Chicago Cubs Badly Misreading the Room Part 2: Addison Russell

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addison russell

This upcoming weekend brings Cubs Convention, an annual rite of passage that markets itself as a warm, feel-good celebration of all things baseball in the midst of the cold winter sports dead zone. What the event truly is, when you actually examine it, is a three day long native advertisement for Cubs tickets to the upcoming season.

A native advertisement that costs $125 to get into by the way. Typically, Cubs Con is a chance for more upbeat and positive stories to be produced en masse, but that is certainly not the tone this January. The Cubs fan base is currently pretty upset with the club for two major reasons.

First, there is the club’s complete inactivity in the free agent market, despite the fact that this winter’s marquee name, Bryce Harper, badly wants to come to Chicago (oh, and their division rivals have been strengthening themselves this offseason).

Secondly, there is the team’s granting a $3.4 million, one year extension to the suspended Addison Russell, which we focus on today.

In recent years, the Cubs have made it absolutely clear- you will have to jettison your social conscience in order to remain true Cubbie blue supporters of this team. Their protection of Addison Russell is the latest example. Typically, when you are a sports team and you feel compelled to release official statements that are thousands of words long, in an attempt to explain your decision to retain a controversial player, it’s a signal you could be doing the wrong thing. 

When the Cubs announced, (on a Friday at 5pm of course, the industry standard!) that they would be keeping Addison Russell on board back in early October, they included statements from Theo Epstein and Russell that combined ran multiple pages long. 

joe maddon

Press releases are almost always very terse, so this was an oddity to say the least.

The current regime has made it abundantly clear to you the fan that they do not care one smidgeon what you think or feel regarding the individual human beings outfit in your favorite colors and logo. In their eyes, you will root and clap for anybody.

When current manager Joe Maddon was first acquired from Tampa, the move was denounced as “tampering” (also known as “tapping up”) by many, but that deal was almost sweet and wholesome compared to some of the moves they have made since.

In July of 2016, the Cubs acquired relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who was involved in an alleged domestic violence incident with his girlfriend on October 30th of the previous year.  He was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots.

No charges were filed by the police due to inconsistency in his girlfriend’s re-telling and a lack of physical evidence, but Major League Baseball banned him for 30 games as a result of “Chapman’s use of the firearm and its effect on his partner,” ending May 9, 2016.

aroldis chapman

Down the stretch run of last season, they acquired Daniel Murphy, a slugger who was infamous for past incidences of expressing anti-Gay sentiments, and then under-impressing/coming off as less than sincere when given numerous opportunities to walk those comments back. 

Which brings us to Russell, who completes the “you would absolutely hate this guy if he were on any other team” trifecta. (If you’re reading this, you most likely hated all these guys even when they were wearing fire engine red, white and royal blue)

In his $3.4 million, one-year contract extension he received a relatively modest by baseball standards $200,000 raise. In the real world that’s still a ton of money and its symbolic value is through the roof.

daniel murphy

The Cubs should be taking a clue about the issue of domestic violence, and sever ties immediately.

Instead they went in the opposite direction, doubling down on their investment in a player who is currently serving a 40-game suspension for violation of baseball’s domestic violence policy, following allegations made by his ex-wife Melisa Reidy.

It doesn’t help that the hypothetical adult in the room, Maddon, often whiffs badly when asked to take a real stand on a serious issue in our society. (His responses to Jake Arrieta’s disastrous post 2016 presidential election tweets is a classic example)

Aside from a couple of press release statements, Russell has yet to speak publicly since last fall. In other words, he hasn’t really spoken publicly since his suspension kicked in at all.

Reidy wrote a very stomach-churning and utterly disturbing blog post which detailed years of enduring physical, emotional and psychological abuse. She followed that up with an interview to Expanded Roster last month, which provided further context.

It’s fitting that one of the top trending terms this week is the Gillette ad which addressed, among other pressing societal issues, domestic violence. The reaction it got only further verified how seriously screwed up the kinds of men they’re addressing in this ad truly are; and just how many of them are really out there. 

Overall, the ad has been met with overwhelming support though, and perhaps the Cubs just might realize how most people actually think and feel right now about this topic. And then maybe they’ll take a clue.

Sadly, hearing Melisa Reidy tell her own story did nothing to move them.

Will being in a room filled with thousands of their most die-hard fans this weekend force them in the direction towards doing what’s right?

Doubtful. 

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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