On the first day of spring training for the Chicago Cubs, embattled shortstop Addison Russell remained front and center. Not literally — only pitchers and catchers are in camp right now, but the presence of Russell loomed large, as Cubs leaders were once again defending their decision to stick with the suspended shortstop.
Russell, 25, is under league discipline until May 3 for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy. His ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, has accused Russell of physical and mental abuse, with more and more details coming out during the offseason. The Cubs had a chance to cut ties with Russell in November by not tendering him a contract, but they opted to keep Russell and were met with plenty of outrage from fans.
At the time of the decision, the Cubs talked about wanting to help Russell become a better person. Now, that’s still their tune — but in their introductory news conference Tuesday, the tone was also quite clear about this: Russell is on thin ice.
Team president Theo Epstein made it clear at two different points that Russell’s return is not a sure thing and he has to earn a chance to play for the team again.
Here’s one, via ESPN:
“I can pledge to those people, we are taking this on earnestly, that’s it’s important to us, that they’re not just words, they are actions,” Epstein said. “We’ll continue to hold Addison to an incredibly high standard or he won’t play a regular-season game as a Chicago Cub ever again.”
And here’s another:
“We’re probably in the bottom of the second inning,” Epstein said regarding the issue. “We still have a long way to go. Addison is well aware he’s been given a conditional second chance by this organization.”
The Russell saga is now entering its third season. Allegations against Russell first surfaced in 2017, in an Instagram post by one of Reidy’s friends. At the time, she wasn’t ready to cooperate with an MLB investigation. Last season, she was, and further details of Russell’s abuse came to light from a very personal blog post about her relationship.
Russell was put on the league’s restricted list and eventually suspended 40 games. At the time, he admitted wrongdoing and apologized. Even more details came out in December when Reidy did an interview with The Expanded Roster. That came out after the Cubs’ decision to keep Russell.
In the aftermath of all this, the Cubs have also pledged to further their in-house education related to domestic violence, as Epstein announced Tuesday that the club will be making all employees participate in a “rigorous” training program.
“We’ve taken this plague of domestic violence to heart,” team president Theo Epstein said Tuesday from spring training. “We’ve really stepped up and enhanced our training. By the time spring training is over, every single employee in the organization will have gone through enhanced domestic violence training. Every major league player, every major league coach, every major league staff member. Every minor league player, every minor league staff member [and] every member of the front office will have gone through a pretty rigorous domestic violence training program to increase education and awareness.”
Finally, it sounds like something good has come from the Addison Russell saga.
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