Rus­sell gets chance to earn trust back

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Sports - By Mark Gon­za­les Chicago Tri­bune

Five months be­fore Ad­di­son Rus­sell is el­i­gi­ble to re­turn from a Ma­jor League Base­ball-man­dated sus­pen­sion for vi­o­lat­ing its do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence pol­icy, the Cubs dis­played a mea­sure of faith in their short­stop by ten­der­ing him a con­tract Fri­day, hours be­fore the dead­line.

“While this de­ci­sion leaves the door open for Ad­di­son to later make an im­pact for us on the field, it does not rep­re­sent the fin­ish line nor rub­ber-stamp his fu­ture as a Cub,” team Pres­i­dent Theo Ep­stein said in a state­ment. “It does, how­ever, re­flect our sup­port for him as long as he con­tin­ues to make progress and demon­strates his com­mit­ment to these im­por­tant is­sues.”

The Cubs are ex­pected to face some re­sis­tance, es­pe­cially from some fans who be­lieved Rus­sell should have been re­leased im­me­di­ately af­ter he was sus­pended. But Ep­stein has led an ini­tia­tive to sup­port do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion through­out the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

As part of the process in the Cubs’ de­ci­sion to ten­der Rus­sel a con­tract, Ep­stein said the team con­tin­ues to lis­ten and sup­port Rus­sell’s for­mer wife, Melisa, who wrote in a late-Septem­ber in­ter­net post, nearly 16 months af­ter al­le­ga­tions sur­faced by a third party on so­cial me­dia, that Rus­sell abused her.

The rev­e­la­tion led MLB to place Rus­sell on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave and even­tu­ally sus­pend him for 40 games for vi­o­lat­ing its Joint Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence, Sex­ual As­sault and Child Abuse Pol­icy, retroac­tive to Sept. 21. MLB an­nounced the sus­pen­sion Oct. 3, a day af­ter the Cubs lost to the Rock­ies in the Na­tional League wild-card game.

The ten­der doesn’t as­sure Rus­sell’s re­turn be­cause no ar­bi­tra­tion-el­i­gi­ble con­tracts are fully guar­an­teed. The Cubs still can ex­plore a trade or re­lease him. But af­ter two months, they are sat­is­fied with Rus­sell’s ef­forts.

“I am just in the early stages of this process,” Rus­sell said in a state­ment. “It is work that goes far be­yond be­ing a base­ball player — it goes to my core val­ues of be­ing the best fam­ily man, part­ner and team­mate that I can be and giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity and the less for­tu­nate.

“While there is a lot of work ahead for me to earn back the trust of the Cubs fans, my team­mates and the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion, it’s work that I am 110 per­cent com­mit­ted to do­ing.”

In his state­ment, Rus­sell apol­o­gized to his ex-wife, fans, the or­ga­ni­za­tion and his team­mates, say­ing he was re­spon­si­ble for his ac­tions. He also hired a ther­a­pist be­fore start­ing the treat­ment plan MLB and the play­ers as­so­ci­a­tion ad­min­is­tered.

Be­fore the Cubs ten­dered him a con­tract, Rus­sell con­veyed his progress and goals to team Chair­man Tom Rick­etts and Ep­stein, and they out­lined their ex­pecta- tions for him.

“I ac­cept and am com­pletely com­mit­ted to meet­ing those ex­pec­ta­tions,” Rus­sell said. “I am grate­ful for their sup­port.”

Rus­sell is pro­jected to earn $4.3 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to MLB­traderu­mors.com, af­ter bat­ting .250 with five home runs and 38 RBIs while deal­ing with fin­ger and shoul­der in­juries for most of the 2018 sea­son. That’s a big dip from 2016, when he had 21 homers and 95 RBIs while help­ing the Cubs to the World Se­ries ti­tle.

Ep­stein, how­ever, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion needs to do its due dili­gence to be part of the so­lu­tion.

“If we’re will­ing to ac­cept credit when a mem­ber of our or­ga­ni­za­tion suc­ceeds on the field, what should we do if he en­gages in con­duct off the field wor­thy of dis­ci­pline from Ma­jor League Base­ball?” Ep­stein said.

Ep­stein said the or­ga­ni­za­tion has bonded with Fam­ily Res­cue, a Chicago-based or­ga­ni­za­tion de­voted to help­ing do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence vic­tims and pro­vid­ing com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion and pre­ven­tion.

“There is a long road ahead for Ad­di­son, and we will hold him ac­count­able,” Ep­stein said. “There also is a long road ahead for our or­ga­ni­za­tion as we at­tempt to make some good of this sit­u­a­tion. We are com­mit­ted to be­ing a part of the so­lu­tion.”

The Cubs also ten­dered con­tracts to six other ar­bi­tra­tionel­i­gi­ble play­ers: third base­man Kris Bryant, in­fielder Javier Baez, pitch­ers Kyle Hen­dricks, Mike Mont­gomery and Carl Ed­wards Jr. and left fielder Kyle Sch­war­ber.

In­fielder Ronald Tor­reyes, whom the Cubs ac­quired Wed­nes­day in a trade with the Yan­kees, and pitch­ers Justin Han­cock and Allen Web­ster didn’t re­ceive of­fers and are free agents, drop­ping the Cubs’ 40-man ros­ter to 36. They could seek a cheaper re­place­ment for Tor­reyes.

The Cubs will scour a list of new free agents — play­ers who weren’t ten­dered con­tracts by their for­mer teams — but their pro­jected 2019 pay­roll could ex­ceed the $206 mil­lion lux­ury-tax thresh­old.

JOHN J. KIM/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Cubs short­stop Ad­di­son Rus­sell (27) heads to the dugout af­ter strik­ing out against the In­di­ans in May at Wrigley Field.

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