TELANDER: White Sox players’ beef with Ken Williams runs deep

SHARE TELANDER: White Sox players’ beef with Ken Williams runs deep

Sox executive vice president Ken Williams (above) has enraged players, including ace Chris Sale. | John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

If you ask me, this White Sox clubhouse thing is insane.

It reminds me, in its escalation to hugeness from something small — a player’s child being in the clubhouse — of the tale about the missing nail for the horseshoe for the horse for the rider with the message from the general, and because of the trivial nail, the kingdom was lost.

Isn’t this supposed to be about baseball?

How did it become about daycare and parenting and hurt feelings and alleged broken promises and anger and the entire Sox team on the verge of revolt?

If this goes under the heading of Ken Williams’ personal-relations skills, then the Sox vice president needs to take a refresher course in manners and courtesy. What was he doing in the clubhouse for that players meeting, anyway? He’s allowed in there, of course. But, as we’ve found out, he’s not wanted.

Then there’s the dot in the middle of this spinning pinwheel of lunacy: aging Sox hitter Adam LaRoche. His 14-year-old son, Drake — by all accounts a very nice, polished, almost wonderful adolescent — has been in his dad’s major-league locker rooms for years, and suddenly Williams wanted him out, or at least ratcheted way back.

It’s not like the boy, who is home-schooled, was around the team just occasionally. He’s there like a tick on a hound, home and road.

There are lots of issues brought up with this mess, among them: Why are children of players ever allowed in clubhouses, except on bring-your-kid-to-work days or home Fridays or days that don’t have a ‘‘u,’’ ‘‘e,’’ or ‘‘r’’ in them. That would be Monday. That’s when caddies used to take over golf courses.

Pitcher Chris Sale led the near-insurrection that is still bubbling, out of fanatical defense for the LaRoches, and he seemingly crossed a line when he cursed at Williams and told reporters later, ‘‘This isn’t us rebelling against rules — it’s us rebelling against BS.’’

Replace those letters with ‘‘KW’’ and you get the point.

I don’t know all the inner workings of this angry players-vs.-Williams faceoff, but I can guarantee it’s not just about LaRoche and his abrupt ‘‘retirement.’’ It’s about principle and past interactions. You don’t go after the second-highest-ranking team executive like this without some earlier issues.

Williams has been with the Sox forever in various capacities, and at times he has had trouble on his hands and has handled it poorly. In his first season as general manager in 2001, he had slugger Frank Thomas storm out on him and peel away from the parking lot during a contract dispute.

The two never recovered from that, with Williams in 2007 famously calling the Big Hurt ‘‘an idiot.’’ The prickly Thomas may have been that, but to say it in a tirade about the future Hall of Famer was not good. Nor was the endless spat Williams had with equally trying manager Ozzie Guillen.

It’s possible ringleader Sale just despises Williams and feels bulletproof, being a lefty with a 98  mph bullwhip. He probably is, too. Baseball executives can fall out of trees; not so with naturals.

If the issue is that Williams is lying (about LaRoche having permission to bring his son to work) and overstepping his bounds — after all, what are neutered general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura supposed to do now? — then that is hard territory to reclaim. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who would rather lop off his hand than fire a trusted aid (think Williams or the Bulls’ John

Paxson), can do an investigation. But he’s got a mess here.

And the Sox’ season might depend on Reinsdorf fixing it, possibly by moving Williams to some other spot in the organization or even to a position in Major League Baseball. Sale? Trade him and his long-term contract and watch him eat up the league with his wicked heater? That’s suicide.

So we come back to LaRoche himself. He and his son have a special bond, and that’s great. Nobody (that we know of) has complained to management about Drake being around.

But it doesn’t matter how good it is for the family. Baseball is a business. This habit of bringing kids around the workplace would never fly in most jobs. I have four kids, and I’ve never once taken them to the press box. Nor do I want somebody else’s kids around.

Should asking you to leave your son at home be enough of an insult that you retire because of it, leaving $13  million on the table? If you want it to be, sure. Free world.

Williams should not cause problems. Or he should be dismissed.

Yet two jerseys hanging side by side — for LaRoche dad and son — as if the pair had died? What?

I have never seen a baseball team boycott for anything — not blatant tanking, not global warming, not anything.

But the White Sox players were ready to go to war over this. Wow.

Damned sure it’s not about a kid.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


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