CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs entered Wednesday, winners of four consecutive games and looking to complete their second series sweep of the current home-stand, one that they were hoping would be a righting of the ship of shorts after a turbulent first two months of the 2017 campaign.
Not only did the Cubs drop the series finale to the visiting Miami Marlins on Wednesday evening, but something much bigger was brewing away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Melisa Russel, the wife of Cubs’ shortstop Addison Russell took to Instagram, indirectly alleging that Addison was guilty of infidelity in their marriage. After some Cubs fans came to the young shortstops defense, calling Melisa things like “petty” and “hurtful” a close friend of the couple struck back by alleging that Melisa Russell was the victim of Domestic Violence in a comment on the Instagram post from Wednesday evening,
“Hateful is cheating on your wife, mentally and physically abusing her,” Reed wrote. “Melisa didn’t want that out but I’ll say it. He hit her. In front of (kids) Aiden and Mila.”
Before I go any further let me say one thing to Cubs fans and fans of any sports franchise in general, social media gives us unparalleled access into the lives of the people that we love to root for, but to involve yourself in this young woman’s Instagram post about something she is experiencing with her husband, and too defend a man that you do not actually know in person, to the degree that you are making rude and disparaging remarks about the young woman, is absolutely freaking ridiculous. Players and the family of those players allow you to follow them and interact with them on social media as a courtesy because they appreciate their fans, that doesn’t for one second make you their friend or give you the right to insert yourself into their personal lives uninvited.
Alright, back to the important issues at hand here, after the claim was made Wednesday evening by the close friend of the couple, it spread like wildfire across social media and right into the front office’s of both the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball.
Addison Russell released the following statement through the Chicago Cubs early on Thursday morning.
“Any allegation I have abused my wife is false and hurtful,” said Russell, the father of two. “For the well-being of my family, I’ll have no further comment.”
-Chicago Cubs Shortstop, Addison Russell
A quick, and adamant response by Russell denying the allegations was followed up by this statement from the Chicago Cubs on the matter.
“Last night, we were made aware of a serious claim posted on social media about Addison Russell. We reached out to Major League Baseball and, following the protocol established by MLB, will fully cooperate with the Commissioner’s Office as it gathers pertinent facts. Addison will not be in uniform tonight to allow him to work through this matter.”
-Chicago Cubs Official Press Release
To say the least, Thursday was not a great day for the Cubs, starting with the Russell allegations, followed by starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks being placed on the 10-day disabled list, Brett Anderson being transferred to the 60-day disabled list, and then a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
A loss that did not include Addison Russell, who was advised by the club not to report to the ballpark on Thursday.
After the teams loss to the Rockies, the questions surrounding Addison Russell were in full effect during the post-game press conference at the podium as well as inside the clubhouse. Some chose to say nothing, like Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward who almost immediately shouted “baseball questions only” to the members of the media while standing in front of his locker.
Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein touched on the matter at the podium, looking visibly uncomfortable while elaborating on the topic Epstein had this to say about the process that lies in front of the young shortstop in the coming days and weeks,
“It’s honestly at such an early stage that I don’t think it would be appropriate to do anything other than say we’re going to let it develop and act as appropriately as we can,” Epstein said. “We care about all the parties involved. Making any judgment would be inappropriate.”
Epstein actually spoke on the matter for about 10 minutes, but that was the main point that he tried to convey to the media late Thursday evening. Epstein would not call Russell’s team ordered absence a suspension last night, rather time for Russell “to work through the matter.”
It’s worth noting that under Major League Baseball’s new Domestic Violence policy, the Commissioner can levy discipline against an accused player even in the absence of legal proceedings.
Kris Bryant called the situation “a tough one” after the game, and some teammates such as Albert Almora, Jr. claimed that they weren’t aware of the allegations until they arrived at the ballpark prior to the game and refused to comment on the situation.
Cubs first-baseman Anthony Rizzo had this to say about the Russell allegations,
“You just want to find out what’s going on,” Rizzo said. “I love (Russell) here, but I don’t know what’s going on outside of this clubhouse.”
The Cubs are taking the right approach to a sticky situation this time around. The ordered leave of absence while the club and Major League Baseball conduct their investigation was the right thing to do, if for no other reason than to remove a non-baseball distraction from the clubhouse as best they can.
The front-office and players were hesitant to convict Russell of anything until the situation plays out further and all of the facts are known. But even while remaining on the fence in regards to their feelings about Russell and the allegations, never was the seriousness of the matter taken lightly.
No word yet from Major League Baseball on how long the process may take, and no word from the Cubs in regards to how long Russell will be instructed not to report to work at this point.