Addison Russell placed on leave; Cub denies ex-wife's domestic violence claims
The Chicago Cubs held a closed-door team meeting in their clubhouse Friday, but it had nothing to do with baseball or their series against their crosstown rivals, the White Sox.
Team Chairman Tom Ricketts, President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer led the meeting to discuss shortstop Addison Russell being placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball in the wake of allegations of years of domestic violence made by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy.
Epstein said he and Ricketts called Russell into their Wrigley Field offices Friday morning to inform him of the disciplinary action.
"Obviously, we take it very, very seriously," Ricketts said during a news conference at Guaranteed Rate Field. "It's something we're very concerned about. There's a process established for this, and we intend to cooperate with the process and let the league do their job."
Russell denied the allegations in a statement released through the MLB Players Association Friday night.
"These allegations are completely false," Russell said in the statement. "I made that clear to Major League Baseball last year and reiterated it to the Cubs today. I'm confident any full and fair investigation will fully exonerate me. The protection of my children is foremost in my mind so I will have no further comment."
Last year, Reidy posted a photo on her Instagram account with a caption suggesting her husband of about 18 months had been unfaithful to her. In another post, a user -- described by Melisa as a close friend -- made the accusation that Russell had "hit" his wife. The post was later deleted, and Russell denied the allegation. The two were divorced Aug. 30, according to court records in Escambia County, Florida.
Late Thursday, a blog post attributed to Reidy contained more detailed allegations, including years of physical and emotional abuse.
Less than 12 hours later, MLB announced Russell's leave in accordance with the MLB-MLB Players Association domestic violence policy.
"The first time I was physically mistreated by my spouse, I was in shock," the blog post reads. "I couldn't wrap my head around what just happened. … Why did he get so angry? What did I do for him to want to put his hands on me? Of course I forgave him & assumed it would never happen again. I just thought he had let his emotions get the best of him, he loves me and he's sorry.
"I was deeply hurt that he could even be capable of this behavior toward me, I couldn't understand how the man I was so in love with, the FATHER of my child, the man I married just a few months ago could show such aggression toward me. … I simply could not wrap my head around it, it tore me apart. As much as I tried to pretend it never happened, I noticed myself avoiding making him angry in any way in fear of it happening again. I saw a darkness in him I've never seen or experienced in him or anyone else."
Last year, Russell steadfastly refused to talk about what he said were personal matters.
Epstein said he became aware of Reidy's blog post late Thursday night.
"Surprised, yes, certainly, late (Thursday) night, before I went to bed I saw the post," he said. "I immediately reached out to the league's investigative body to ask if they would verify any of what was in the post because it was so disturbing. We were in touch with them (Friday) morning.
"Tom (Ricketts) and I were on the phone with the commissioner (Rob Manfred) and the league office. They told us they were considering placing Addison on administrative leave, which is an intermediate step built into the domestic violence policy. We concurred that that was appropriate under the situation."
Epstein and manager Joe Maddon repeated that they would let the process play out. Under the MLB policy, administrative leave is up to seven days, but Epstein said "there is a process by which the league can request an extension of up to another seven days. There is protocol between the league and the (players) association to deal with the length of the administrative leave." Epstein would not comment on Russell's immediate or long-term future with the Cubs once the current matter is settled with MLB.
He said Russell denied doing what he had been accused of by his ex-wife.
Russell, an all-star in 2016 and a key member of the team's world championship team of that season, is batting .250 with 5 home runs and 38 RBI this season. The Cubs are trying to clinch the National League Central and go to the postseason for a fourth straight season.
Epstein said there were more important concerns than that when it came to the Russell situation.
"Anytime there are accusations of this nature, they have to be taken very seriously," he said. "Timing or inconvenience doesn't play into it. All parties have an obligation to get to a just and fair resolution. If that includes discipline, if appropriate, so be it. If it doesn't, then so be it.
"The important thing here is that justice and fairness is ultimately found. Timing is not ideal, but it doesn't matter. What matters is getting to a just an fair resolution, in our opinion. So we're supportive of the league's step."
The Cubs have prided themselves on bringing "character players" into the organization. They took heat in 2016 when they traded for closer Aroldis Chapman, who had been suspended 30 days that year while with the Yankees under the domestic violence policy.
When asked about Russell's character on Friday, Epstein said he knows Russell in only one sense.
"I would say that I know him in a baseball context," he said. "I think one thing that we've learned as a society is we collectively try to wrestle with balancing, to try do deal with how to appropriately handle accusations like this. It's important to step back and realize that if you know someone in one context you don't necessarily know them fully.
"That said, he's a member of this organization who has been an active member of this club. His dealings with us have certainly been on the up and up. I can't speculate on things that occurred beyond this except to say that we are concerned about the allegations."
• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.