Joe Maddon’s message to Addison Russell as Cubs deal with fallout from domestic-violence allegations

Joe Maddon’s message to Addison Russell as Cubs deal with fallout from domestic-violence allegations

Cubs manager Joe Maddon went into listening mode on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field when team president Theo Epstein sat down with All-Star shortstop Addison Russell to discuss a situation that had exploded on social media.

“I don’t react, because I don’t know anything yet,” Maddon said Thursday after Russell released a statement through the team that denied any allegation he abused his wife, Melisa, who accused him of infidelity in an Instagram post. “I’m really a person who likes to believe I listen without judgment. I try not to jump to conclusions.

“In a situation like this where it’s very easy to be accusatory, I choose not to be. I choose to listen. And I don’t make up my mind about anything until I’ve gathered all the facts.

“So that’s where I’m at with this – I don’t know enough to know one way or another how I feel about it. Except just keep an open mind, listen to what’s going on and then make our determinations.”

Major League Baseball began a fact-finding mission after a woman seen as close to Russell’s wife made the allegations in a comment on the Instagram post. That action that now falls under the collective bargaining agreement’s domestic-violence protocol and commissioner Rob Manfred’s office.     

Maddon said he was completely unaware of any personal issues when he recently began rotating Russell and Javier Baez at shortstop. Russell is hitting .209 with a .626 OPS after producing 21 homers and 95 RBI for a championship team during his age-22 season.

“It just seemed like his game was off a little bit,” Maddon said. “I’m not a big question-asker. I’m just watching. I just thought the best way to deal with this was to give him time off, so that they could work through what I thought was physical stuff.

“I felt that there was something bothering him. I didn’t know exactly what it was, and then I thought it was wise to not play him too much. So I wanted him to understand from me to him that it was not a confidence issue with me to him as a baseball player.”

Maddon wanted to free up more time for Russell to work with hitting coach John Mallee – without the pressure of getting ready for a game that night – and described their interactions as normal.

“I’m not with him away from the field,” Maddon said. “When I talk to him in the dugout, I do my fist-bumps before the game. I talk to him by the batting cage.

“My biggest concern was that he knew why I was doing what I was doing, that I did not lose confidence in him. I tried to explain to him that I’ve done this with young players in the past. Again, either fight through it or give him time. And my estimation was to back and forth him with Javy.”

Maddon doesn’t know how long the Cubs will be playing with a 24-man roster or when Russell might return, but either way he won’t be rushing to judgment.

“These are young people,” Maddon said. “We’ve all been there. We’ve all been young, making some really dumb mistakes. We’ve all done the same thing. I don’t know exactly what went on. I want to hear about it as it unfolds. But, again, I think the most important thing we do as a parent, as a coach, as a manager is to listen first.”

How the Cubs, John Baker, are navigating the mental challenges of 2020

How the Cubs, John Baker, are navigating the mental challenges of 2020

The Cubs have spent months fortifying Wrigley Field against the outside world.

It’s supposed to be somewhere they feel safe, from the coronavirus pandemic, racial injustice, record unemployment rates. Even just for a few hours.

But even Wrigley’s ivy-covered walls aren’t impenetrable.

“I just feel like every day there’s something new,” Cubs manager David Ross said on Monday. “And I hope … our world gets back to being better in so many ways: health, society, emotionally, trying to get back to loving one another as best we can, as human beings.”

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

The Cubs anticipated that mental health would be especially important this season and gave mental skills coach John Baker Tier 1 access. That way MLB’s health and safety protocols wouldn’t limit his in-person conversations with players and coaches.

“I think he’s handing it great,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I think he deserves credit, and so do the players for being there for each other and be willing to talk about the challenges we all face and anxieties we all face.”

As people across the country have experienced, those anxieties are ever-mounting and ever-present.

At work, the Cubs are risking their health – and the health of those who live with them – to make a living and play a game they love. And hopefully provide fans with “levity and distraction,” as Hoyer put it.

Pregame interviews never conclude without a mention of the coronavirus. There’s always some sort of news between the Marlins’ and Cardinals’ outbreaks, commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments, and other teams violating protocols.

Then, at home their escapes are limited.

“This is a hard sport and it's a sport of failure,” Hoyer said, “and you want to be able to have some levity in your life that isn't this job of failure. And I think that not having that I think has created player health issues and we haven't had before.”

So, the Cubs built a little levity into their practice on Monday. The Cubs hadn't played a game in four days because their weekend series at St. Louis was postponed after the Cardinals had three more positive test. On Monday, Ross and his coaching staff put on a  “fun” competition, involving obstacles and target practice.

“I thought the way Rossy and the coaches and the players handled this break right now has been perfect,” Hoyer said. “I think they realize that in 2020 there's going to be strange things happen. You're going to have  breaks, and you're going to have doubleheaders, and there's nothing you can do about those things. You just have to roll with the punches, and you can't be upset by them.”

Next, they head to Cleveland to play a team that just had players violate protocol while in Chicago to play the White Sox.

Zach Plesac apologized for leaving the team hotel to go out, and he traveled back to Cleveland via car service to remain separated from the team in case of infection. But Mike Clevenger, who ESPN reported went out with Plesac, flew home with the team. He will be quarantined instead of starting against the Cubs on Tuesday.

Another anxiety to face.  

“How do I keep these guys in the moment?” Baker said. “They do it themselves. We have players that love playing baseball. I see it in the smiles on the faces now that they’re back on the field.”

That’s how they fortified Wrigley Field.


Cubs' Javier Báez, wife Irmarie are expecting a second child

Cubs' Javier Báez, wife Irmarie are expecting a second child

Cubs shortstop Javier Báez made a big announcement on Monday: he and his wife, Irmarie, are expecting a second child. 

Báez revealed the news in an adorable social media post with the help of his 2-year-old son, Adrian.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

Congrats to the Báez family!

RELATED: Javy Baez's 1-year-old son already has all the makings of a baseball superstar