In Celebration of Quitters

Leaving aside Cinderellas, busted brackets, and the obvious fact that Pac-12 schools except Arizona should all join regional high school leagues, the biggest story in sports this past week, and one that I suspect will linger for awhile, is Adam LaRoche’s sudden retirement from baseball.

According to several accounts of the story, Adam’s son Drake accompanied him everywhere. There was a handshake agreement allowing this between White Sox management and LaRoche when he signed a two year contract with them last year. But White Sox Executive Vice President Ken Williams asked LaRoche to dial it back, and LaRoche responded by filling out retirement papers. Those are the facts on the timeline that everyone agrees happened. White Sox management are not denying the handshake agreement, but their apologists have argued it couldn’t possibly have meant as much participation by Drake as has ensued.

The facts are what they are, but the thing that makes the story so interesting is the competing narratives. Here are the main narratives I’ve seen expressed in sports news, sports talk, and on Twitter:

  1. LaRoche is selfish and does not respect authority.
  2. Kenny Williams is not a trustworthy executive.
  3. Good for LaRoche for putting family first.
  4. LaRoche pretty much sucked last year as a DH anyway.
  5. Adam LaRoche was an amazing teammate, and his son Drake was truly inspirational in the clubhouse.
  6. Future 40 year old Drake would prefer that his Dad didn’t leave $13M on the table this year.

I’ll let you figure out who or what kind of people are pushing each of those narratives. I’m mostly on board with #2. I’ll offer a couple additional narratives for your consideration.

Quitting is usually not walking away from something. It’s a step in accepting new and better opportunites. Adam LaRoche is a partner in a ranch, E3 Meat Company. I know this because its official account retweeted and replied to a snarky comment I made about people quitting their bosses, not their jobs.

Will he make $13M this year in his share of profits from the ranch? Probably not, but hard to know. The business appears to be something he has his heart into, and looks to be doing everything right in capitalizing on his personal brand. His retirement from and the circuumstances surrounding that retirement will bring his ranching endeavor plenty of attention.

As kids, most of us are instilled with a work ethic that stresses never quitting. Stay in school. Go to college. If you join the team, you must finish out the season. Otherwise, you are a LOSER! As adults though, most of us find ourselves in need of some retraining. Ask any friend who has divorced and remarried someone who is a much better lifetime partner. The most successful entrepreneurs (who don’t reach success on their first or second try out of the gate) are the ones who learn how to set a time limit for trying something, accepting defeat earlier rather than later, and moving on to new projects. Even those who achieve mostly unmatched levels of greatness, such as Bill Gates or his successor, Steve Ballmer, know when to hang it up and focus on other things. In the words of Eminem, “and when your run is over just admit when it’s at its end.”

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I’ll leave you with another alternative narrative. If you’ve seen the Entourage movie, you probaby already know where I’m going. By all accounts from everyone involved, Drake LaRoche is a high character kid and even, according to Robin Ventura, probably more mature than most of the players. But let’s assume the kid was just a pain in the ass. Then he’s Adam LaRoche’s pain in the ass, and everyone arguing over whether Drake belongs in the clubhouse right now is failing to be kind. Just as Larsen McCredle put his foot down with Ari over simple kindness, so has Adam LaRoche with the White Sox organization.

Adam LaRoche’s public statement on the matter can be found here:

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sof75p

-Brad Hutchings

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