Cubs confronted with issue we should be talking about no matter what
One in three women has been a victim of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Can we just start there?
Sorry if that’s unfair to Addison Russell, the young Cubs star who was accused on social media Wednesday of having hit his wife. The post was written by a friend of Melisa Russell, and the 23-year-old shortstop flatly denied the allegation in a written statement, calling it “false and hurtful.”
I didn’t open with that chilling statistic to darken the skies around Russell. I did it to shine a light on a shame of society that — though it has become an issue of increasing significance within the sports realm — still isn’t openly discussed enough.
Also, with a story like this one, it’s really hard to know what else of significance there is to say.
A clubhouse full of baseball players didn’t really know what to say, either, which didn’t stop reporters from digging for answers.
“I don’t know enough about it,” Kris Bryant said. “I try to stay out of teammates’ personal lives.”
“I don’t know what’s going on outside of this [clubhouse],” Anthony Rizzo said.
“We’re a family,” Albert Almora Jr. offered, “and we don’t know what’s going on.”
Here’s something that’s going on: Nationwide, more than 20,000 calls are being made to domestic-violence hotlines on a typical day. This seems as good a spot as any to mention that.
But back to the Cubs, some of whom wouldn’t engage on the topic of Russell at all.
“I’ve got nothing for you right now,” Jason Heyward said.
“I’ll talk baseball with you,” Kyle Schwarber said, “but I’m not really going to go out in the public side right now.”
That’s OK. Frankly, I was less impressed by what Russell’s teammates said than by what they didn’t say. No one leapt to his defense. No one said, “He’s a great guy who’d never do such a thing.” An allegation about a serious issue — domestic violence — was treated with more respect than that.
There are those who would charge the Cubs with being utterly tone-deaf on the issue, given their acquisition last season of Aroldis Chapman, who’d served a 30-game suspension after a domestic-violence investigation. It’s not hard to see why anyone would feel that way. Yet the organization came off better than that on Thursday.
“It’s important to watch our words and be respectful,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said, “especially in a situation like this where we care about all the people involved.”
Given our current political climate — and, in the media, the comical, obscene rush to form instant, definitive opinions on everything — it seems almost unnatural, or a dereliction of duty, to go slow and exercise patience on this Russell controversy. Yet that’s what I’m going to try to do.
I’ll also point out that 15 percent of violent crimes in this country are acts of domestic violence.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said something Thursday that really struck me as wise.
“I don’t react [immediately] because I don’t know anything,” he said. “I like to believe I listen without judging. I try not to jump to conclusions. In a situation like this, where it’s very easy to be accusatory, I choose not to be. I choose to listen and don’t make up my mind about anything until I’ve gathered all the facts. That’s where I’m at with this. I don’t know enough to know one way or another how I feel about it.”
That suits me in this case, too. Russell says he won’t comment further on the matter, but if and when he does, he deserves to be listened to. And, certainly, any person claiming to be a victim of domestic violence must be listened to.
Domestic violence never isn’t bigger than he-said, she-said because there never isn’t a sea of victims out there. It’s sad and it’s terrible. By the way, women from the ages of 18-24 are the most vulnerable. It’s just another stat I thought I’d share.
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.