Cubs GM: Giving second chance to Addison Russell 'was the right thing to do'

ByJesse Rogers via ESPN logo
Saturday, January 19, 2019
ESPN

CHICAGO -- Cubs ownership on Thursday reasserted its stance that having suspended shortstop Addison Russell under contract for 2019 is not an endorsement of his having violated the league's domestic abuse policy, but rather is the right thing to do for all parties.

"The fact that we have decided -- after talking to lots of experts, after talking to Addison multiple times, talking to the league -- that we'd rather support him through the process than just cut him and let him go, that doesn't mean it's in conflict with support for victims of domestic violence," owner Tom Ricketts said on ESPN 1000. "I think that it's not an easy decision and not a decision that anyone takes lightly."

Ricketts spoke publicly on the matter for the first time since signing Russell -- who was suspended for 40 games last September when his actions came to light via his ex-wife -- to a $3.4 million contract for 2019. He won't be eligible to play until May, and the terms of his contract are well below what he would have received if he was in good standing with the league and the club.

Nevertheless, some fans have been vocal in their opposition to Russell ever wearing a Cubs uniform again.

"We knew that it would be unpopular in some ways," general manager Jed Hoyer told ESPN 1000. "People have a visceral reaction to reading about what happened. So did we. The more that we worked and talked to experts and worked through it ... we felt like having a conditional second chance was the right thing to do. It was recommended by experts."

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday that Russell is getting a "conditional second chance."

"We are going to take it one day at a time,'' Epstein said. "If he continues to meet the high standards we've laid out for him, put the work in, he will be eligible to return to the Cubs after serving his full suspension.''

Independent domestic abuse experts interviewed by ESPN also agreed a second chance was warranted if Russell was following through with counseling and therapy. The Cubs also expressed concern for his ex-wife and have stayed in contact with her throughout the process.

"It's something that every team has to decide for themselves, but I do give a lot of credit to Major League Baseball for having good protocols and policies on this," Ricketts stated. "There was a process for him. He's already begun doing some of the things that the league requests, and he's doing things beyond what the league requests. So, we'll see where it goes.

"I think he knows the gravity of the situation. I think he knows what he has to do. Let's just hope that he follows through on promises he made to himself and the promises he made to the team."

The Cubs can cut Russell for one-sixth of his salary or he could be traded, even while under suspension. He won't attend the annual fan convention this weekend, but he is slated to be with the team for spring training next month.

Manager Joe Maddon recently spoke with Russell and indicated he's on the right path.

"He seems to be in a good place," Maddon said. "He's really working to get things behind him and make sure he does and says the right things moving forward. It's a maturation process on his part."