CHICAGO – Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is not at this weekend’s team convention because of his domestic violence suspension.
But team president Theo Epstein was more than willing to address the Russell situation in the wake of the Cubs tendering him a nonguaranteed contract and agreeing to terms.
“We decided after a lot of thought to give him a second chance,” said Epstein, referring to Russell being suspended 40 games for violating Major League Baseball’s policy after allegations of abuse by his former wife. “Collectively and individually, our initial reaction after the suspension was, because domestic violence is so clearly unacceptable as a behavior or pattern of behavior, because it’s such a plague on society, our initial reaction was to move on.
“The more we considered all perspectives and all factors, and the more we dug in, and once we were able to do our own research and investigation, we started to consider some other arguments, as well.”
Epstein listed them.
“This happened on our watch,” he said. “Addison’s been in the organization since he was 20 years old. We were certainly quick to celebrate his triumphs and that separating ourselves from him at his lowest point was maybe not a comprehensive solution. We realized, too, that Addison needed a lot of help, an awful lot of help.
“In talking to many domestic violence experts personally and as an organization, we learned – and it was new to me – that domestic violence experts do not believe in zero tolerance. They do not believe in moving on or termination after the first domestic violence incident. What they do believe in is a second chance, conditionally, if the offender is willing to put the work in and do the difficult work of stabilizing his life and relationships and growing so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Epstein further added that Russell’s former wife, Melissa Reidy, “deserves our support as much if not more than Addison given the circumstances. She was supportive of our decision as long as it was truly a conditional second chance.”
Russell will be able to participate in spring training before he serves the final 29 games of his suspension.
“We’re probably like in the top of the second inning with this story,” Epstein said. “He’s got a ton of work ahead of him, and it may not work. And if it doesn’t, we will move on instantaneously.”