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.”