Cubs shortstop Addison Russell

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Bernstein: Happ Sets Example For Discussing Russell

Cubs players are in a tricky position responding to Addison Russell questions.

Dan Bernstein
January 16, 2019 - 2:26 pm
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(670 The Score) The Ricketts family won't be taking questions from fans at the Cubs Convention this weekend, the first time in their ownership that they've declined to take part in what's often an unpredictable and honest exchange.​  

It's possible that this is related to shortstop Addison Russell's 40-game suspension by MLB for a violation of its joint domestic abuse policy and the team opting to tender him a contract and retain his rights. Communication on the subject has been choppy at best, with manager Joe Maddon's insufficient concern for Russell's ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, earning backlash from people both outside and inside the organization.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein chose his words as carefully as ever both when discussing Russell's punishment and the decision to retain him as he works to accept and understand his actions, atone for them and learn how to better behave. Epstein cast his role as one on the right side of something bigger than just one player's situation, saying, "We have chosen to take action to try to become a small part of the solution for Addison, his family, Melisa Reidy and the larger issue of domestic violence prevention."

But keeping Russell as a Cub means they still walk a minefield in discussing the topic, and not everyone has Epstein's celebrated oratorical facility. We learned that Saturday when even someone as smart as Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks faced some criticism for his Russell response in an appearance on "Inside the Clubhouse" on 670 The Score.

"We're all on the same page with it. We're all on board," Hendricks said. "We love Addison. We love Melisa too. Everything that happened is unfortunate. We're just behind him. He's our teammate, and we're backing him."

Some Twitter users pointed out to Hendricks a lack of conditionality in that stance, particularly in contrast with how Epstein made sure to note that the tender offer "does not represent the finish line nor rubber-stamp his future as a Cub" and that the team "will continue to evaluate and verify his progress."

Infielder/outfielder Ian Happ handled a question about Russell appropriately Wednesday, however, during his own appearance on 670 The Score. 

"Addison's got a lot of personal stuff to work on before he's back with us," Happ said. "I think that we're all very aware of that. We're all going to be there to support him if he's taking the proper steps. And that's our job as teammates -- to welcome him back if, in fact, he does everything he needs to be back on the field with us."

That's nicely done by Happ and a strong example of exactly what to say at the annual weekend gathering and as long as the process may continue through spring training and into the season.

One would think the owners could easily say the same, and their choice to avoid facing direct inquiry from Cubs fans regarding that or anything else remains a curious one.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​