It was announced Wednesday that Addison Russell had accepted a 40-game suspension retroactive to September 21, when he was first placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball. The move was in response to a heartfelt blog post from Russell’s ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, in which she recounted years of physical and emotional abuse during their marriage.
MLB re-activiated their investigation into allegations that had initally begun in June 2017 after an Instagram post from one of Reidy’s friends. Unlike last year, Reidy was willing to cooperate with investigators, who also spoke to several others with knowledge of the situation.
I now believe the time has come for the Cubs to move on from their troubled shortstop as soon as possible. I’m not intending this to be a baseball discussion, no debates about his on-field value to the team. I would write this same article if it involved a perennial All-Star or a backup.
There have been several instances of players being disciplined under the league’s domestic violence policy that came into effect in 2015. Three of the more notable recent examples are Roberto Osuna, Aroldis Chapman, and Jeurys Familia. I believe all these cases were handled poorly by the teams involved and examining them will demonstrate what the Cubs should (and shouldn’t) do with Russell.
As Cubs fans know well, police were called to an incident at Chapman’s house in October of 2015. He reportedly attacked his girlfriend and fired a gun, though he was never charged with a crime. An agreed trade of the closer from the Reds to the Dodgers was called off and he was placed on administrative leave in December. The Yankees traded for Chapman just three weeks later and he was suspended for 30 games to start the 2016 season.
Chicago traded for the Cuban hurler in July of that year during their run to the World Series, but they did not pursue him as a free agent after the season and he re-signed with the Yankees in a blockbuster deal before 2017. Neither club did a good job explaining to justifiably concerned fans why they would bring on a player with such a disturbing history.
Familia was arrested in Fort Lee, New Jersey on October 31, 2016 on domestic violence charges. Charges were dropped when the victim refused to cooperate, but the Mets closer accepted a 15-game suspension to begin 2017. The Mets kept Familia through that season before eventually trading him to the Athletics in 2018 during a partial rebuild.
Osuna was arrested in May of this year by Toronto police and charged with assaulting his girlfriend. He accepted a restraining order in September and charges were dropped. MLB gave him a 75-game suspension and the Blue Jays traded him to the Astros while he was still suspended.
In all these cases, the player’s current employer traded them to reclaim some kind of value. It gave the impression that the move was motivated more by improving the team than taking a stand against domestic violence. Even more troubling is that four teams, including the Cubs, were willing to take on a player who had accepted a domestic violence suspension.
It sends a message to fans who have been victims of or who care deeply about domestic violence that their voices don’t matter. Theo Epstein likes to say that the Cubs as an organization care about character. They have a chance to demonstrate just how much they care when it comes to Russell.
The talented shortstop is entering the fourth year of his six-year rookie contract and is arbitration-eligible. The Cubs could make like those teams above and trade Russell, they can offer him a salary perhaps head to arbitration with him, or they can non-tender him and allow him to become a free agent.
If the organization wants to demonstrate that character really is part of the Cubs Way, they will non-tender Russell. If they decide to keep him or try to trade him for return value, they should just be honest and admit they are a business first and foremost.
If that’s what they want to be, it’s their prerogative, but they should stop with the “character counts” nonsense. It’s hypocritical at best, and at worst it is hurtful to fans who have been personally affected by domestic violence. So I end with a personal plea to Tom Ricketts and the Cubs organization: Do the right thing and non-tender Addison Russell.