MESA, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta doesn’t claim to know all the details of the Adam LaRoche-White Sox drama over the time LaRoche’s son spent in the clubhouse and on the practice field.
But the Cubs’ ace seemed sure where his organization stands on the issue.
“I don’t think you’d ever see Theo [Epstein] or Jed [Hoyer] tell Hudson [Lester] or Cooper [Arrieta] to not come to the clubhouse anymore,” Arrieta said of his and pitcher Jon Lester’s sons.
“There’s a different sort of vibe and environment here.”
The Cubs have made a family-friendly environment a component of the fifth-year regime’s organizational overhaul, an element of attracting and retaining free agents. It includes a 24/7 medical hotline the team provides for players’ families, with access to doctors, designed in particular for when the team is out of town, and the team assigns a security detail at home games devoted to players’ families.
Regardless of any differences in organizational philosophies the opposing baseball sides of Chicago might have, Cub players from 14 years of big-league experience to 5 ½ months were left scratching their heads at the news from Sox camp that LaRoche chose to retire after being asked by Kenny Williams, the team’s top baseball executive, to “dial back” the time his son Drake spent in the clubhouse.
“It’s unfortunate for both sides,” Arrieta said. “It doesn’t look good for the White Sox. And it makes Adam look bad, which I don’t like. LaRoche is very well respected. I don’t know all the specifics, but it’s unfortunate to see a guy like that go out like this.
“It kind of makes me mad to see this kind of thing happen. I want my teammates’ kids in the clubhouse.”
Several players have had their kids around the clubhouse this spring, and it’s common during Sunday home games at Wrigley Field. The only official rule the Cubs have is that fathers and sons can be in the clubhouse until team stretch time on the field, though team officials don’t seem especially concerned with imposing any particular policy as long as the players are in agreement on the issue.
Manager Joe Maddon said Thursday he doesn’t care, that it’s the players’ clubhouse, and he trusts them to police it.
The Cubs even sent first base coach Brandon Hyde’s son, Colton, to the plate with the lineup card before Thursday’s nationally televised spring training game against the Diamondbacks.
“I don’t think it would have been an issue if he drove in 100 and hit 25 [home runs] like he normally does,” Rizzo said of LaRoche. “It’s a shame, because that’s the way the game is. But I know Adam’s a class-act guy. Whenever we go and play them, he’s always got a wounded warrior out there. He’s heavily involved in stuff like that.
“It’s the nature of the game though. That’s the way it is.”
Arrieta: “It just sucks.”
LaRoche hit just .207 with 12 homers in his first year with the Sox last year after signing a two-year, $25 million deal.
“When things aren’t going well, unfortunately, in just about every business, you start to look to nit pick where you can maybe clean up areas,” said veteran catcher David Ross, who played part of one season with LaRoche in Atlanta.
“It’s a touchy subject, but I think there’s two sides to [every] story,” Ross added. “I feel bad for both sides. It just stinks that they couldn’t find common ground. … I think it’s disappointing for the game in general.”
Cubs players seemed to identify with LaRoche’s teammates, who held a lengthy meeting in support of him this week, the Sox teammates at one point threatening to boycott a game.
The Cubs and White Sox play Friday in Glendale, Ariz.
“I love seeing the kids in here because I can see myself having a son one day in here,” said pitcher Adam Warren, who doesn’t have children by saw kids in and out of the clubhouse in recent years with the Yankees, including manager Joe Girardi’s kids. “Some guys may feel differently.
“I look up to guys who have them in here and respect that for sure.”
Rizzo, a big kid himself who seems to be a magnet for teammates’ sons, calls it a “dream” to have a son one day who can be around him at the ballpark.
“Obviously, if all 25 guys are bringing their kids, and it’s a zoo and it’s a circus, you get together as a group and you police it,” he said. “If there’s somebody in here causing a ruckus I’m sure guys will approach [the dad] and police it on their own.”
“We actually had some stuff in Boston,” said Ross, “where we had to set some ground rules, because there were seven kids in the outfield [during batting practice]. So there’s a fine line there of guys getting their work and [kids] not getting in the way.”
Ross said the players in Boston took care of their issue quickly and without conflict or drama.
“But for [LaRoche’s son] to be allowed to go in there,” Rizzo said, “and then all of a sudden he can’t, that’s just bizarre.”