It’s Time for Cubs to Act Rather than Continue Due Diligence with Addison Russell

I’ve taken a lot of flights, but one in particular stands out. We’d been in the air much longer than was required following the notice of our approach into Charlotte and the pilot eventually clued us in as to why. Weather on the ground had jammed things up, he said, so we were circling the airport until a runway opened. But then he decided it would be a good idea to inform the passengers that we didn’t have enough fuel to last much longer, so they had asked air traffic control to elevate our priority.

Remind you at all of a certain baseball team?

Or how about this analogy: A football team has a fourth and four around midfield and they keep the offense out, ostensibly to try a hard count to draw the defense off and get a first down. The quarterback is barking out fake signals and changing the cadence of his voice in the hopes that something, anything will get a defender to jump. Then, as the play clock ticks down, the offense calls a timeout and swaps in the punt team.

Neither of those analogies can accurately describe the position into which the Cubs have inextricably wedged themselves, though I do think it helps for folks like me who need crutches to limp around bigger topics. The Cubs tried to give it a go with Addison Russell, they’ve talked about being part of the solution and doing their due diligence in helping him cooperate with MLB’s mandated counseling as part of his 40-game domestic violence suspension.

But it feels like they’re telling us they’re still content to circle the airport (subscription) while awaiting additional information. And at this point it feels at if there’s just one second left and Theo Epstein needs to go ahead and punt before this whole thing crashes to the ground and creates an even bigger fiery explosion than it already is.

This isn’t just about Mallory Engstrom, the mother of Russell’s first child, sharing details of him paying her child support with rolls of quarters. It’s not just about the vivid details shared by Melisa Reidy, Russell’s ex-wife, over the course of an extensive interview with Expanded Roster‘s Kelly Wallace. It’s that there’s seemingly no right way for the Cubs to handle the situation, yet choosing to move forward with Russell as a part of the team is the least right way.

The snippet below is just a small part, albeit a pretty graphic one, of an interview that describes Russell’s abhorrent behavior in a way previous accounts had not. It’s a cathartic and eye-opening experience for those who weren’t able to fully grasp what had gone on and a brazen “Here you go” for those who had obscenely clamored for specifics when Reidy’s initial blog post wasn’t enough.

One of the worst incidents that she remembers with Russell occurred after she went out for a “girls night” with a friend. Reidy says he came to find them and immediately said they were going home. Once in the cab, Russell was yelling at her (“in front of his friend and my friend and the taxi driver”) so she told the cab to stop and decided to get out and walk home. “I was crossing the street, I saw Addison coming out of the taxi. You know, you just know…he just starts running towards me,” Reidy says. Her fight or flight instinct kicked in and she took off running. “He slips…which pisses him off even more. I remember him gritting his teeth. I look back…and so I just try to run. And then everything kind of went sideways.”

“He slammed me into concrete…like, football tackled me. His friend was there and Carlie was there and they watched it. I was down, he was on top of me, yelling in my ear, saying, “You like doing this to me. You push my buttons. Do you like it when I get like this? Do you like doing this? You like pushing me to the point where I have to act like this.”

When he apologized, she says he told her, “I would never really hurt you, I just needed to get your attention because you weren’t listening to me.”

Please, please go read the whole thing right now if you haven’t already. Or maybe read it again. I promise I’ll still be when you get back.

See, I told you. Now I’m going to share with you something I don’t think you should read, but that I’ll present for your potential perusal nonetheless. Somewhere between the release of Engstrom’s IG post and Reidy’s interview, former Tribune columnist Phil Rogers dropped a steaming hot pile of take about the Cubs need to keep Russell around.

While it would be easy to cast Russell aside, he is the guy they should work the hardest to get back on track. Javier Baez is a much flashier shortstop than Russell but the Cubs have played their best in the Maddon era when they had Russell at short and Baez at second base. He deserves another chance, assuming there are no more incidents like the one with his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy.

Though he later issued a quasi-apology for the timing of his column, it was more of a “sorry-not-sorry, Cubs still need to keep Russell.” But at least he linked to the ER interview, so shrug emoji or whatever.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s not just about the timing, which could not have been worse if it was planned that way. Second chances aren’t deserved, they’re earned. And unless you count the hollow statement crafted by Russell’s PR — the one that was released along with the news of the Cubs tendering him a contract — as earning anything more than dismissive side-eye, nothing has yet been done to merit a return to the roster.

And that’s assuming Russell hasn’t already burned through more than two chances already. The Cubs have known about his dalliances and love for the nightlife for years, which in and of itself is nothing worthy of character assassination. But you add in the initial investigation into his domestic abuse, then the reopening of that investigation, then Reidy’s reports that some of this was going on while they were on team functions, and it’s not hard to imagine that perhaps the due diligence will result in the surfacing of memories out of the Cubs’ collective amnesia.

Even if Russell was sly and subversive enough to keep all the worst of this from the organization, it’s pretty clear we’re talking about a habitual pattern of behavior. You don’t just mature out of that or go into remission after a few counseling sessions. The Cubs can and should support Russell in his growth and development as a human being, but they’d to well to excise him from the team as they do so.

I don’t believe they should release him simply to make him someone else’s problem, though that’s frequently what happens when talented athletes are cut loose in the wake of suspensions and arrests. There simply doesn’t seem to be a viable option for the Cubs that involves keeping Russell on the roster. Even for those entrenched holdouts who think he can still help the team, consider that Russell could actually face a reopening of MLB’s investigation and a lengthening of his suspension.

Again, there’s no right answer here, nothing that will wash the stink of the situation from the organization in a single pass. I mean, winning will spray a little perfume on it and time will wash out the worst odors. And with that in mind, it’s best to get moving on with the cleanup as quickly as possible.


Ed. note: I had initially included the following post from Russell’s Instagram, but deleted it because I couldn’t really wrap my head around how to address it. I still don’t, so I’ll just say that it’s timing — right in line with the publication of Reidy interview and the so soon after Engstrom’s IG post — feels waaaay too coincidental to be anything other than orchestrated damage control.

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  1. This feels like a double jeopardy situation for Russell.

    MLB gave him 40 games based off this information, but now he may lose his job without anything new happening witch no matter how wrong he was feels unjust.

    1. He should be arrested and locked up. How does “slamming his wife to the pavement like a football tackle” — resulting in *JUST* a 40-game suspension — seem unjust? And how is it double jeopardy? He hasn’t been tried once in a court of law. There is a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE between double jeopardy and new allegations. Even if he had been tried, it’s still not double jeopardy. The POS paid his child support in rolls of quarters. I can’t even fathom your line of thinking here. Sorry to seem disrespectful, well, not sorry, I guess.

        1. I stand corrected. After reading all your responses to Evan you’ve convinced me. Russell is a victim here. He shows no remorseful behavior because he doesn’t have to. When he pounded his wife into the pavement she deserved it. And why should he have to pay child support? His exes work don’t they? And it takes two to make one, so it’s not only on Addy. Yeah Trey. You DA MAN! Thank you for showing me the error of my ways.

          I’m still not sure “no matter witch wrong” feels more unjust or how you define double jeopardy, but I do know this – your arguments are weak and misogynist. But you’re semi-right about one thing: if MLB had proof of these allegations he would have been suspended for more than 40 games. The thing is it’s not a law and they don’t need proof. But I can guarantee you that Russell will be re-examined and further punished. Frankly, he’s lucky he’s not in jail, because if you made your wife or girlfriend eat pavement like Russell did to Melisa, you’d be looking at 3-5 years hard time.

    2. MLB gave him fewer games than they would have if he’d smoked pot, so it’s not as though they’re coming down hard on DV. But as new information has come to light, particularly as it relates to his child support, the league could find him in violation of additional terms of his suspension and they could lengthen it.

      As for losing his job, is there really any doubt that another team would pick him up? Or that perhaps he should have though about that before tackling his wife on the pavement or grabbing her around the throat or just in general being a manipulative, philandering spouse.

      Even if he never swings a bat again, he could move on to get a job in IT or delivering pizzas or selling insurance, or in sanitation work. As in, becoming a garbageman instead of just a garbage man.

      1. Minor league players who get 50 games for weed are doing so after the second time they fail.

        What did he do illegal with his child support?

        She accuses him of trying to not follow the courts order, but if that was legit she would have went to the count. Also who cares if 3 years ago as a rookie he paid some of it with rolls of quarters and single bills?Its legal tender and if she lives in a different state why isn’t it just direct deposited.

        Also seems “random” that would be posted the night before they released the interview with his ex wife.

          1. sorry, let me get this straight Trey; your point is because the guy allegedly paid with quarters and singles (a childish and petty thing you do when your to get your car out of a impound lot, not something you should do to pay for the support and livelihood of your child), we as fans should just turn a blind eye and think it’s fishy that it comes out when ex wife provides more details of the abuse she endured?

            Why is it always a conspiracy for sympathizers of perpetrators? Addison is not the victim here, Trey! It’s always someone else’s fault or the victim is overreacting, or the she’s a slut, or a gold digger….

            I sincerely hope you rethink your position. He is not deserving of your support. Addison needs help, and I hope he gets it. But we should expect more from the people we support with our hard earned money. More importantly his ex wife, and children’s voices should be heard and validated.

          2. Its not like he went to the bank and got 600 dollars worth quarters just to be a dick. And even if you want to make it out as him being a dick without knowing the reasons behind it, did he do anything that was illegal?

            Did his ex wife post anything different than what she told MLB?

            I don’t want to support him here. MLB found him in violation to get 40 games, and he accepted the suspension. Now he’s getting crushed again for the same thing and it could lead to losing his job when nothing has changed which is wrong and why it feels like double jeopardy.

            Yeah sorry if I find the timing of his first kids mother posting that less than 24 hours before that interview with the second goes live odd. I’m sure it was just chance that despite nothing new happening both dropped hours apart.

          3. We have no clue what Melissa shared with MLB, she initially didn’t want to participate in MLB’s investigation, so she may not have shared the details she did in her recent interview. Either way, 40 games is a slap on the wrist for DV, when she could have pressed charges and should have served time in jail. I don’t care what the punishment is for MJ, or steroids or whatever. Those issues are in an entirely different universe from DV.

            Paying in dollars and quarters is not illegal, but if you read the entire post by his ex, she also claims he has failed to pay child support at times and purposely wants nothing to do with his child.

            Not complying with court ordered child support is illegal, as is abusing your wife.

          4. Common sense would say she told MLB everything that she told that website as both took place within the last 3 months since she first posted online. Why would she leave out details to MLB only to tell some random baseball site?

            If he didn’t pay his child support why is she posting on Instagram about 3 year old payments and not going to the court? It would seem unlikely that he would be missing payments while still under MLB suspension so why did this come out now less than 24 before the other story went live?

          5. MLB didn’t reveal any details about what Melissa shared, so no it’s not common sense. And if you have read anything about Melissa, she has begun blogging and putting herself out there to try and help people who are experience similar types of abuse.

            Really though, why does any of this matter? If MLB did have all the same details, and they felt those deplorable actions (including tackling his wife on pavement, strangling her, chastising her on the team plane shortly after she just found out the he was unfaithful to her for the 3rd time, violently taking their new born out of her arms during drunken arguments, etc) then that is an indictment on MLB.

            I don’t know your story bud. Maybe you have been falsely accused of something, or you just prefer to have Addison on the field, but I really don’t see how anyone can continue to dismiss his actions; both the manipulative/emotionally abusive and physically abusive.

            I guess we’ll just agree to disagree.

          6. Not everything he was accused of has to be true to get suspended. MLB had its investigation and he got 40 games, so since he was never charged with anything that should close the book on it as his career.

            She has every right to tell her story, but should he always be in danger of losing his job when she does? For the record I would rather have Tulo if he can pass a physical and dump Russell and spend the difference elsewhere.

          7. Yeah, not really happy about it. And not sure why you’re stanning for Russell here. You actually believe a dude with a $2.6 million signing bonus is just walking around with rolls of quarters?

            I get that you enjoy being like the resident Debbie Downer and trolling about stuff, but what is there to be gained from dying on this hill?

          8. Do you know how he’s spent his money from 2012 to the end of 2015? I’m sure 18 year olds getting that much money make smart investments. Espcailly ones dumb enough to get 3 different women pregnant before 25.

            I’m not looking to gain anything. I just happen to find the timing of this coming out within 24 hours of each other odd, and also think its wrong he’s being tired in the court of public opinion for the same crime twice.

            If he didn’t pay his child support go to the Judge not Instagram way after it happened.

          9. Your strenuous defense of him just seems a little over-the-top. Why are you concerned with the court of public opinion? What I say or what anyone else says has no bearing on his life and what comes of it. And if he’s a terrible person who’s done terrible things, perhaps he does need to be tried multiple times.

            And I’m sorry, but there’s no way you can expect me to believe some young dude is sitting there rolling up his quarters — the singles are a different story, since I can think of a very good reason for Russell to have a bunch of those — and saving them for a rainy day. It’s not uncommon at all for people to vindictively pay bills with change.

            But we know that Russell has been accused multiple times now of verbal and physical abuse, that he’s been investigated and suspended under MLB’s joint DV policy, that he accepted the suspension, and that he’s admitted to at least some of what’s been said (since he wasn’t specific). The pieces all fit and there’s no getting around that. Dude doesn’t have a right to play baseball and he may have lost that privilege at this point.

            At the end of the day, the important thing is that people find a way to move forward and heal, and that Russell gets help and learns to change his ways. It’s probably best for all involved that he do that apart from the Cubs organization, though I think they should still offer support. So it’s cool if you want to get all conspiratorial about motives and believe that he was saving up his change for a trip to Disney until he decided to cheat and not wear a condom, but there’s really no reason to defend this guy at this point.

          10. Final thoughts, then I’m closing my book on this because it’s really not helpful at this point. If you find yourself being constantly negative when expressing thoughts on a team, a post, or an individual, it might be time to look inward and wonder what’s causing that and why you’re continuing to engage with something that clearly doesn’t bring you any joy. Maybe step back and find a more positive outlet.

          11. What has been positive about the team this winter?

            Literally the best news all winter is KB’s shoulder doesn’t hurt in the middle of the winter, and they added more guys at the Rule 5 than they lost The next best thing is people making up Harper rumors like seeing Tom at the airport.

            Get me some positive news and you will get a positive response.

          12. What is over the top is acting like he gave her hundreds of dollars in quarters when she said a portion and shared a photo of them which was no more than 10 rolls max.

            Its amazing that you can’t wrap your head around someone having 400 quarters, but yet think its totally random his first ex comes out with this less than 24 hours before the others interview was set to be released.

            He does have a right to play baseball. He was investigated and suspended for 40 games and never been in trouble with the law. Why should he be punished a second time for the same thing he already got suspended for?

            How can you not see that isn’t right?

          13. You do know know his two exes talk right? That interview was in the can and they said when it was going to be dropped, yet you don’t find it odd the other comes out upset about something that happen 3 years ago?

            Also fill me in on how many games do minor league players get for the first time they fail for pot, andthe law where you must pay child support in only big bills?

  2. There is “a right answer”, BAN these players from playing in the league. Let Mexico or Japan decide if they want to pay these monsters. Show you are serious about stopping violence MLB!

    1. I applaud you Vegas Jack but the real answer is that Addison should face criminal charges and if charged with a felon, which Domestic Violence is in Illinois, he should be punished appropriately. For all the grief that Melisa Reidy gets in the form of horribly wretched social media comments, Russell (and his fans) should be grateful she’s never pressed charges. Athletes are almost never charged. Women fear the repercussions. Reidy is handling this in the most mature way possible. I’d rather see her file a DV charge though.

  3. I posted once months ago, that I’m all for second chances – even third, fourth chances. However the emerging psychological profile of Russell is not only scary, but one that almost never changes or gets fixed – certainly not with 6 months of counseling.

    I wonder out loud, if the potential for incremental suspension is what is keeping him dead as a trade asset. Or is Theo asking too much, or worse – not asking at all? To continue with Evan’s original analogy; to trade him is to punt. If they cling to him, only to have things get worse – then just cut/release him, that’s akin to turning the ball over on downs. The later it gets in the game, the worse both get.

  4. I applaud this 24 year old young woman for grabbing Russell, MLB and the Cubs by the balls, taking control of the narrative and putting their ‘feet’ to the fire.

    1. But I’m certain that the Cubs/MLB interviewed her a few months ago, before the suspension was announced. Any first-class organization would have asked her is there’s anything more that they should be aware of before concluding their investigation.

      Therefore, as far as the Cubs front office goes, this is not new information

  5. All the new hand wringing feels empty and shallow to me. We already knew he was a terrible husband and alleged abuser. Some wanted him off the team, others were satisfied with his and Theo’s comments. Now more detail about the abuse comes to light, and everyone is more angry?
    I mean, we knew this stuff. These reactions come across as virtue signaling. Was everyone okay with/ on the fence about him when the abuse allegations were more vague? Now that the women have been descriptive we’ve all made up our minds? Feels like “I can handle knowing about some abuse as long as I don’t know any gritty details.” I’m struggling to see why any of this new stuff changes anything.

    1. I suppose we could direct you to previous posts in which we had expressed that it was time for the Cubs to move on. The new stuff may very well change minds in the commissioner’s office, which could lead to a longer suspension. Some people have trouble conceptualizing things like domestic violence when they can’t see them, others have made it very clear that they needed more details before moving toward a conclusion. I’m not saying that’s right or good, just putting it out there.

      And the truth is that we have gotten further information about the specifics of Russell’s behavior, which has clearly been established as habitual. From a really bleak perspective, it’s possible the Cubs knew about more specifics than they’d let on and now will be forced to act; or that a longer suspension means it’s not as worthwhile to keep around.

      There are a number of ways to see this additional information as being salient when it comes to the way people view the situation. And while I know you’re being hyperbolic, the idea that “everyone is more angry” kind of supports the idea that it’s time to go.

      1. I disagree that the fact that “everyone is more angry” means it’s time to go. I’m not saying it’s not time to go. I’m just saying nothing has changed, from where i sit. He looked bad before yesterday, he looks bad today. We just know more specifics. I don’t think any of this has to be a career death penalty for him. It’s all going to depend on how sincere he is in his desire to become a better man and try to amend for the damage he’a done.
        You’ve made a good point that the Cubs can still do that without employing him. I honestly don’t know what the answer is in that regard, but definitely I don’t want them to simply wash their hands.
        Some have been consistent from the start, and have wanted him gone. My comments weren’t directed at you or the writers here specifically… but more to the general increased outrage online in light of yesterday. We’ll just agree to disagree, I guess, that these allegations do/could/should make anything worse. It has read to me like now that we know some of what he did exactly, we should be more mad than we already were that he abused his partners.

        1. Actually, Dan, many of us were NOT okay with this or less angry when the allegations first came out. Some of us even went so far as to not victim shame, like a lot of delusional fans did. There is no universe where he deserves a 2nd chance for his actions. He denied the allegations until he was forced to make an obviously PR driven apology after he was suspended by MLB.

          This sport is supposed to be about having fun, enjoying a sport and rooting on players you can feel good about. I, and many other Cubs fans with a sense of morality, are having a hard time rooting for a team to doesn’t seem to care about character.

          Would you keep rooting for a team if they had a known child molester who played for them? I get that it’s two completely different offenses, but my point is that there is a moral line that many people simply don’t want crossed. For some the line includes men who abuse women and neglect their children, apparently other don’t think that’s very serious.

          I get it, no one is perfect, and no I’m not a hypocrite. Hopefully some day Addison does get help and becomes a better person, his children would certainly benefit from that. But, I hope he does that while never wearing a Cubs uniform again.

          1. Should the Cubs take down their World Series banner, as the team could not have won without the clutch performance of Aroldis Chapman?

          2. That would never happen, because this is not about cheating. But I certainly would have preferred they won without Chapman. There was plenty of disappointment when that trade went through for the same reason. That’s exactly the point though, we as fans want the Cubs to win. We just don’t want it tainted by including terrible people as part of the memory of the seasons of success we’ve all patiently waited for.

            Every pro sports team is going to push the limit on these issues, until it hits their bottom line. If they perceive that it will hurt the organization, “shield”, or whatever it is, then they’ll react and remove the player. You think it’s coincidence that teams only release players when video evidence is released of the terrible actions of these players. They already knew what happened, but it takes video for significant action to be taken?

            We as fans deserve better. We as a society deserve better. And more importantly, the victims deserve better.

    1. No one’s trying to kill the guy. Not wanting a domestic abuser on your team isn’t quite the same as carrying out communal stoning of an adulterous woman.

      1. Evan, you missed the point……the rest of the story is “he without sin can cast the first stone”. So who here is perfect and can cast the digital stone? The issue is being handled by MLB, the Cubs, law enforcement, Russell, and the victims. And that’s where it should stay. An article like this just keeps riling people up and serves no other purpose, unless you’re perfect enough to cast the first stone.

        1. No, I got the point. That idiom comes from a Biblical story in which Jesus used that rationale to stop a crowd from stoning a woman who’d committed adultery. I feel perfectly fine saying that the Cubs should terminate their employment with Russell, just as I’m perfectly fine saying they should continue to work to improve the overall situation of domestic violence.

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