In early October of last year, MLB announced Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell had been suspended for 40 games after an investigation into allegations Russell’s wife, Melisa Reidy, had been the victim of domestic abuse. Reidy filed no charges, but cooperated with the league’s investigation and filed for divorce from Russell. Shortly afterwards, he apologized for the incident in question and accepted his suspension without appeal.
The situation has largely disappeared from the public eye until April 23, when well-known baseball columnist Bob Nightengale wrote a profile of Russell’s journey from the suspension to today. Nightengale fell under fire around the internet for the piece, which many believed set Russell up as a fallen hero rising from the ashes, with barely a mention of why he fell in the first place.
On April 28, Sheryl Ring of Fangraphs accused the Cubs of “making a concerted effort to control the narrative” surrounding Russell in a pair of tweets, seen below.
Another writer, Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus, confirmed that he had heard the same in a reply tweet.
The Big Lead reached out to the Cubs for comment on Ring’s accusations, but received no response.
The organization does not come off well in this situation, to say the least. They’ve dropped the ball on handling Russell’s situation appropriately already, letting Russell walk up to the plate to the tune of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ in early 2018 after the allegations came out in late 2017. Joe Maddon said last September that he hadn’t even read any of the allegations against Russell after the investigation began and Russell was out of the lineup. Chicago could have cut ties with Russell over the offseason at no cost, but chose to tender his contract and keep him with the team for at least one more season. This all comes after the Aroldis Chapman situation, where he was accused of, then served a suspension for, domestic violence in 2015-16 before the Cubs traded for him that season.
Any attempts by a sports franchise to control a narrative by threatening reporters are low, but if the accusations are true and the Cubs are trying to take the heat off Russell, a domestic abuser, it’s downright despicable. Russell made his bed and should have to lie in it. If the Cubs don’t like how that reflects on their organization, they shouldn’t be employing him, even if he does happen to be good at baseball.
It’s as simple as that.