For an organization that, at least on the surface, has so many smart people running it, and in a time where everyone has had an ample sampling of other organizations trying to do so with balloon hands, it’s kind of amazing/startling/wholly disappointing that today’s presser was the best the Cubs could come up with today in response to Melisa Reidy’s blog post today detailing the abuse she suffered at the hands of Addison Russell.
And yet, I shouldn’t be surprised. This is a team that has constantly counted on the calculation, as cold as it is, that things will blow over due to performance on the field and wins in the standings. And for the most part, they’ve been right. That’s what happened with Aroldis Chapman. It’s what basically happened with Daniel Murphy. Hell, it’s what happened with Russell the first time this all came into the light last season. And yet, with each successive occurrence, the Cubs’ response seems to get more ham-handed and lazy.
Everyone stepped in something today that’s going to cause them to throw out their shoes. We can go from the top down. There’s Tom Ricketts, who you’d have to convince me doesn’t have tumbleweeds in his head despite his dad’s money, with the most perfunctory statement you can imagine. To be fair, owners specialize in this kind of thing when their feet getting anywhere near the fire.
“Obviously we take it very, very seriously. It’s something that we’re very concerned about….We respect the process and we hope the process moves quickly so that we can get to the right answer and that everyone feels like it was a fair process with a just outcome.”
You’re going to hear this a lot over the coming days: “We respect the process.” Which is code for, “Don’t look at me I don’t know what to do!” If the Cubs or MLB took this very, very seriously, Russell would have been disciplined last year. That’s more on MLB, as the Cubs can’t really do anything while MLB is still “investigating.” (“Investigating’ being code for “please don’t make this a PR mess oh crap you did…”) The Cubs already knew about it. And you may say a friend’s Instagram post, as it was in 2017, is on the flimsy side. But if you take these things “very, very seriously,” that would be more than enough for you to do more than merely stick your head out of the office door to see which way the wind was blowing. The Cubs didn’t, hoped it would die, and it didn’t.
“The right answer…” The Cubs already know what the right answer is. What they want is MLB to take it out of their hands because they don’t want to discipline/release/launch into space their own player. It’s corporate speak to signify that they’re not going anywhere near a ledge.
So let’s move down the tree a bit to Theo Epstein, who gave us this gem when asked about Russell’s character: “I would say I know him in a baseball context.” If this isn’t the definition of urinating in our ear and telling us it’s raining, you find me a better one.
There is simply no way a front office doesn’t know every little thing about players on their team and the prospects in the system and the ones they’re about to draft. It’s probably just short of analyzing feces. Strange how Theo claims to not know anything when those leaks about Addison’s character came out in the winter and sprinkled throughout the last two seasons, to very Cub-friendly outfits.
Also Theo, remember the third tenet here?
So either I’m supposed to believe Theo Epstein, one of the more thorough front-office members you’ll find anywhere, had no idea this was going on—even after last year’s bubbling of it—or he knew and again, really didn’t do anything about it.
I don’t think Theo is an idiot. As I’ve said before, I also think he has some bro-ish tendencies. The calculation that wins would absolve all is perhaps the biggest, and we’ve seen it time and time again. But this time, he’s not getting away with it.
Of course, the best is always for last, which is manager Joe Maddon, proving once again just because you like to hear yourself talk doesn’t mean you have anything to say. Let’s just let Dan Bernstein sum this one up, because I can’t do any better:
Three times Maddon has said he wants to get all the information, yet he has still not read her story in her words, which is the most significant information at this point.
— Dan Bernstein (@dan_bernstein) September 21, 2018
Whenever these things pop up, and you hear someone—especially if it’s a crusty, old guy—say they want to get all the information and they want to hear both sides before making a decision, it means they’re looking for any way out that causes them to think the victim here is lying. That’s what it means almost 100% of the time. Joe has all the information he needs, because THE BLOG POST IS THE REASON WE’RE ALL DOING THIS. What more do you need to know? Joe is fishing here for something that will make him believe that Melisa is lying. That’s what he’s saying. He’s looking for something to absolve him of turning his head the other way when an abuser was in his clubhouse, either through sheer ignorance or malevolence.
I’ll give the Cubs this half-kudos, if that. Placing Russell on leave will spare us the assured ovation he would have gotten at Wrigley on Monday from the far-too-numerous knuckle-draggers who only care about results on the field and feel their sports are being taken away from them by “SJWs and wimpy girls.” That’s the automatic response, and it would have been more sickening than whatever greeted Josh Hader or Daniel Murphy.
Of course, that’s washed away when the Cubs didn’t tell their players to either utter a “No comment,” when asked about it today before their presser, or something along the lines of, “Russell is my teammate and/or friend, but these are serious/horrible allegations and stories and everyone’s concern should be with Melisa and her son. That’s all I have to say about it right now” Period, done. Yet this seems beyond every sports team for fear of violation of some mythical “locker room code.”
At some point, fandoms will stop settling for this. And I do think we are moving toward that, slowly. It’s more slowly than anyone wants, but it is moving. I don’t know where this ends. Maybe Melisa still doesn’t want to deal with MLB or the Cubs, and that’s her right. Maybe the Cubs cut him. But some team will pick him up, and when he arrives on their field he will most likely get that ovation. Until we stop that, progress will never be finished.
And he’ll get booed here, I’m sure. Not for what he did, but because he’s not a Cub anymore. Different laundry. Some will boo for what he did, what he is. Until everyone does, we have to demand better from everyone.
Lead photo courtesy Jake Roth—USA Today Sports