Addison Russell can’t be in a Cubs uniform anymore. He just can’t be.
The blog post is out there, full of ugliness, and it will never go away. In it, his ex-wife accuses him of domestic abuse. Of emotionally and physically abusing her. Of doing it in front of their son. This after a friend of hers first raised the issue on social media more than a year ago.
I’m sure others can come up with reasons why a woman would make up a story like this. I can Google “domestic violence” and come up with millions of women who have been abused by men. If that’s a bias, then call me biased.
If you believed that the Cubs shortstop weren’t guilty of what Melisa Reidy is accusing him of, wouldn’t you find some way to defend him? In even the slightest way? But there was none of that Friday out of the Cubs.
Not after accusations like this:
“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,’’ she wrote. “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 the 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.”
Major League Baseball, which had been investigating the matter since the initial allegations came out more than a year ago, put Russell on administrative leave. You’re not likely to see him the rest of the season, and it’ll be an upset if you see him back with the Cubs.
Unfair? You say Russell is innocent until proven guilty? In a court of law, yes. But this isn’t a courtroom, and the Cubs can do what they want with him. The cloud that will follow him, especially in the #MeToo era, will follow the club, too.
You could almost hear team officials distancing themselves from their shortstop Friday.
Suddenly, nobody knew anything about Russell or what goes on in his personal life.
Not manager Joe Maddon, who is perceived as the ultimate players’ manager. Not team president Theo Epstein.
“Addy and I have conversations every day,’’ Maddon said before the Cubs-White Sox game. “We talk a lot about his hitting. His defense has been outstanding. My conversations have been primarily about that. I thought his baserunning has improved this year. . . . In the past, I’ve encouraged him to read books, and we’ve talked about different TV shows. . . . He’s into ‘Westworld,’ and I tried to get him to read a book by Stephen King a couple of years ago.’’
But the initial domestic-abuse allegations against Russell? Maddon said the two hadn’t discussed that at all. Nor had he talked with Russell since Russell’s ex-wife wrote her blog post. Didn’t know a thing about any of it, he said.
At a news conference, Epstein sounded as if he were in a courtroom, possibly because I asked him what he would say if asked to be a character witness for Russell.
“I would say that I know him in a baseball context,’’ Epstein said. “I think one thing that we’ve learned in society as we try to collectively 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, 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 beyond this, except to say that we certainly are concerned about the accusations.”
So far, this is very much a he said/she said situation. But let’s get several things straight.
It doesn’t matter that Russell’s ex-wife decided to go public with her allegations, rather than directly to MLB. It only matters that she came forward.
It doesn’t matter that the allegations came out via social media. It just matters that they came out.
It doesn’t matter that she decided to make her allegations the night before the Cubs-Sox series and less than two weeks before the playoffs begin, when the lights are bright. It only matters that she did.
The latest allegations aren’t stunning, though, simply because we had a taste of them more than a year ago. But the blog post adds more unpleasantness. Russell’s boyish face doesn’t look quite so boyish anymore, does it?
At a minimum, the potential public-relations hit is one of the reasons the Cubs will be done with Russell. Another factor, as crass as it might be, is that they realize his value as a player has dropped precipitously the last several years. His power numbers have gone off a cliff. Is that a result of the stress of the investigation? No one can say.
Speaking of no one saying anything, back to Maddon, who came across as tone-deaf in front of reporters.
Did he read the blog post?
“I did not,’’ he said.
“I don’t know, should I?’’ he said. “Again, the process is in the hands of MLB and the players’ union and the player and his former wife. There’s really nothing I can do. There’s nothing I’m capable of doing. It’s outside of our control, our hands. Processes and mechanisms are put in place for a reason. It does not need my interference right now.’’
So say goodbye to Russell, someone no one knows — or ever knew.