Everyone is wrong in the Adam LaRoche scandal

larocheBy now you have definitely heard that Adam LaRoche walked away from a contract with the Chicago White Sox that would have paid him $13 million because General Manager Ken Williams asked that LaRoche’s 14-year-old son, Drake, not be brought into the clubhouse every day. The media was quick to label LaRoche as a fantastic person and a hero, while calling Williams a literal villain. Well, I’m here to tell you that there are no heroes or villains in this story. Instead, every person involved in this is just plain wrong.

Adam LaRoche is not a hero for retiring to be with his son. If anything, he actually displayed horrible parenting skills. Instead of telling Drake he can’t be in the clubhouse every day, Adam LaRoche quit because he didn’t get his way. What kind of example is that for his son? To quit because he didn’t get everything he wanted? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that Adam loves his son and wants to spend time with him, but he handled this whole situation terribly.

Also, how does LaRoche not know that a Major League clubhouse is no place for a young kid? Players feel like they can’t be themselves and they really have to watch their actions at all times which creates an awkward, artificial feel in the clubhouse. If the kid wants to come by every now and then, that is completely ok. But a kid being in a clubhouse every single day, including road trips, for years? That’s just idiotic.

The front office should not set the tone for the locker room. Instead of confronting Adam, multiple players on the team decided to run to GM Ken Williams and ask him to handle the situation. Williams should have told his players that it’s their job to set the clubhouse rules, not the front office.

However, my biggest beef here is with All-Star pitcher Chris Sale and starting outfielder Adam Eaton. They really blew this whole scenario out of the water. Sale reportedly got into a screaming match with Williams and Eaton told the media that they lost “a leader” in Drake LaRoche. Really? You lost a leader in a 14-year-old boy? If a teenager is the leader for a Major League Baseball team, that speaks volumes of how poorly that organization is run. Also, they really exposed their manager, Robin Ventura. Going on these rampages shows that Ventura has absolutely no control over the clubhouse and likely puts him back on the hot-seat.

If you’re a White Sox fan, sorry. If you aren’t, sit back and enjoy what will be an interesting season.

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Kansas City Royal Again: Our 2016 AL Central Predictions

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1st) Kansas City Royals – 92-70

This should only surprise you if you are a devoted follower of PECOTA, who picked the reigning World Series winners to win only 75 games and finish last in the division. Sure, the rotation is pretty weak, but do you really want to doubt Kansas City? They feature a lineup, headlined by Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, that does everything well and has one of the best bullpens the game has ever seen (Wade Davis is one of the best relief pitchers in the modern game). With well established big leaguers in Alex Gordon and Kendrys Morales, combined with Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez who are just hitting their prime years, the Royals are a lock as division winners.

Key pitcher to watch: Kris Medlen. Once thought to be the future ace of the Atlanta Braves, Medlen is finally healthy after suffering from two Tommy John surgeries. Entering his age-30 season, don’t expect him to take over as ace, but we should expect Medlen to be a 13 win, 3.80 ERA guy.

Key hitter to watch: Mike Moustakas. One of the most powerful prospects in recent memory, Moustakas really struggled at the plate his first 4 seasons. However, last year he took a big step in becoming the All-Star caliber player everyone thought he could be. He has displayed better plate discipline in recent years and is looking to pick up where he left off last season. Could this finally be the year he hits 30+ home runs, or will he regress to the player he was two seasons ago? We’re betting on the former.

2nd) Cleveland Indians – 87-75

With on-base machines like Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis, a phenom shortstop in Francisco Lindor, and arguably the best top of the rotation in baseball (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar), the Cleveland Indians have their eyes set on their first World Series since 1948. However, a one-and-done appearance in the Wild Card seems much more likely. Still, the Indians are a very solid team that will finish with a winning record for the 4th consecutive season. And, hey, isn’t that really all Cleveland sports fans can ask for?
Key pitcher to watch: Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco put up poor numbers in the first half of the season (4.07 ERA, .259 BA), but he pitched like a man on fire the second half. Pulling together a 2.99 ERA while striking out 94 guys in 75.1 innings, Carrasco is emerging as the ace of the Indians phenomenal staff.

Key hitter to watch: Francisco Lindor. We wanted to say Michael Brantley because we love him so much, but, ultimately, Lindor is going to be the spark plug this year. Don’t expect him to repeat his 12 home run performance from last season, but you should expect all of the other numbers to remain the same. He does a solid job of getting on-base and is a very good base stealer who should be scoring most of Cleveland’s run.

3) Minnesota Twins – 81-81

It seemed like the Twins were overachieving all of last season. The rotation is a wasteland and the lineup was mostly average. Despite predicting them to win less games this season, we believe the Twins are in for better days. Top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are going to be fully unleashed this season and it should put fans in the seats. If they had a better rotation, we would have no problem putting Minnesota in the number 2 spot. The lineup has some solid pieces, Brian Dozier is one of the more underrated players in the league, and the Twins could play “spoiler” for a playoff-hopeful team.

Key pitcher to watch: Tommy Milone. Milone has had a solid spring and is looking to finally take the step to become the best pitcher in a rotation. However, given Minnesota’s staff, that’s not saying much. We’ve always been supporters of Milone, going back to his days in the Nationals’ farm system, and we still think he can be a good pitcher. Right now he’s sitting at average and we think he finally takes the next step.

Key hitter to watch: Byung Ho Park. Minnesota’s big move this offseason was signing Park who launched 105 home runs and 270 RBI over the past two seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization. Obviously we should not expect numbers remotely close to that, but Park is still a very good professional hitter who is in the prime of his career. He should offer some much needed stability to the Twins’ lineup.

4) Chicago White Sox – 78-84

Chicago has a brand new lineup, centered around masher Jose Abreu and off-season pick-up Todd Frazier, and a rotation that has the potential to be very good. However, there is one big question looming over the team coming into the season: How will they respond to the Adam LaRoche controversy? Players seem split on the outcome, some glad that a young boy will no longer be in the clubhouse everyday, while some (Adam Eaton and Chris Sale) are upset that the team lost a LEADER in a 14-year-old boy. Yeah, ridiculous. This has created a huge rift between the players and the front office and shows that manager Robin Ventura has no control over the locker room. This will be fun.

Key pitcher to watch: Carlos Rodon. Remember this name because this kid is good. At 23 years old, Rodon has already shown he can pitch at the Major League level. Don’t be surprised to see him on the All-Star team every year for the next decade.

Key hitter to watch: Avisail Garcia. “Mini-Miggy” is regarded by many to be a bust, however, the kid is only 24. While he probably won’t be the next Miguel Cabrera, we’re still looking at someone who could be a consistent .280, 20 homer guy.

5th) Detroit Tigers – 73-89

Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Tigers used to be considered World Series favorites year after year, yet they could never seem to seal the deal. Despite having a lot of “star power”, the Tigers don’t actually have a whole lot of talent on the roster. After Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmerman, the Tigers have a bad rotation. Despite having one of the greatest hitters of all-time in Miguel Cabrera, the lineup isn’t much better. We’re concerned with J.D. Martinez‘s shocking strikeout rate and expect his on-base percentage to drop off to a normal .310. Ian Kinsler is entering his age-34 season and Victor Martinez looks ready to be put out to the pasture. Detroit is one of those teams that never wants to give up but it’s best that Detroit blows it up and tries again in 5 years.

Key pitcher to watch: Daniel Norris. Norris will start the season on the Disabled List but Detroit is hoping he could come back strong. The Tigers’ ace of the future, Norris is an exciting pitcher that Detroit shouldn’t rush back to the mound. Let him take his time to heal.

Key hitter to watch: Nick Castellanos. Like Avisail Garcia, Castellanos is regarded as a bust despite being 24 years old. While he has been a below average third basemen so far, he still has plenty of time to become the key middle-of-the-order piece Detroit thought he would be.

Guys, we did it…

chone read my article

WOW. There are no words to describe the feeling that came over me when I read Juan’s response. This is one of those defining moments in life that I will never, ever forget. I may never meet Chone again, and that’s ok, because I got to tell my hero what he means to me and, most importantly, tell him thanks. That’s all I could ever ask for.

Thank you to all of my readers who support this blog and helped get my letter into Juan’s hands. Your persistence paid off. And, of course, thank you to Juan Pierre for sharing this with Chone. You will never know how much this means to me.

-Joe

We have the Juan Pierre stamp of approval!

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For those that don’t know, Juan Pierre is one of the greatest leadoff hitters of all-time. He’s also great friends with Chone Figgins. We decided to send him the link to our Figgins tribute piece (which can be found here) and he loved it! We’re one step closer to getting Chone himself to read it! Go give our boy Juan a follow on Twitter. He’s a great player and a great man (and my brother’s hero).
Also, earlier today we were officially published on Baseball-Reference.com, the ultimate site for baseball statistics! Starting today, all of our posts that mention a player can be found on that player’s page (ex. Figgins and Vlad Guerrero). This is an absolutely HUGE day for The Batter’s Eye and we thank you for being part of it!

Saying “Goodbye” to my hero: a letter to Chone Figgins

Dear Chone,

I know you will never read this. However, this is something I need to do to cope with the news that came yesterday.  24 hours ago, you announced that you will be retiring after signing a one-day contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the team that you spent the majority of your incredible career with.  As a lifelong fan, this is news I was expecting for a few years.  Alas, that does not begin to dull the pain.

The first time I saw you play was in April of 1999 when you were the starting shortstop for my hometown Salem Avalanche.  As a 4-year-old, there were 2 primary reasons why you were my favorite player, 1) Chone Figgins is a fun name to say, and 2) I loved your walk-up song (I used to do this thing I called the “booty dance” every time it came on.  Thank goodness camera phones weren’t a thing then.)  From there, my fandom only grew.  Every now and then my parents would take me down to the dugout and wait for you to go out and stretch so I could get an autograph or two.  You always obliged.

As a young kid, I didn’t quite understand how the minor league system worked and, in 2001, I was absolutely devastated to learn that you had been called up to AA.  My dad reassured me that it was a great thing and that it meant I had a better chance of seeing you play for many years to come.  Thankfully, that was the case.

I have many fond memories of your playing career.  You leading the Majors with 62 stolen bases in 2005 and hitting for the cycle in 2006 were special.  I only got to see you play in the Majors once, against the Nationals in 2008.  You had a bunt base hit that day.  I’ll never forget that.  Another special moment was watching you come up to bat for the Dodgers for the first time in 2014.  I was devastated when the Marlins let you go at the beginning of the previous season and I was terrified that was it.  Watching you come up to bat again was an incredible feeling.

However, my favorite moment in sports history is when you made the AL All-Star team in 2009.  Every now and then, I think back on hearing your name being called in the introductions and it brings a tear to my eye.  You loved the game and it was on full display.  I have the card of that moment on my desk right next to me as I type this.  Last semester I even wrote a paper about it.  We were asked, “What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from sports?”  The lesson I learned from you is to love what you do.  Whenever you stepped foot on a diamond you had a smile on your face, even when times were tough in Seattle.  That is what I will always remember about you.

I remember the moment I became an Angels fan.  I was at an Avalanche game in 2003 and went to the team store to buy a pack of baseball cards.  I chose the 2003 Donruss pack with Sammy Sosa on the cover.  My brother suggested I get another pack that had more cards in it, but I told him no, “I want the Sammy Sosa pack.”  I opened it up and flipped through the cards.  The very last one was your Rated Rookie card and that’s when I learned you had been traded to Anaheim.  I was so excited to get the card that I sprinted back to our seats to show my grandpa.  He always loved how you played the game and I wanted to share that moment with him.

My grandpa died from dementia in 2012.  Tragically, it got to a point where he really couldn’t remember much.  Outside of his room at the nursing home was a shadow box.  In it were a lot of items that meant something to him and were there to try and help him remember things.  In the box was that card.  One day I was helping him walk around and he stopped at his shadow box.  He pointed and said, “Chone Figgins.  He was great.  Remember him?”  I looked at him, smiled, and said, “Yeah, Pop.  I remember him.”  You were my hero growing up and your career has always meant the world to me.  But now knowing what you meant to my Poppy, that makes your career even more special.

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Seeing your passion for the game made me develop a passion for it too.  I was never any good but I’ve always loved the game.  In fact, I’m devoting my life to it.  Today is my first day as a Ticket & Sales Intern for the Washington Nationals.  Without you and your love for the sport I would not be in this position.

Today you retire after signing a one-day contract with the Angels.  I guess it’s somewhat fitting that the day your baseball career ends, mine begins.

However, I hope this is not the end.  Whether it be as a little league coach or a Major League scout, I hope you stay in baseball.  It doesn’t matter in what capacity, the game is just better with you in it.

Looking back on your career and what it meant to me and my Poppy, I, unashamed, write this with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

It was a good ride, Chone, and I thank you for it.

Signed,

A fan.

Wild, Wild AL West: Our 2016 AL West Predictions

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1st) Houston Astros – 94-68

The future of baseball is located in Houston, Texas.  The Astros are easily the most exciting team in the game and it’s due to their young stars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and reigning Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel.  They have a young, powerful lineup that is only getting better, an incredible rotation which just got even deeper with the addition of Doug Fister (hi, dad!) and a bullpen headlined by veteran Luke Gregerson, Tony Sipp and Will Harris who both had a sub-2 ERA last season, and the newly acquired closer Ken Giles.  This is the best team in baseball and they are only getting better.  They had a real chance of winning the World Series last year (they should have won the ALDS vs Kansas City but Correa missed an easy ball that led to KC tying the series).  Dethroning the Royals is tough, but Houston has the star-power to do it.

Key pitcher to watch: Doug Fister.  He was a Cy Young candidate two seasons ago but really struggled to find himself last year.  Being in a new city and having the ability to test free agency after this season, we expect Fister to bounce back to his old form.

Key hitter to watch: Carlos Gomez.  Acquired in a money dump at the trade deadline, Gomez failed to produce the MVP type numbers we’d grown used to.  Chalk it up to injuries or is it a sign of a rapid decline?  We think (and the Astros hope) it’s the former.

2nd) Texas Rangers – 89-73

Texas barely edged out the Angels and Astros in the final days of the regular season last year.  While they have gotten better (they will have Cole Hamels for a full season and Yu Darvish potentially returning in June), the Rangers will have to settle for a Wild Card berth.  The rotation after Hamels isn’t great but we expect Texas to score a lot of runs early and have their solid bullpen closedown tight games.  Prince Fielder bounced back strong from his 2014 injury and we think he’ll pair nicely with future All-Star Rougned Odor, Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland.  Expect Texas to out-slug the rest of the division on their way to a Wild Card appearance.

Key pitcher to watch:  Colby Lewis.  Texas needs Lewis to step up for the first few months while Yu Darvish is out.  They’re praying he reverts to his 2010 self and becomes a solid #2 behind Hamels.

Key hitter to watch: Ian Desmond.  Coming off a very disappointing season with the Nationals (perhaps turning down a $107 million contract offer lingered in the back of his mind) Desmond is starting completely over.  New contract.  New team.  New position.  Both Desmond and the Rangers hope all of these changes help him stop his skid and revert back to the 25 home run threat he once was.  Ian will also be playing for a 2017 contract and money is a pretty good motivator.

3rd) Seattle Mariners – 84-78

It seems like baseball writers always try to be edgy when they make their preseason picks and pick the Mariners to win the West.  Usually that’s a really stupid prediction.  This year, well, it’s still pretty stupid but that’s just because Houston and Texas are very, very good.  Don’t get me wrong, Seattle has the potential to be an 89 win team.  They added some nice pieces in the offseason (Adam Lind, Nori Aoki, Joaquin Benoit) to an already impressive roster and have one of the best lineup combinations in the game (Seager/Cruz/Cano).  If Robinson Cano can continue his second half surge from last season, and if Felix Hernandez can return to form, there’s no reason Seattle can’t be a playoff-bound team.

Key pitcher to watch: Taijuan Walker.  Is it weird that one of the best pitching prospects has a minor league career ERA of 4.04?  Yeah, it probably is, but Walker seems to be the real deal.  He’s only 23 years old and is going to need to step up in order for the Mariners to make their first postseason since 2001.

Key hitter to watch: Ketel Marte.  At only 22, Marte has found himself as Seattle’s starting shortstop.  He hit .321 in the minors this past season and .283 in 57 Major League games.  He’s quick and exciting and should hold down the shortstop position in Seattle for years to come.

4th) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 80-82

Despite having some of the biggest names (and payrolls) in baseball, the Angels are an average team at best.  Anaheim finished just one game away from the playoffs last year, losing on the last day to Texas, and yet they have done nothing to significantly improve their roster.  The Angels’ left fielders produced one of the worst combined seasons in Major League history and their response was to bring in Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry, lifelong backups.  They then traded their entire farm system and fan-favorite shortstop Erick Aybar to the Braves for Andrelton Simmons, a defensive wizard who usually looks lost at the plate.  Then, instead of resigning David Freese for only $3 million, they traded young stud reliever Trevor Gott to the Nationals in exchange for Yunel Escobar who, in reality, might not be better than Freese.  Sure young studs like Mike Trout (who is already the best player in the world), Kole Cahloun and Garrett Richards are still getting better, a scary thought, but players like Albert Pujols and Jered Weaver are now shells of their former selves.  The Angels are one of those rare teams that has the potential to both win and lose 90 games.  We think it’s somewhere in between.

Key pitcher to watch: Matt Shoemaker.  In 2014, he went an impressive 16-4 (yes we know that wins and losses are team dependent stats, but sometimes they do accurately show how good a pitcher was) and posted an equally impressive 3.04 ERA.  Last year was a completely different story.  7-10 with a 4.46 ERA and 135 hits in 135.1 innings.  If he can revert back to his 2014 self the Angels have a better chance of being that 90 win team.

Key hitter to watch: C.J. Cron.  A first round pick in 2011, Cron has the potential to be a serious threat behind Trout.  The Angels would like it if he drew more walks (17 in 404 plate appearances last year) but I’m sure they’ll settle for 25 home runs.

5)Oakland Athletics – 71-91

They finished in last at 68-94 in 2015 and 88-74 the year before.  You just never know what they’re going to do.  They’ll either lose 90+ games or win the division by 6.  Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.

Key pitcher to watch: Jesse Hahn.  The 26 year old has flashed some talent in his 2 Major League seasons but is yet to rack up 100 innings in a season due to injuries.  Hahn believes throwing sliders is what caused his arm to act up last season and has vowed to quit throwing them in hopes to pitch a full season.

Key hitter to watch: Danny Valencia.  We here at The Batter’s Eye have long been fans of Valencia.  After jumping around for a few years, Valencia has hopefully found a home in Oakland after signing a one-year extension.  If he is able to play 150 games, we believe Valencia could hit 25+ home runs and potentially become an All-Star.

 

What do you think the AL West will look like? Sound off in the comments section!