I generally like to focus on numbers. Stats are how I fell in love with the game of baseball in the first place, and when I’m looking for inspiration for something to write about a quick perusal of Fangraphs or Baseball Reference usually does the trick. Numbers are also generally pretty straight forward. I mean, we can and do argue about whether certain sample sizes are lucky or sustainable, but they are numbers. A 136 wRC+ means something tangible as does a sub 2.00 FIP.
Today, I’m going to let everyone else write about numbers.
Addison Russell was non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs Monday night and there are already a few dozen pieces about the numerical reasons for that decision. There are a lot of them: falling offensive performance and a rising contract primarily among them. I encourage fans to read those pieces and argue about those numbers, particularly since Theo Epstein’s statement makes it pretty clear that the Cubs decision to not tender Russell a contract came down to numbers:
We decided to non-tender Addison Russell today simply because the role we expected him to play for the 2020 Cubs was inconsistent with how he would have been treated in the salary arbitration process,
But only about a fifth of Epstein’s statement was about the crux of the decision. The other 80 percent focused on Russell’s obligations, character and the Cubs organizational stance towards domestic violence. So, rather than look at the numbers I want to take a few minutes to look at the decision to not tender Russell a contract from my perspective as a person, a writer and as a fan.
I’ve been pretty transparent about how I feel about Addison Russell’s spot on the Cubs roster for over a year now, but in case you’re stumbling on my writing for the first time today I’ll be clear: I wish the Cubs had made this decision a year ago. However, Monday as I sat at my desk waiting to hear this news, watching the clock move slower and slower towards the deadline and reading the rumors that Russell might be offered a contract on Twitter before the non-tender was finally announced, I couldn’t help but think about the emotional toll this process has taken on some fans. It wasn’t a huge leap of logic to wonder how much greater that toll has been on his teammates, his family, his exes, and his children.
Addison Russell was suspended for 40 games for domestic violence and everything about that is fraught. For survivors of domestic violence, reading Melisa Reidy’s accounts of their relationship could be traumatic. For some fans of the game his actions cast a pall over every play he made on a baseball field. For over a year now commenters on this site have had to walk on eggshells hoping they wouldn’t spark a fight on every side of this issue.
Ironically, that’s part of why domestic violence is so damaging in the first place. It takes something that is supposed to be a refuge and turns it into a high wire act. Speaking only from my personal experience, that constant guessing game of what can be said to keep the peace or avoid rage is exhausting, hard to unlearn and downright debilitating.
At about 3:30 on Monday afternoon I walked to run an errand and tried to figure out why I felt terrible and my mood was so on edge before realizing that it was this story, again. This is the 15th story I’ve written about Russell’s suspension for abusing his ex-wife. The 15th time I’ve taken a tremendously personal part of myself and tried to protect it while I waited for news I’d need to process and react to as objectively as possible. The 15th time I’ve braced myself for the comments here, on Twitter and elsewhere.
That’s also when I decided not to be objective on this subject in this piece, regardless of the outcome. Because this is not even remotely close to being about me. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that one in four women and one in seven men have been the victim of intimate partner violence. That means there are millions of Cubs fans who struggled to come to terms with this saga. Some probably walked away, most seem to have stuck it out. Some made donations to different charities, many tried to keep the peace.
I’ll speak only for myself when I say that I’ve rarely been as relieved as I was shortly after 5:47 p.m. Monday when I read Gordon Wittenmyer’s tweet that Russell had been non-tendered. The knowledge that this story wouldn’t be yet another attempt to reconcile something I love with something painful was palpable.
Baseball was my refuge during one of the hardest times in my life. Despite my periodic assertions on Twitter, I am well aware that baseball, the people who play it and the people who run it are not perfect. But I wanted to take a moment and speak from the perspective of Cubs fans who can breathe a little easier today.
Al will have his own thoughts on the non-tender of Addison Russell coming up at 10:30 a.m. CT.