Joe Maddon’s Perspective on Russell Situation Improving, Still Far from Great

Should I?

It’s a question I frequently ask myself and one that I sometimes pose to CI staffers or the dozen or so folks on Twitter who haven’t muted me. Sometimes it comes from not trusting my own editorial intuition (Should I post this now?). Other times it’s a product of writer’s block (What should I write about?). Or maybe it’s purely internal (Should I have another piece of bread pudding?)

But when Joe Maddon uttered those two words last week in response to a media member’s query about whether he’d read Melisa Reidy’s blog post — you know, the one with detailed allegation’s of her former husband’s abuse — it wasn’t a request for advice. It was a rhetorical question meant to be something of a joke, funny only because it was so in keeping with Maddon’s trademark flippancy that you almost had to laugh at how tone deaf it was.

Surely it was just one of those ill-advised quips born of the discomfort with discussing such a sensitive topic, right? Or maybe it was a factor of time, something Maddon would have had little of since Reidy’s post went viral. Already flimsy as a little pig’s straw house, both excuses blew away when Maddon huffed and puffed several days later.

“There’s nothing I can do to help the situation at all,” the manager said as a way to justify his repeated failure to read the blog.

In addition to providing some really terrible optics, Maddon came off as far more than flippant in this case. He was being downright obtuse, maintaining the kind of willful ignorance typically reserved for keyboard commandos. Seriously, you almost have to be trying in order to muck up the dialogue so badly.

Which is why I have to assume someone in the Cubs front office bent Maddon’s ear about not continuing to blow sour notes into the mic on a nightly basis. Or so it appeared from the way he’d changed his tune Wednesday.

“Domestic violence is horrible, absolutely it is,” Maddon told members of the media after admitting that he had finally read Reidy’s post. “By reading that, you feel her pain, absolutely. But at the end of the day, there’s really nothing that I’m able to do. This is in the hands of MLB and the players union.”

“That was my initial stance and that is my stance,” Maddon continued. “It’s horrible to think what that lady’s gone through. Absolutely. But I don’t know enough about the other side. So I’m waiting for the full report to come out and then we can all draw conclusions at that point.”

The first part of Maddon’s statement represents a decidedly better perspective on the topic and, while long overdue, would be deserving of a little credit had it stood on its own. But he had to press on with the whole “gotta hear both sides” thing, thereby making an unwitting hypocrite of himself.

You can’t acknowledge that it’s “horrible to think what that lady’s gone through” and that “you feel her pain” but then also say you need to learn about the other side. If you indeed believe Reidy’s account of her abusive marriage, there is no other side to hear at that point. At least not one that matters.

That’s where “nothing I can do to help the situation” gets dicey. Maddon is clearly speaking about the process and results of the pending investigation, but it’s easy to see how some would interpret at him washing his hands of any ability to impact the dialogue around domestic violence, particularly as it relates to baseball and professional sports as a whole. That starts by affording the matter the legitimacy it deserves, even if that’s by doing something as small as reading a blog post or choosing your words more carefully.

As far as speaking more specifically about Russell and his future with the team, it’s understandable for Maddon to remain detached. Even if he has strong opinions on the matter, he surely wouldn’t be allowed to share them in a public forum at this point. That said, Maddon’s continued inability to get out of his own damn way on this whole is really disappointing.

I don’t want to let the Cubs off the hook here, either, since they apparently didn’t work with the manager on how to properly address the situation from the start. And if you feel I’m being a little too hard on Maddon and the organization for what can be a difficult topic to discuss, consider that isn’t some collection of rubes we’re talking about.

The Cubs are a billion-dollar organization and Maddon’s had more than enough experience when it comes to public speaking. What’s more, this isn’t even the first time they’ve had to address Russell’s off-field issues. I don’t expect perfection, just a little better than the kind of brutally awful responses that leave you WTF’ing them in group chats.

Now I do want to reiterate what I wrote above, which is that some of what Maddon said Wednesday showed decidedly better awareness of the situation at hand. And while commending the (possibly nudged) improvement to Maddon’s dialogue while simultaneously pointing out how far he’s still got to go may be equally galling to different folks, I’m comfortable being able to do so. I also realize that my comfort is the least important part of all this.

As for “knowing enough about the other side” and “drawing conclusions at that point,” Maddon and the rest of us may have to wait a while. Russell’s initial seven-day administrative leave ends Thursday, but the Commissioner’s office can, and probably will, extend that to another seven days. It’s likely they’ll need more than a week to continue an investigation that The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported now includes much more than just that blog post (subscription required).

In addition to an interview with Reidy, who refused to cooperate when allegations first surfaced in June of last year, Rosenthal wrote that MLB has spoken with “numerous other witnesses.” They also reached out to the mother of one of Russell’s other children, though she declined to comment.

While the lengths of previous administrative leaves and suspensions have varied, all other cases of a player being placed on leave eventually resulted in a suspension without appeal. Roberto Osuna, then with the Blue Jays, had his initial leave extended seven times before eventually receiving a 75-day suspension for domestic violence. So, again, this could take a while.

Maddon may not be able to do anything about the investigation, but he can certainly use the meantime to brush up on how he’ll address its inevitable results.

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Evan Altman

Evan Altman is the EIC and co-founder of Cubs Insider and has proclaimed himself Central Indiana's foremost Cubs authority. He is a husband, father, homebrewer, and award-winning blogger with entirely too much pop culture knowledge. Evan's greatest accomplishments include scoring 400 points in Magic Johnson's Fast Break, naming all 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan in under 3.5 seconds, and winning the Meese Literary Award at Hanover College.

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7 Comments

  1. Theo’s statements seemed fine at the press conference, but I think he failed by not making sure everybody in the organization (or at least managerial level personnel like Maddon) had a prepared perspective for responding to questions. The team manager is inevitably going to be viewed as a spokesperson for the organization, so the guys in charge have a responsibility to tell him what the organization’s message is going to be.

    1. Unless they did tell him and he nonetheless went off half-cocked with his flippancy. I think that’s highly unlikely, but if it turns out to be true, then I think Joe could be in some jeopardy with his bosses.

  2. Absolutely, poorly handled by Maddon – and you are dead on when you say that there’s no excuse for such, given the organization he’s part of and his plethora of experience in addressing the public.

    I also think you hit the nail squarely when you recognized Maddon’s want to remain detached. He’s got an employee in serious trouble, yet the investigation of the trouble – and resulting consequences, are not in his control. He could (albeit extremely unlikely) end up with the employee back under his charge. He could have a clubhouse half-full of the employees buds.

    None of this changes his poor handling of the situation, or excuses it. I just can understand his want for detachment.

  3. Love you, Evan, but decidedly disagree with your characterization of Melisa’s blog as “detailed allegations.” It is anything but.

    As objectively as I can state it, there is nothing—nothing—in Russell’s ex’s blog that, if brought to court as a petition for emergency order of protection vs him, even without his opportunity to respond, would be granted.

    Unlike the Ray Rice situation—where he was punished based on video evidence, then punished more when another video of the same crime surfaced (which is another problematic issue)—Melisa Russell-Reidy’s account was less, not more detailed than the Instagram post a year ago from a 3rd party gf that also got Russell yanked off the field.

    In a 2,800 word essay, she has two, maybe three sentences of physical abuse allegations, both loosely referencing “he put his hands on me.”

    There are no dates, contexts, specifics—no bloody nose, black eye, split lip, no bruises, no pushes, no slaps, no punches, no dirty looks alleged.

    There is plenty about cheating, anger, frustration, ignoring, lack of sexual experience, sexual indifference, and other marital occurrences, especially common among 20 yr old newlyweds.

    There is a lot about comfort in God, support from family and friends, and finding the self confidence necessary to figure out that no one else completes an individual.

    Russell is about to become a dad for the 3rd time in 3 yrs, by a 3rd different woman, at least that the public knows of. Melisa knew the behavior, too, before marrying him, as her son was born outta wedlock, 3 months after Russell’s daughter from another was born. The evidence seems more clear that Russell is a cheater, and prolly had angry arguments with his wife—but those things don’t get you suspended under any sports league policy.

    As for physical abuse, there may have been tons of it, but Melisa has not revealed any of it to us as of yet.

    1. They were detailed in that she laid out in great detail how her life was controlled. At no point did I say anything about court, since that’s not what is going on here. She’s not filing suit against Russell, she’s getting her story out there. And since MLB is not beholden to the same standards as a court of law, the details are more than enough.

      Melisa Reidy is under no obligation to reveal anything to us.

  4. eff on this blog said in an article this week, many folks come to sports for a respite from issues of life.
    That doesn’t mean I don’t care about marital abuse; but there is a far better means for something like this to be dealt with wihout everyone

    First, everyone is against domestic violence — so what’s the issue!!

    Ah, Yes; this blog must be located in North Korea, Cuba, or perhaps under the diredction of Chairman President Putin in the Soviet Union — all 3 places where speaking the exact same truth is mandatory or else you go immediately before the firing squad.

    Maddon is the most honest person in this discussion. He’s mouthing reality; and I haven’t read the blog entry as it’s nothing but gossip from the standpoint of me being able to do anything to help or resolve the situation.

    Yes, I feel sorry that the relationship must have been a horrible one from Melisa perspective; and I feel the pain for Addison as this threatens his ability to earn a living at his chosen craft.

    The way this will be resolved is the politically correct one — the MLB, PA, and Boras know this and have to figure out a settlement all 3 sides can live with.

    The evil of pc thinking is that you never know what a person thinks; only what they say.

    And why is this needed in baseball as we have a legal system where couples can quietly and privately resolve these issues without dragging themselves, their families, and kids through the ringer.

    As Jeff wrote in a post earlier this week, people come to bbaseball for a respite and reprieve from life’s wrongs.
    Is the MLB so insecure that it needs to be a publicly arbiter of issues best left dealt between the parties themselves?

    I’ve stopped paying attention to the NFL, NBA and NCAA for this; perhaps the MLB is next on my list.

    The Bill of Rights of our Constitution protects free speech — even if some might not disagree with what Maddon, Epstein, or whoever says it.
    We grow and mature from those divergences; and I respect Maddon’s right, along with that of Epstein, to say what they want or feel the need to say whether I agree or disagree with it.

    1. The first amendment protects you from government persecution of free speech, it has absolutely nothing to do with your right to say whatever you want in your workplace. Nor does it prevent me from disagreeing with it. You seem to be conflating several different things here, not to mention misunderstanding my whole intent.

      The whole “evil PC” stuff is kinda out there, too, man. This isn’t a matter of everyone thinking the same way, but of people being aware of their fellow humans and trying to have a perspective that goes beyond their own arms’ length.

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