“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): The Adam LaRoche situation is about players vs. front office

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. Today, the White Sox.

If you are even somewhat following baseball, you probably have had at least heard of the bizarre case of Adam LaRoche, the now-former first baseman of the Chicago White Sox. What exactly has happened depends on who you ask, but in essence LaRoche more-or-less-retired because he was told he could no longer have his son around with him all the time.

In the last 24 hours, though, the tale of Adam-and-Drake LaRoche has gone from a mere strange story to… whatever the hell it is now. The White Sox, it appears, are not happy with all of this happened. Like, they apparently considered boycotting. And then, today… well.. it’s blown up:

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Yikes. A dispute about a 14-year-old kid has seemingly caused open rebellion against the front office of the team, especially Ken Williams, the VP and de-facto GM (the White Sox are one of those teams where the titles and responsibilities are a bit unclear). The team’s best pitcher is going unfiltered at him!

And, well, I get the feeling this now has nothing to do with Drake LaRoche. Oh, sure, I’m guessing Chris Sale and him were tight, but I think this is now about the fact that Ken Williams just did this all on his own, breaking the self-policing tradition of baseball clubhouses. Yes, Williams was once a player, but he isn’t anymore. But now, he stuck his head into the clubhouse and changed the status quo, and, what’s more, didn’t communicate what was going on all that well. The result, perhaps, was inevitable.

And now, madness has descended upon Camelback Ranch.

What comes next is anyone’s guess.

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“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): The Chicago White Sox’s player to watch isn’t one of the new guys

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here.Today, I talk briefly about the Chicago White Sox.

The White Sox spent the off-season helping build a team that could contend in the AL Central this coming year. Whether they will succeed is more up for debate. Among the additions: Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, and Jeff Samardzija.

However, the player to most watch isn’t one of the new guys. No, the player to watch is the sophomore MLB season version of Jose Abreu.

Consider his season last year, his first in MLB after arriving from Cuba. He hit .317 with a .964 OPS and 36 HRs… and this was while missing some time with a knee injury.

And now, it’s his second year coming up. If the White Sox do well, it could prove to be his breakout amongst more casual baseball fans, especially if he is able to do better this year than he did last. Is it possible that he could hit 50 HRs? Perhaps. And that would be something to see.

Tomorrow: Los Angeles Angels.

CONTINUUM CLASSIC: Why nobody pays attention to College Baseball, outside of the CWS

In honor of the College Baseball season starting tomorrow, here’s a post originally published on June 1, 2012:

In basketball, the NCAA tournament is in many ways a far bigger event than even the NBA Finals as the marquee event for the sport.

In football, the passions in some regions for college teams are larger than that of any NFL team. Okay, with the possible exception of Green Bay. Maybe.

Baseball, however, has it’s amateur competitions mostly forgotten. Yes, the draft is shown on MLB Network (at least the first round or two), and it isn’t too hard to find a college game on TV if you know where to look… but it is a afterthought unless it’s draft day (and even then, there usually are just as many high schoolers who are getting drafted) or the College World Series.

There are several reasons for this:

  • As I mentioned, lots of players are drafted out of high school, so the level of competition in NCAA isn’t quite what it is in football or basketball.
  • With the exception of the best of the best, it’ll be several years before you see a top college player in the big leagues, since they will go to the minors for seasoning. This ends any type of “hype” that can be built up around future pros, and why the MLB draft is so little followed beyond seamheads.
  • Aluminum bats. They may have been changed over the past decade or so to act more like baseball bats and not like trampolining home run machines, but there is still the PING! that, while tolerable when heard in Little League, seems to be grating when you see grown men swinging them around.
  • Lack of regional parity. If it seems like the BCS division of football is dominated by southern and western colleges, it’s even worse in baseball. After all, they can practice all year round, and don’t have to worry about the weather. A look at the winners of the College World Series over the years shows it. There hasn’t been a CWS winning team from above the old Mason-Dixon line (39 degrees and 43 minutes N) since Oregon State went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. Before then, though, there hadn’t been one since (The) Ohio State University won it in 1966. Heck, there hadn’t even been a northern team that came in second place since Eastern Michigan lost to Arizona in 1976.
  • Baseball, unlike basketball and football, became a professional sport fairly early on, meaning the long traditions found in college hoops and gridiron aren’t as common in baseball, since they didn’t have time to form before the rise of the pros. The only big tradition it has that is known nationally is the fact that the College World Series is in Omaha, and ALWAYS in Omaha.

So what can be done? Well, MLB is apparently discussing helping fund scholarships and a transition to wooden bats in NCAA, which could be helpful. However, I think College Baseball will remain what it is: fun to watch come the College World Series, but generally ignored outside of that.

Why nobody pays attention to College Baseball, outside of the CWS

In basketball, the NCAA tournament is in many ways a far bigger event than even the NBA Finals as the marquee event for the sport.

In football, the passions in some regions for college teams are larger than that of any NFL team. Okay, with the possible exception of Green Bay. Maybe.

Baseball, however, has it’s amateur competitions mostly forgotten. Yes, the draft is shown on MLB Network (at least the first round or two), and it isn’t too hard to find a college game on TV if you know where to look… but it is a afterthought unless it’s draft day (and even then, there usually are just as many high schoolers who are getting drafted) or the College World Series.

There are several reasons for this:

  • As I mentioned, lots of players are drafted out of high school, so the level of competition in NCAA isn’t quite what it is in football or basketball.
  • With the exception of the best of the best, it’ll be several years before you see a top college player in the big leagues, since they will go to the minors for seasoning. This ends any type of “hype” that can be built up around future pros, and why the MLB draft is so little followed beyond seamheads.
  • Aluminum bats. They may have been changed over the past decade or so to act more like baseball bats and not like trampolining home run machines, but there is still the PING! that, while tolerable when heard in Little League, seems to be grating when you see grown men swinging them around.
  • Lack of regional parity. If it seems like the BCS division of football is dominated by southern and western colleges, it’s even worse in baseball. After all, they can practice all year round, and don’t have to worry about the weather. A look at the winners of the College World Series over the years shows it. There hasn’t been a CWS winning team from above the old Mason-Dixon line (39 degrees and 43 minutes N) since Oregon State went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. Before then, though, there hadn’t been one since (The) Ohio State University won it in 1966. Heck, there hadn’t even been a northern team that came in second place since Eastern Michigan lost to Arizona in 1976.
  • Baseball, unlike basketball and football, became a professional sport fairly early on, meaning the long traditions found in college hoops and gridiron aren’t as common in baseball, since they didn’t have time to form before the rise of the pros. The only big tradition it has that is known nationally is the fact that the College World Series is in Omaha, and ALWAYS in Omaha.

So what can be done? Well, MLB is apparently discussing helping fund scholarships and a transition to wooden bats in NCAA, which could be helpful. However, I think College Baseball will remain what it is: fun to watch come the College World Series, but generally ignored outside of that.