“There’s more to life than just a little money. Don’t you know that?”
-Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson in Fargo
Barry Sanders retired from football at the ripe, old age of 31. When he rather surprisingly announced he was leaving the NFL back in 1999, we all shrugged a collective “Huh?”
Sanders was commonly considered, and still is by many, the greatest running back of all-time. He was well within reach of Walter Payton’s all-time rushing record, a milestone he probably would have surpassed the very next season had he played. Upon retirement, not only did Sanders leave the record book on the table but also tens of millions of dollars.
This year, another Detroit legend Calvin Johnson, decided to hang up his cleats as well. Johnson, one of the league’s best receivers, was slated to make $16 million in 2016. Like Sanders, Johnson was only 30 years old when he bid the league farewell.
In ten seasons with the Lions, Sanders made over $30 million. That was years ago when salaries weren’t offensive. In his nine seasons with the same team, Johnson made four times that amount. To most of us who will never play professional sports, we wondered how those two men could leave behind that sort of dough for playing a game we love.
Another professional athlete is now making news for leaving money on the table. This time, it’s for a far more personal reason.
Adam LaRoche is a twelve-year veteran of Major League Baseball. He’s made about $50 million in his lifetime. By no means is he in the same league as Sanders or Johnson, both Hall of Famers, unless you consider that none of three is hurting financially.
This week, LaRoche announced he wouldn’t re-sign with his newest team, the Chicago White Sox, so that he could spend more time with his son. But it’s a little more complicated than that.
LaRoche, whose father also played Major League Baseball, liked bringing his son around the clubhouse. White Sox upper management, however, felt the clubhouse was no place for LaRoche’s thirteen year old boy. White Sox management told LaRoche to “scale back” the whole kid in the clubhouse thing. As a result, LaRoche walked away from the $13 million Chicago was slated to play him. So much for Chicago celebrating Take Your Kid To Work Day. And once again, Chicago’s Executive Vice President Kenny Williams looks like father of the year.
This isn’t a post about how ridiculously improper the White Sox are for telling LaRoche how to raise his kid or for essentially banning him from the locker room. Sure, a Major League clubhouse might not be the best environment for a young boy but it’s probably better than him hanging out at the mall smoking cigarettes with his buddies. Perhaps some of LaRoche’s teammates felt uncomfortable with a kid in the locker room, being extra careful not to drop the occasional F-Bomb but you can hear those words these days just by turning on your television. In this day and age of dead-beat dads making so many headlines, one would think professional sports franchises would commend an employee for being a loving father when there are so many fathers out there who aren’t.
No, this isn’t a post about that. I’m not going to tell LaRoche how to raise his kid. Clearly, he already knows. Nor am I going to tell Chicago how to run their clubhouse. Clearly, they already don’t.
This is more about the changing nature of professional sports. Why would professional athletes continue to jeopardize their health, or in LaRoche’s case his principles, when they’ve already made more money than they know what to do with? These days, it’s looking more and more likely that they won’t.
Baseball is nowhere near as grueling as professional football, unless you include the mental anguish that exists within the White Sox clubhouse. Clearly when Barry Sanders made his decision to retire, he wanted to be able to walk without a limp for the rest of his life. I’m guessing $30 million was enough for him to get by. Similarly, former Minnesota Viking Robert Smith was well on his way to becoming one of the league’s best backs. He retired at 28 years old after eight years in the league. Scoring touchdowns just wasn’t as much of a priority as being able to walk. Smith left $25 million on the table. Small price to pay.
With LaRoche, health wasn’t an issue. Family was. And one can’t blame him.
We ham-and-eggers like to complain about the salaries athletes make but there isn’t a person among us who hasn’t fantasized about what we’d do if we won the lottery. Hand us a check for $30 mil and we’d never work another day in our lives. So why would we expect any different from Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Robert Smith or Adam LaRoche, particularly when a man’s principles come into question?
As it turns out, there are more important things in life than money, wins, champagne showers and record books. How nice of Adam LaRoche to remind us of that.
Insensitivity and sheer stupidity go hand in hand with the game of baseball and how it seeks to markets itself to youngsters. In the case of the White Sox this might possibly all blow up in their face. It’s bad enough the owner is Jerry Reinsdorf who actually backed Jerry Krause to the hilt when GM wanted to break up the Bulls team which had won eight NBA titles during an eight-year span at the time when Jordan was at the height of his career.
Reinsdorf has never been able to live that decision down and while Krause has been inducted into the Bulls’ Ring of Honor , his relationship with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen deteriorated to the extent where the two famed players have no wish to speak with the former Bulls’ executive.
The Chicago White Sox may not feel the departure of Adam LaRoche as a significant loss , but from my own perspective this whole matter was handled badly by the organization and shows them in a really bad light !
Disagreeing on this one, Rev.
I tend to not like those parents that think every day is “drag yo kid to work day”. It’s work, not day care. I shouldn’t have to censor myself, from anything I normally do, because someone thinks their Snowflake should be on display.
Imagine that your workplace (locker room) was usually filled with men in various states of undress (including full nudity). They may be cursing, boasting of their latest sexcapades, and vulgarly insulting teammates or opposing players. Then, a teammate brings his young teenager into that atmosphere every day. Most co-workers would have to change their routine… just to appease the dad. You would probably have a few that would crank up the vulgarities to try and make the kid uncomfortable.
There are legalities involved here. What are the statutes on exposing your minor child to nudity? Could the teammates be charged with child abuse as they go through their normal routine in the locker room? How well does Larouche know that 6th outfielder who was just called up from AAA, and likes to play helicopter all over the locker room?
I don’t like the idea of kids in an adult environment.
I hate to agree with Mike & Mike (ESPN) on this one but I think I do. The White Sox have the right to ban children from the clubhouse (at certain times) and LaRoche has the right to quit as a result. My real question is one that I haven’t heard asked – if a kid is at the facilities every day, when is he going to school and on top of that, doesn’t he play a sport or want to hang with a friend now & then? My 13 yo is running from can till can’t doing both. What’s this kid doing?
It certainly could have been handled better, Al. That’s for sure.
I totally get that part of the argument, Han.
For example, I work in a pub and assuming I have any children, that I so far haven’t claimed legally, that’s no place for them to hang out. Unless of course they’re buying me beers.
We probably don’t know the full extent to who said what to whom, which players had a beef with the kid being in the clubhouse but it was handled poorly from the White Sox standpoint. And the media definitely ran with it. Imagine that.
If LaRoche wanted his kid in their ALL THE TIME, then yea, I could see where management would want him to tone it down a notch.
I could also see where LaRoche could get his panties in a wad for his employer interfering with his family.
After that happens, what’s it to LaRoche to just hang it up after making that fifty mil and allowing him to spend as much time with his kid as he wants.
There are a lot of details we don’t know about the case which is why I say the White Sox PR department totally mishandled this from the get-go.
As with everything else, this should have been handled internally.
I’m sure they could have come up with a better solution than us now thinking the White Sox are a bunch of uncaring assholes and Adam LaRoche is a far too hands on of a father.
I mentioned to my wife a couple years ago I suspected we’d start to see more and more pro athletes walking away sooner with all the coin being collected. In the NFL with the concussion issue once these guys stay upright long enough to get a couple big deals with real guaranteed money they’ll be done. The money in MLB makes it possible to walk even sooner for the marginal and top players…for whatever reason, especially family. In unrelated news .,,I’m watching the Rays play in Cuba and wondering how you think they will do this year?
I’m gonna bet them to win the division, Burnsy.
I like their chances, particularly at that number which I believe last time I checked is between six and seven to one.
They did just lose their closer Boxberger til midseason which means someone inexperienced with have to step up since they traded away McGee but their offense should be vastly improved (couldn’t get much worse) and the majority of their starting rotation is healthy.
You abide by the rules of your employer. Before LaRoche played the FU card I’m sure he checked his bankroll. Might look good today, but tsunamis can ruin any financial account. A 13 year old doesn’t belong in a Mlb clubhouse as a hanger-on.
Better handled ? Are you forgetting it’s MLB (baseball) ? Explain to me the things, baseball’s hierarchy have handled really well down the last twelve years ? It’s because that @ss wipe Bud Selig and Rob Manfred the sport is no longer part of Summer Olympics . Also the reason even with their current steroid policy in place at the Minor League Level there is more rampant steroid use than ever before as well as players still using at the Big League Level.
Mets’ pitcher , Jennrys Mejia’s lifetime ban is a joke , considering the league can still reinstate him after two years , if the player shows himself to have stayed away from using an illicit substance .
Alex Rodriguez will be retiring after the 2017 season has ended and in spite of that, his so called one-year suspension and Rodriguez got off lightly, with neither the Yankees having the balls to rescind his contract , even when they were within their rights to do so and with league having a proliferation of evidence on their part.
Like I said, show me a case where MLB has handled and dealt with an issue properly ?
How’s the wagering been?
Hit anything nice lately?
Loopholes in everything, Al.
Does MLB really think the fans are going to forget they once banned Mejia for life if they reinstate him down the road?
It’s a grind Chris. Exhibition baseball has been good. Delving into manager’s pre-game intent shows a little earn. College over-unders have been a time consuming wash. Haven’t caught up with the new shot clock and some coaches creating foul fests and others surrendering.
I know you like betting big dogs so here is a theory I’m subscribed to. If GS burns themselves out with meaningless reg season win record, I will be fading them in the playoffs. Coach Pops will be resting key guys including MVP KLeonard and ready to pounce if GS gets that far. I’m not convinced that Kerr is the next coming of Red Aurbach. Walton mighta proved that.