Earlier this afternoon, BCB’s Sara Sanchez posted regarding more details that were revealed over the last 24 hours by Addison Russell’s former wife Melisa Reidy, as well as a former girlfriend, Mallory Engstrom, about alleged abuse by Russell during their relationships.
I’m here to tell you that regardless of the statements made a few weeks ago by Russell and Theo Epstein regarding a treatment program for Russell and Russell’s acceptance of that program and promises to work to make himself a better human being, I think it’s time for the Cubs to cut ties with Addison Russell.
It might very well be true that Russell is devoting himself to this program, and we should expect to hear progress reports on it going forward. It is also likely true that Theo meant what he said in this quote given to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic at the general managers’ meetings in November regarding whether this meant the Cubs had to be involved in Russell’s future:
“It doesn’t necessarily,” Epstein said when asked why this process would have to be undertaken with Russell on the Cubs. “But look, this happened on our watch. It’s not like we signed a minor-league free agent and he demonstrated this behavior a month in and you move on from him. This is somebody that we acquired in Double-A, he grew up in large part in our farm system too. Especially with a high school kid, you’re a big part of a player’s development.
“We take credit when players grow up and experience great success on the field and off the field. We feel proud of being a part of that, playing a small role in that and providing the right kind of environment for that. So when a player has something in their life that goes the other direction or does something you’re not proud of, does that mean you should automatically cut bait and move on and have it be someone else’s problem or society’s problem? Or do you explore the possibility of staying connected with that player with the hope of rehabilitation including a lot of verification along the way. I think these are difficult things to wrestle with, but I’m not so sure that the answer is simply to cast the player aside and hope that someone else performs that work or that work takes place at all.”
To address what Theo said, no, you shouldn’t “automatically cut bait and move on,” and the statements released by the team and the player a few weeks ago seemed, at least, to be a good start toward Russell’s attempt to be a better person.
We don’t know whether the revelations by Reidy and Engstrom today were known to Major League Baseball when they issued Russell’s 40-game suspension. I would assume they likely were and this is simply the two women going public with them. MLB, though, should be transparent about whether any of these allegations are new, and if they are whether there will be additional consequences for Russell. In addition, in Engstrom’s post she mentioned being “blocked” by Cubs social media, and I think it would be good to know whether that’s true, and if so, why it was done.
For me, though, the summary of all this is simple: At this point I think the Cubs need to move on from Russell. He’d likely benefit from a fresh start elsewhere, and from what I’ve already seen before I began writing this, including comments on Sara’s post, Cubs fans are not reacting well to these revelations. It would be good for neither the team nor the player for him to stay in Chicago.
Because the Cubs tendered Russell a contract and he is arbitration-eligible, they can’t cut him until a contract figure is agreed to. It will, then, wind up costing the Cubs money unless they can work out a trade with someone willing to take on the contract and perhaps send back a minor prospect in return.
At Hardball Talk, Craig Calcaterra summarizes the revelations and reaches these conclusions:
The league has acted. Now the questions are (a) did Major League Baseball have all of the facts when they acted; (b) if so, was 40 games a big enough penalty; and (c) why are the Cubs sticking with such a terrible human being when they are under no obligation to do so?
Another question: why should any Cubs fan continue to support the team as long as person like that is employed by them? They’re under no obligation to do so either, you know.
I can’t disagree with any of that. The Cubs would already, by the 29 games remaining on Russell’s suspension, be without him for about 18 percent of the 2019 season, if they kept him. Instead, they should go ahead and sign Troy Tulowitzki to back up shortstop — they’ve already got a passel of second basemen in Ben Zobrist, Daniel Descalso and David Bote — and do whatever they need to in order to not have Addison Russell on their 2019 roster.
It’s a shame. It didn’t have to be this way, but Russell’s behavior, I think, mandates this move by Theo Epstein’s front office, and the sooner the better.