. Figure it out, somewhere in between. “We all think his kid is a great young man. I just felt it should not be every day, that’s all. You tell me, where in this country can you bring your child to work every day?”

It can be surmised that LaRoche did not agree to dial back Drake’s presence in the clubhouse.

LaRoche reportedly went so far as to sign retirement papers that the White Sox have yet to send in, in order to allow time to for LaRoche to reconsider. But apparently the team meeting Tuesday was entirely focused on players standing up for LaRoche’s right to bring in Drake and convincing him to stay, and no one came out of it encouraged about LaRoche’s potential to return.

LaRoche’s arrangement with his son is nothing if not unique. Most of Twitter’s initial reactions to this story understandably had a hard time getting past the oddity of a father bringing his son to work every single day–especially in an industry renowned for ribald backstage behavior–or the atypical arrangements for Drake’s schooling. Relating to his position is a struggle, even if you can respect that it is his position and respect that it matters to him.

It’s also an arrangement that LaRoche has had for several years, one that the White Sox knew about when they signed him, and lived through for a season. Drake had a locker, a uniform, and regular roles in the clubhouse. LaRoche’s conditions seem bizarre and unusual to most of the workaday crowd, but the White Sox were also asking him to drop what had become a very significant part of his routine, and to do so at age 36, with one more year on his deal and–maybe this is just me refusing to give up my initial interpretation–when he was facing the prospects of difficult season of fighting injuries and decline.

From here, it’s difficult to get the two polarizing side of this issue to merge. LaRoche is getting praised from players across the league, Adam Eaton included, for putting family first, or family over baseball, but it’s a select crop that would view agreeing to say goodbye to your kid for work everyday as akin to putting family second. Bryce Harper congratulated LaRoche for prioritizing his family in this manner, but if Bryce Harper did this, they would write books about it, bemoan the wasted talent and rank it among the bizarre stories in sports history. If LaRoche didn’t seem close to retirement already, it would be even harder to imagine this already unimaginable story.

Which is a bridge to a question Ken Rosenthal asked, of whether tolerance for LaRoche’s arrangement waned alongside his performance and importance to the team. Williams admitted the move to confront LaRoche was unpopular, and it doesn’t benefit him to admit that players complained to him–not the least of which due to the strange clubhouse hierarchy it implies–but his choice of time and situation to draw a line in the sand is bizarre, if not wholly illogical an outcry of select players forced his hand.

Instead of the noble if sad story of a declining player bowing out, the White Sox now have a clubhouse rift, or at best simply a player/management rift significant of enough to cost them the player at the center of it. It’s a player the White Sox tangibly would seem to benefit from shedding in this fantastical manner, but they could understandably be worse for the process.

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