As I’ve said in the past, I don’t know that the easy decision for the Cubs when it comes to Addison Russell–punting him into the nearest trash compactor–was the right one. Nor do I know that this much harder path is the wrong one. Or however you want to lineup those four variables. What seems obvious is that the Cubs and Russell don’t know either, and no one seems to be getting anywhere. And one-half of that equation doesn’t seem interested in finding it anyway.
I still tend to believe Theo Epstein whenever he’s commented on this, but now it’s getting to the point where you wonder if he just doesn’t know what to do or he is outright lying. All of this is spurred again when last night Russell in an interview with the Sun-Times basically expressed that he didn’t think anyone should boo him at Wrigley, and that everyone should prioritize his baseball skills (not that great at this level) and fandom over him being essentially the definition of a scumbag.
The levels of incompetence here staggering, and I’ll try and filter through them if it’s even possible. And Russell trying to walk it back today was clearly after someone in the Cubs’ front office got to him, but it’s too late for that. First, Russell has yet to show any contrition for what he’s done, and his mealy-mouthed and indifferent press conference in Arizona showed that before this. To have no concept of why any fans would be glaring at your return with definite side-eye at best is to be bewilderingly ignorant. It certainly doesn’t express he has any understanding of what he’s done or why he was suspended or why any of this has happened.
And even if Russell is all that, and I tend to believe that he is, then this “training” or “therapy” is meant to change that. Well, it’s been over six months since Russell was suspended, and it’s clear to us that there’s little progress has been made. That doesn’t mean I think Russell’s “process” should be public. I don’t need to know when and where he’s going and who he’s going to see, and that would be illegal anyway. If it’s happening at all. The Cubs have told us that there are steps and a long road to go, and they can’t really define that, but surely this is part of that?
And beyond all that, before Russell is allowed to be interviewed, you’d have to think there would be some bullet points the Cubs themselves would go through with him if only to cover their ass. One of them, and probably at the top, would be not criticizing the fans and at least pretending to understand what they might do. The Cubs got there, but only after Russell had defecated out of his mouth first. It’s someone’s job to know that, but here we have another organization confusing their popularity with their public relations and media skills.
Theo may say as right of things as he can, and even if he is all the way into this and not just hoping he can skate through until Russell is either traded or the Cubs are winning in the fall and everyone’s distracted, he’s not directing anyone else in the organization to help the cause. Julian Green wheel-posed his head into his own ass trying to silence a FanGraphs writer. Russell hasn’t had anything to say that seems like it’s moving forward. Someone let him walk into an interview to spew garbage that has to be walked back. The team should have had a plan too. Doesn’t appear that they did.
Again, our feelings are lower on the totem pole. Melisa and her child are most important, and the Cubs have stressed that. So whether Russell placates the fans is down the list. But his clear bewilderment at being booed shows he’s not really invested in this, or at least gives off that impression. If progress for him was the whole point, where is it?
Whether you believe Theo’s heart is in the right place or not, it’s hard to see where the Cubs have gotten a good deal of this right. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try, because simply admitting they can’t forge a new path on domestic abusers and just letting Russell do whatever isn’t an answer either. But it feels like the only bar the Cubs are asking Russell to clear is that he not punch anyone else.
The most likely answer is that the Cubs did mean well when they tried all this, but we’re unequipped to follow that road. And they were that way partially because they’re dealing with a rock-headed dickbrain who can’t recognize what he’s done, and probably just as bad doesn’t really want to. He just wants to tick the boxes to not deal with it anymore and go back to playing baseball and being a dipshit in peace. And it’s hard to see a path where this gets any better, so maybe it’s time to just say goodbye?