Cubs Admit They Don't Truly Know Russell

Addison Russell has been accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife.

Chris Emma
September 21, 2018 - 3:20 pm
Cubs shortstop Addison Russell

Brett Davis/USA Today Sports

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon has daily conversations with shortstop Addison Russell, discussing how the latter can improve his hitting and maintain a high level of defense. They review TV shows like Westworld, and Maddon even recommended a Stephen King book to the 24-year-old Russell.

Those are all meetings between manager and player at the ballpark and the extent to which Maddon truly knows Russell. They prepare for their work each day, play a ballgame and then go their separate ways after the final out. 

"As a baseball player, I know him," Maddon said.

As of early Friday afternoon, Maddon hadn't yet read the blog post by Melisa Reidy-Russell, the ex-wife of Russell who accused him of physical, emotional and verbal abuse in a marriage that has since ended. In light of that news breaking Friday, Major League Baseball placed Russell on administrative leave ahead of the Cubs' game against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met with Russell in the morning at the Wrigley Field office and informed him of the situation. Russell stood by his denial of committing domestic abuse, as he also did when the allegations first came to light in June 2017 in a comment by a friend of Reidy-Russell's in a social media post.

Ricketts, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer held a meeting in Maddon's office Friday morning in the visiting clubhouse of Guaranteed Rate Field, then gathered the players to explain the situation. They were asked to listen and understand the details of a teammate whom many don't know away from the clubhouse.

The Cubs are deferring to the ongoing investigation of MLB, which started back in June 2017 when the allegations initially surfaced. As part of the collective bargaining agreement, the team is prohibited from investigating or disciplining Russell during the league's probe.

One of the most important presences in the Cubs clubhouse, first baseman Anthony Rizzo referenced the team first learning of allegations against Russell back in 2017. It was then that Rizzo said of Russell, "I love him here, but I don't know what's going on outside of this (clubhouse)."

Bernstein: Disturbing day for the Cubs

When he joined the Cubs in the fall of 2011, Epstein began constructing an organization that he believed would be rich in talent and character. He took pride in the ability to assess the human in addition to the ballplayer. 

While the Cubs have more of a grasp of the off-field life of some players living a more public life, Russell has always conducted himself in a more private manner. There had been questions to Russell's commitment and to the balance of his professional and personal life even before the investigation was ongoing, but the Cubs have attempted to work with Russell along the way. 

Epstein took a cautious tone when asked about Russell's character.

"I would say that I know him in a baseball context," he answered. "And that I think one thing that we've learned as a society as we collectively try to wrestle with balancing or trying to deal 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 that you don't necessarily know them fully.

"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 allegations."

The Cubs acquired Russell as the headlining prospect in a trade with the Oakland A's on July 4, 2014, sending away veteran pitchers in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Russell was drafted 11th overall in the 2012 amateur draft and made his big league debut in April 2015 with a Cubs team that would win 97 games and reach the National League Championship Series that season.

Russell arrived with the Cubs carrying similar hopes to those of fellow prospects in Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, all of whom made the team a contender with rookie success. Russell was an All-Star with the Cubs in 2016 but has since struggled to find consistency on the field. Still, Maddon suggested the 24-year-old Russell would be a more complete player by the age of 25, and Rizzo once predicted Russell would be the Cubs' first MVP of their core.

Neither Ricketts nor Epstein would comment on Russell's future with the Cubs, deferring to the need for MLB's investigation to first reveal its findings. It's an investigation the team was aware had still been ongoing and said it will continue to support. MLB said in its statement that Reidy-Russell had declined to be interviewed at the time. 

So the Cubs will continue to monitor MLB's investigation and assist as they can while playing out the final 10 games of the regular season. Their on-field focus is on clinching the NL Central and the postseason that lies ahead.

The Cubs are going about their baseball business while still in the dark about Russell, a teammate they truly don't know.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​​