Cubs shortstop Addison Russell isn’t expected to play again this season as Major League Baseball renews its investigation into domestic-violence accusations in the wake of a blog post this week by his ex-wife.
Whether Russell ever plays again for the Cubs is at least in doubt after he was put on paid administrative leave with 10 days left in the season, pending the outcome of an investigation that remained open since initial allegations by a friend of Melisa Reidy’s on an Instagram account 15 months ago.
Reidy revealed her story publicly for the first time in the lengthy post, outlining emotional, verbal and physical abuse, including a reference to physical abuse in front of their son.
Chairman Tom Ricketts and team president Theo Epstein met with Russell on Friday morning and later held a clubhouse meeting. After that, they met with media.
“Last year, this was a third-party accusation on social media, and now this is a direct accusation from the accuser, from the potential victim,” said Epstein, who would not discuss the possible future of Russell with the organization. “The situation has changed.”
Under baseball’s third-year domestic violence policy, the administrative leave has a seven-day maximum term, with a provision that allows MLB to request an additional seven days if the process continues beyond that.
The investigation last year stalled for more than a year because neither Russell’s ex-wife nor her friend were willing to cooperate with league investigators. That seems to have changed with the blog post, which was posted three weeks after their divorce was finalized.
“Late last night before I went to bed, I saw the post, and I immediately reached out to the league’s investigative body to ask if they could verify any of what was in the post because it was so disturbing,” Epstein said. “This morning, Tom and I were on the phone with the commissioner and the league office, and they told us they were considering putting Addison on administrative leave. … We concurred that that was appropriate in the situation.”
Russell has denied the accusations since the Instagram post in June, and he did so again Friday morning, Epstein said.
In a statement released Friday night by the players’ union, Russell said: “These allegations are completely false. I made that clear to Major League Baseball last year and reiterated it to the Cubs today. I’m confident any full and fair investigation will fully exonerate me. The protection of my children is foremost in my mind, so I will have no further comment.”
It’s possible Russell won’t play another game for the Cubs.
“Then he’s not going to play another game for anybody,” said a high-ranking official from a rival team.
That might be an extreme reaction, but it speaks at least to the gravity of the issue, if not Russell’s sinking overall value on the field, as well.
Russell, who was shopped in multiple trade scenarios last winter, is entering his second winter of arbitration eligibility, when, under normal circumstances, he could expect a raise from his $3.2 million salary this year to more than
Already in an offensive decline since early in the season and with recurring shoulder soreness, Russell’s trade value might be at its lowest point, even before considering the potential outcome of the MLB investigation.
MLB’s domestic-violence policy has resulted in eight suspensions since it was instituted in 2016, including a 30-day suspension that year of one-time Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman and the more recent high-profile suspension for 75 games of then-Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna (now with the “zero-tolerance” Astros).
Two more were investigated under the policy but not disciplined.
The length of any suspension is solely at the commissioner’s discretion, with an arbitration process available to resolve disputes.
The policy does not require legal action for baseball to penalize a player.
“Obviously, we take it very, very serious. It’s something that we’re very concerned about,” Ricketts said. “I can’t get into speculating on what will or won’t happen over the next few weeks. I’ll just reiterate the fact that we respect the process and we hope the process moves quickly so that we can get to the right answer and that everyone feels like it was a fair process with a just outcome.”
A records search by the Sun-Times last year in both Chicago and Russell’s hometown of Pensacola, Florida, revealed no police activity or legal action involving the couple.
When asked what he knows about Russell’s character, Epstein said: “I would say that I know him in a baseball context. I think one thing that we’ve learned in society as we collectively try to wrestle with … how to appropriately handle accusations like this is that it’s important to step back and realize that if you know someone in one context you don’t necessarily know them fully.”
“And that said,” Epstein added, “he’s a member of this organization, who has been an active member of this club. His dealings with us have been certainly on the up and up. And I can’t speculate as to things that occur to things beyond this, except to say that we certainly are concerned about the accusations.”
Excerpts from the post by Russell’s ex-wife, Melisa:
— “The first time I was physicallymistreated by my spouse, I was in shock. I couldn’t wrap my head around what just happened…Why did he get so angry? What did I do for him to want to put his hands on me? Of course I forgave him & assumed it would never happen again.”
— “I saw a darkness in him I’ve never seen or experienced in him or anyone else.”
–“When it began to set in for him that I was really serious about not wanting this marriage anymore, he just about lost his mind. It came in waves of sincere apologies, to lashing out when I would stand my ground and not fall for his empty promises about changing & being a better husband and father. This went on for about 3 weeks.”
–“I returned for a visit so my son could see his father, also in hopes that maybe, just maybe I’d see a change in my husband. But, as I expected our visit was a nightmare, I swore to myself it would be the last time he’d lay his hands on me & it would be that last time I’d let my son be a witness to it. A week after flying home, I finally made the call and took legal action to start our separation.”