GLENDALE, Ariz. – Saying he has “complete faith” in vice president Ken Williams, general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf did what he could do bring closure to the Adam LaRoche fiasco Sunday, releasing a statement in which he acknowledged the Sox’ poor handling of it and ordering Sox employees to say no more on an ultra sensitive subject.
Upon being told by Williams to scale back the time his son Drake was spending with the team, LaRoche, 36, abruptly told teammates he was retiring because of it, prompting them to rally behind him by threatening to boycott games. The fallout escalated when ace pitcher Chris Sale, during a sharp 14-minute verbal flurry, accused Williams of lying about alleged complaints of Drake’s presence and of derailing what had been an upbeat, productive spring training.
Reinsdorf concluded his investigation into the whole mess, saying “much of this was a result of miscommunication and misunderstanding rather than this being a case of anyone not telling the truth.”
Reinsdorf said his respect for LaRoche, who has forfeited $13 million in pay for 2016, “has grown during this process and I applaud his desire to spend more time with his family.’’
LaRoche said he walked away because Williams had an “agreement” about Drake, and said he was later told by Williams to “not bring him to the ballpark at all.”
Meanwhile, the Sox became a national news story about a major league team, parenting, the workplace, lies and kids all wrapped into one. It blew up what had been a feel-good Sox camp, no doubt a welcome event for Reinsdorf, who has put losing teams on the field three consecutive years.
“I do not believe there is anyone to directly blame in this situation,’’ Reinsdorf said. “While there is no doubt this might have been handled differently, the fact remains that this is an internal matter that we have discussed and now resolved.
“Per my request, White Sox employees will no longer discuss this matter publicly,’’ Reinsdorf continued, saying the focus needs to be on putting a winning team on the field.
Reinsdorf met with team leaders, including Sale, on Friday, some individually. One player, before Reinsdorf issued his statement, described the discussions as “very productive.”
“We’ve already moved on,” Ventura said before the chairman was heard from. “We’re already in that direction.”
The Sox clubhouse, up in arms a couple days earlier because of LaRoche’s leaving and the circumstances surrounding it, on Sunday morning was lively and upbeat. Ventura passed through and stopped to clown around with Brett Lawrie and Carlos Sanchez, who were messing around with a soccer ball.
In the end, Reinsdorf remained loyal to his people as he almost always does, and the Sox lost a player teammates valued for leadership qualities and clubhouse presence — but one who failed to live up to his contract when he batted .207 with 12 homers and 44 RBI in 2015. The Sox wind up $13 million richer.
Sox players may have an axe to grind with higher management, but they say they are firmly behind Ventura and that there is no concern of the LaRoche situation creating a divide in the clubhouse.
“Look around,” outfielder Adam Eaton said, pointing to various places in the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. “Conversation, conversation, conversation, guys playing cards, guys in here hanging out, guys playing soccer. You can see there is nothing here that is any concern at all.
“Last year you would come in here and it would be a morgue. Guys just on their phones and it’s quiet because the meeting is going to start in 15 minutes. Now we have to be calmed down because the meeting is going to start.
“There’s never been a wall in hall in here. That’s all created through media. And as soon as the media lets it go, that’s when it’s going to be gone. It’s in our past already.”
The Sox, and fan base weary of hearing about it, can only hope so.
Here is Reinsdorf’s statement:
“I have taken the past few days to personally meet with everyone involved, including Adam LaRoche, members of our front office, uniformed staff and some of our active players. I continue to have nothing but the greatest regard for Adam — in fact, my respect for him has grown during this process — and I applaud his desire to spend more time with his family.
I continue to have complete faith in the skills and abilities of the leadership group of our baseball operations department in Ken Williams, Rick Hahn and Robin Ventura. I also appreciate the passion and commitment to one another shown by our players, Robin, our coaching staff and our front office. As with many things in life, much of this was a result of miscommunication and misunderstanding rather than this being a case of anyone not telling the truth. I do not believe there is anyone to directly blame in this situation. While there is no doubt this might have been handled differently, the fact remains that this is an internal matter that we have discussed and now resolved.
Per my request, White Sox employees will no longer discuss this matter publicly. I felt it was appropriate to release this statement to close the issue for everyone in the organization — from the front office to the players in the clubhouse — so we can focus on Opening Day and winning baseball games for our fans. I am fully confident this matter will soon be behind us and that we will grow even stronger and more united as a team and as an organization.”