Last week, baseball fans were stunned to hear of Adam LaRoche’s retirement. Shortly thereafter, the reason for his retirement was revealed: the White Sox asked for LaRoche to limit his son’s access to the clubhouse. It is rumored that Major League Baseball Player’s Association may file a grievance against the White Sox on LaRoche’s behalf. However, as this article will cover, winning a grievance, in this case, is largely dependent on the language in LaRoche’s contract with the White Sox.
Under Article XI of the MLB collective barging agreement (“CBA”), a player has the right to bring a grievance against their club if they believe their contract has been violated in some way.
If LaRoche decides he wants to bring a grievance against the White Sox he has 45 days to file a written protest to the league. The White Sox would then have 10 days to review the complaint and notify LaRoche of what they are willing to do, if anything, to resolve the issue. At this point, if LaRoche is not happy with the White Sox’s response, he may file an appeal to Major League Baseball’s Labor Relations Department (“LRD”). The LRD then has 35 days to negotiate with union representatives in an attempt to settle the case. Assuming the case has not been resolved at the end of the LRD’s 35 days, the team or player has 15 days to request a neutral arbitrator, which will be scheduled for some point within the next year.
An independent arbitrator’s decision would likely come down to LaRoche’s contract. Does it have a provision allowing his son access to the clubhouse? White Sox’s union representative, Adam Eaton, suggested that there was a provision in the contract, other have reported it was a mere verbal understanding between the team and LaRoche, but it is known LaRoche’s son had his own locker in the clubhouse.
Without seeing the language in the contract it is nearly impossible to predict how this case would play out in front of an independent arbitrator. If the contract allowed “unlimited” access to the clubhouse, the White Sox’s request to limit time spent would be in violation of the contract. Maybe the contract said LaRoche’s son could accompany the team “as long as it did not create a distraction,” thus presenting a grey area. If this is the case, the team may be able to prove LaRoche’s son’s consistent presence was distracting to the team.
If LaRoche’s contract did not have a written provision, but instead the understanding was completely verbal, he will have a difficult time winning an arbitration hearing. The CBA clearly states that the contract represents all agreements and player and team, “agree that no other understandings or agreements, whether heretofore or hereafter made, shall be valid, recognizable, or of any effect whatsoever.” LaRoche’s best argument would be that access was implied, as LaRoche’s son was allowed to be with the team throughout the entire 2015 season.
This case completely depends on the language in LaRoche’s contract. Without a written agreement do not expect LaRoche to bring a grievance against the White Sox.