2016 Chicago White Sox
2016 Chicago White Sox / Franchise: Chicago White Sox / BR Team Page
Managed by Robin Ventura
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2016 Chicago White Sox found themselves at the center of a whirlwind of controversy after 1B/DH Adam LaRoche unexpectedly announced his retirement on March 15th, walking away from the final year of his contract worth $13 million. The controversy came from the reason for his retirement: Adam had been in the habit for a number of years of having his teenage son Drake, now 14, hang out with him almost continually, including in the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice and so on. The team brass felt this was becoming a distraction, and Vice-President Kenny Williams acted as their spokesman in asking the veteran to "dial back" his kid's presence in team quarters, making it clear that he was not in any way banning him entirely. LaRoche did not like this and decided to retire, then other players such as P Chris Sale and a number of pundits weighed in on the dispute. While most observers felt the White Sox had been justified, if the aim of Williams's intervention had been to remove a distraction, it had badly backfired. On March 20th, team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf felt it necessary to intervene, explaining that he had met with everyone involved, expressing great respect for all front office members including Williams, GM Rick Hahn, manager Robin Ventura and the coaching staff, claiming that there had been some miscommunication and asking everyone to stop discussing the matter.
Whatever distraction the LaRoche affair caused, it did not affect the team's on-field play in April. They were the first team in the majors to win 15 games, accomplishing the feat on April 26th. Chris Sale defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 10-1, that day to record his fifth win in as many starts since the beginning of the season. The White Sox were in first place in the AL Central until the last week of May, but a seven-game losing streak at the end of the month had them fall to third place, behind the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians, with the Detroit Tigers right behind them.
On June 25th, the White Sox tied a team record by hitting seven homers in a game. All of the home runs were solo shots, and three of them came consecutively in the 2nd inning, starting with an inside-the-park homer by Brett Lawrie off R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays, and regular shots by Dioner Navarro and J.B. Shuck in the 2nd inning. Lawrie added another homer to become the first Sox player to hit both a inside-the-parker and one outside the park in the same game since Ron Santo in 1974, but Chicago still managed to lose the game 10-8. They were only the third team in history to lose a game while hitting that many long balls.
The White Sox were rocked by another controversy that spun out of control on July 23rd. It was Chris Sale's turn to take the mound against the Detroit Tigers that day. The White Sox had also decided to have the team wear throwback uniforms hearkening back to the 1976 season: dark blue shirts with long collars (although they wisely did not try to have players wear the Bermuda shorts that were sometimes paired with these tops back then). Sale objected to this choice and before the game personally destroyed a number of the shirts with a pair of scissors, making it impossible for the team to wear them (they wore 1983-style shirts instead). As punishment, Sale was scratched from his start, replaced at the last minute by reliever Matt Albers and was then suspended for five days. The ace pitcher later explained that he found the uniforms very uncomfortable and had objected to the team wearing them on a day he was scheduled to pitch and called out manager Ventura for not sticking up for him; Sale's father added that the cut of the shirts also affected his son's pitching mechanics, not a desirable thing. As had been the case in the Adam LaRoche kerfuffle in spring training, White Sox management was derided in the national media for its decision, as reporters pointed out that Sale's request was quite reasonable and that the Sox had once more ended up shooting themselves in the foot over a silly controversy.
In any case, the White Sox continued to sputter along the reste of the way, finishing the year in fourth place, at 78-84. Following a loss to the last-place Minnesota Twins, 6-3, in the season finale on October 2nd, manager Ventura handed in his resignation. The team brass had indicated earlier that he was welcome to remain at the helm if he so desired, but he decided to throw in the towel after five seasons, the last four of which had ended with records below .500.
Awards and Honors
- Ted Berg: "The White Sox suspended Chris Sale over MLB's silliest controversy", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, July 25, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "White Sox bring swagger to contend in AL Central", USA Today Sports, March 13, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Red-hot White Sox don't doubt they'll keep it up: 'We believe we can'", USA Today Sports, May 4, 2016. 
- Phil Rogers: "Hot Chicago clubs partying like it's 1906: Cubs, White Sox leading divisions with two best records in Majors", mlb.com, May 9, 2016.