Adam LaRoche Fallout



 I never wanted to post another piece on my website about the White Sox, but I can’t keep silent about the Adam LaRoche retirement. It’s too strange and only something like this can happen to the White Sox.


 In 2001, I self-published a book entitled Through Hope and Despair. The book covered 30 years of White Sox history and attempted to explain why the team seemed to be perpetually on the brink of extinction. I placed most of the blame on various management decisions. Yes, there had been many bad players on the team in that 30-year period but I felt that the powers-that-be made things worse by pulling off one public relations disaster after another. With time, these disasters merely built on themselves.


 However, in the case of the LaRoche, the players themselves caused the largest fall out. Forget Kenny Williams and the backwards acting Adam LaRoche. In this case, the remaining players alienated the fans the most. Cussing out Williams served no purpose other than making the players look childish in some fans’ eyes.


 Spring training is one optimistic time for fans. Maybe a young phenom starts to show something or an aging player is making some sort of comeback. Maybe fans will think the team will play well and even compete for a playoff spot for a change.


 However, at least for a short time, speculation centered on the problems of one player who decided he was more important than the rest of the team. Many of his teammates backed him, and fans now find themselves not liking the players on their favorite baseball team.


 Take Chris Sale. He is obviously a huge talent. When the White Sox again played losing ball in 2015, some fans speculated on the internet about the possibility of trading Sale. The reasoning was the team could rebuild by luring another club to give up several players for Sale. Most of the time this speculation was laughed at or scorned. You just can’t trade a rare player like Chris Sale.

 Many still feel that the team cannot trade Sale. But now the thought seems more plausible. Suddenly fans are looking more at Sale’s flaws and some might even be glad to see him go. There is still great opposition to such a move, but it is muted some.


 Why is this? Sale’s overreaction to the LaRoche situation is the obvious answer. You can add the overreaction of some of Sale’s teammates and the team has another public relations fiasco that goes beyond the ignorant and bigoted LaRoche. And with the Cubs seemingly ready to go finally go to a World Series after 71 seasons, the White Sox cannot afford a backlash from the most loyal fans they have left.


 Fans can dislike an owner or manager or some other front office person for various reasons without the team suffering in popularity. But when they start not liking the players that is an even more serious matter. The club already has attendance problems; further fan alienation only worsens the situation.


 In Through Hope and Despair, I theorized that numerous developments during the decades had driven fans away. While the some fans and the Chicago sports media lambasted fans for staying away, I pointed the finger of blame at the White Sox organization. Many laughed that off by saying winning solves everything, and my theory of fan alienation meant nothing.


 One problem is that the White Sox have not been winning much of anything lately. Four of the last five seasons have been sub .500 ones including 2013 when the team barely avoided losing 100 games. Now fans will not fixate on Adam LaRoche all during the 2016 campaign. But if the White Sox cannot play winning ball, fans will be reminded of LaRoche and all the embarrassment that came with his temper tantrum. Attendance will suffer even further at a time when drawing people to the park is a real challenge.


 So I don’t know what the White Sox players, especially Chris Sale, have been thinking. Boycott a spring training game? Yes, that game doesn’t count in the standings but the Sox have been slow starters and so they need practice games to ready themselves for the real season. There is another thing these mopes seem to have forgotten. While a spring training game means nothing standings-wise, fans still buy tickets to see the team. Some even plan Arizona vacations so they can go to a spring training game. And then they will find that there is no game because Adam LaRoche was unhappy?


 Most players have no concept of the past so I will give them a history lesson. After the 1994 strike cancelled the season, fans stayed angry for a long time. If current White Sox players think they would have hurt the Kenny Williams or Jerry Reinsdorf by boycotting a spring training game, they are so very wrong. The wrath of the fans would have been aimed mostly at the players. The gesture not only would have been empty, it would have disastrous-for the players. Hey, Sale. You stated that the many players on other teams would not want to sign as free agents with the Sox after the so-called mistreatment of LaRoche. How many teams will back away from giving you to a long-term deal after a performance like this?


In the end, the White Sox will survive Adam LaRoche. The franchise survived Disco Demolition, strikes and the White Flag Trade. However, those things damaged the franchise. Yes, there will be life after Adam LaRoche and many fans are ready to forget the whole thing. But, with all their other chronic problems, the White Sox didn’t need another public embarrassment.


 The players need to think about this especially if they continue to lose and see rows and rows of empty seats at U.S. Cellular. They will not be able to blame Kenny Williams or anyone else in the club’s front office. That blame will fall solely on them and will make the sting of losing only worse.