By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Blame, blame everywhere, and nor any drop to think.READ MORE: 'John Doe' Who Accused Former Blackhawks Video Coach Brad Aldrich Of Sexual Abuse Identifies Himself As Kyle Beach
When “The Rime of the Ancient Ballplayer” is told months or years from now of the Adam LaRoche vs. the White Sox front office vs. other White Sox players silliness, hopefully for Sox fans’ and my sanity it will be coupled with laughter rather than solemn warning.
That LaRoche needlessly shot this arrow into the sky and caused a distraction to an otherwise interesting team headed into the 2016 season is one of the more maddening sports stories I can recall. And I desperately want the Sox to get out of the gate winning so that this stupidity doesn’t become the narrative albatross around the team’s neck to their detriment and that of the vein near my temple.
Unless something odd is added to the story, I promise I’m putting it to bed. After I write this. I swear.
Still, we’re not quite past blame mode after LaRoche retired following a request that his 14-year-old son, Drake, reduce his time in the clubhouse. There needs to be a target to direct our frustrations at a negative baseball story that has nothing to do with actual baseball.
There’s LaRoche, obviously. Executive vice president Kenny Williams entered the scenario liked by few Sox fans to begin with, so despite actually being the rational one in this, he’s easily vilified. Multiple White Sox players sound excessively dumbasstic. General manager Rick Hahn probably gave a wink-and-handshake agreement to LaRoche when the Sox got him. Manager Robin Ventura is typically unemotional and has said nothing inspiring about it all. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf threatened to turn this damn car around if everyone didn’t shut the hell up back there (and he’s cheap, remember — always go with the “Reinsdorf is cheap” easy fallacy).
All of those names arguably deserve some blame. But I’ve been bothered during “As The Drake Turns” with the problematics of another culprit.
“Perhaps no people on Earth remain more genuinely isolated … The fact that their language is so different … suggests that they have had little contact with other people …”
That’s a description of the Sentinelese tribe, considered perhaps the most remote in the world. It could just as easily describe Major League Baseball players, particularly white American ones, who seem to be one of the most insulated and willfully ignorant American tribes.
At the start of the 2015 season, 58.8 percent of MLB players on 25-man rosters were white, while 8.3 percent were African-American, 28.8 percent were Latino and 1.8 percent were Asian. As with any majority, so the unwritten rules. One need only look to attitudes toward showmanship — or what out-of-touch white people call “disgraces to the game.”
Baseball is stuck in the culture of 1940s white America, if not earlier, playing in faux-antique stadiums with organ music at a very . . . slow . . . pace that apparently felt relaxing in the olden days, but now creates the antsy need to constantly check emails, texts, and tweets.
The targets of criticism for “inappropriate” pleasure taken in a game are usually players of color (Bryce Harper a notable recent exception), and the critics are almost always white guys (Goose Gossage being the uber-fart of the windmill-tilting). The young and not-obtuse fans of the game tend to enjoy bat flips and exaggerated home runs trots and pitchers fist-pumping and cap-tilting.
Speaking of the young, another unwritten rule that affected the White Sox of late was kids in the workplace, which in moderation is totally fine. But some deemed it excessive on Adam LaRoche’s part, with his son getting a locker, participating in field drills, etc. Inflicting your kid on others’ work spaces without their explicit consent (or even putting them in the uncomfortable position of having to dissent) is unfair, and no rational person would argue otherwise.
But we’re talking about baseball players here, a majority privileged group of white guys who set the standards of decorum despite having lived most of their lives and all of the professional part in a bubble, often intentionally. MLB players for the most part don’t know the real world, and so when a real-world issue like expressing joy in one’s work or kids at your office or anything Curt Schilling is in favor of is presented, they’re often pretty tone-deaf, if not asinine.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Showers Coming Thursday
Only a bunch of wealthy, world-ignorant white guys could cause this White Sox fiasco. Only the likes of Chris Sale could make a teammate ditching $13 million for not being able to do what almost nobody in the real world gets to do with their kids into a civil rights issue.
Meanwhile, the players of color on the Sox have been largely diplomatic while likely rolling their eyes off the record as this foolishness, especially considering what Matt Snyder of CBS Sports notes:
Yes, Jose Abreu hadn’t seen his son in three years. That’s an extreme example, sure, so let’s check in on Alexei Ramirez — who has five kids — from last season’s story in the Chicago Tribune:
“It’s very difficult because I am missing the time when they are growing up,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “But I always try to talk with them every day, and I try to explain to them that what we’re doing is for them, and for their future. Some of the older ones understand the situation, but it’s difficult for me because I am here alone and for them because they aren’t with me.”
And there are players kicking and screaming that LaRoche might have had to take a few hours’ break? Good lord, guys. Perspective. Please.
Only Ryan Zimmerman could say of his former Washington Nationals teammate who pulled the same thing there, “It makes all of us who don’t have kids that age yet kind of jealous. That’s kind of the ultimate dream: to have your son in the clubhouse with you, let him interact.”
No. No, no, no, no, no. I don’t want my kid in a professional sports locker room for an extended time. Holy hell, no.
And only someone as rich and backward thinking as LaRoche could not only make his son into a permanent paragraph to his Wikipedia page with a social safety net to ensure that money can cover up any complexes the kid develops from this, but also make a martyr of LaRoche himself for being arguably a bad father.
“We’re not big on school,” LaRoche told the Washington Post three years ago. “I told my wife, ‘He’s going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.’”
That’s tragic. And it’s insulting to professional educators like me when a non-professional deems himself the best decision-maker on how to make his kid learn good, as it is every time some boob walks up to a player on the street and tells him what to do with his swing.
On his show Friday, 670 The Score host Laurence Holmes asked former MLB player Dirk Hayhurst about how to get players to understand how people in the real world perceive crap like this.
“The only way that’ll happen is when they become a part of the regular world,” said Hayhurst, indicating it’s impossible while playing pro baseball. “There’s a willful decision by players to be ignorant of what happens outside of the game.”
This is self-perpetuating. LaRoche and his defenders are fostering the see-no-reality, hear-no-reality, speak-no-reality mentality of a baseball clubhouse, because it’s all they know. And in the process, they’ve helped create another sad specimen of ignorance and privilege because they genuinely don’t know any better.
So you can hate the players for this, but be sure to hate the fairly impenetrable force field of unreality that protects a locker room from the scary real world, too.MORE NEWS: View Live Radar
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.