In June of last year, Melisa Reidy-Russell, ex-wife of Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, wrote on Instagram about being cheated on and lied to. A friend left a comment on the same post saying that Reidy-Russell had been physically and mentally abused. Soon afterward, Reidy-Russell applied for a divorce, and her lawyer said she would not be cooperating with the MLB investigation as she was seeking a swift resolution in the best interest of the couple’s son.
Chatter about the Instagram post died down pretty quickly. Some of that probably had to do with the ensuing divorce case moving from Cook County, Illinois, to Escambia County, Florida, a location not exactly teeming with baseball reporters. But a good chunk of it was because MLB didn’t say anything after announcing it would investigate, even though its executives had weighed in on a slew of other investigations involving its players and gender violence. Mentions of Reidy-Russell’s allegations quickly faded from stories about how Russell was playing.
And then came Reidy-Russell’s blog post on Thursday. MLB—suddenly sensing a PR crisis—leaped into action after more than a year of silence, putting Russell on “administrative leave,” which will keep him from playing but is not considered disciplinary action. You see, this investigation was open the entire time for, yes, 15 months. And before you can say, hey, that’s news to me, guess what? It was news to Cubs manager Joe Maddon too! Which is curious, because you’d think he would have been informed about a player who was under investigation.
But not only does MLB want you to believe it was actively investigating this entire time and just forgot to update anyone about any of it, they also decided to subtly blame Melisa Reidy-Russell for this. Their short statement on the matter says Reidy-Russell declined to cooperate, which is an odd thing to include seeing as how everyone following the case knew that. It’s, at best, a thin excuse not worth mentioning, let alone so prominently and without any other explanation of the investigation or the delays.
Major League Baseball takes all allegations of Domestic Violence seriously. When the allegations against Addison Russell became public on June 7, 2017, the Commissioner’s Office’s Department of Investigations immediately commenced an investigation. Melisa Russell declined to participate in the investigation at that time. Our investigation of this matter has remained open and we have continued our efforts to gather information.
With the new details revealed in today’s blog post by Ms. Russell, Mr. Russell has been placed on Administrative Leave in accordance with the Joint MLB-MLBPA Domestic Violence Policy. We are hopeful that this new information will allow us to complete the investigation as promptly as possible.
If blaming the person who said they were abused for issues with the investigation sounds familiar, its because that’s what the NFL did to Molly Brown when it bungled its investigation into her reports of abuse by her ex-husband, then-Giants kicker Josh Brown.
Now, Russell is suddenly on administrative leave, which is weird after all this time—unless you stop to think of this not as a human problem for MLB but as a PR problem. Russell could play so long as he wasn’t a PR problem. After the blog post, he became one, so MLB reached into its tool box and grabbed the most expedient solution the CBA allows to get him off the field.
From a domestic-violence perspective, the MLB “investigation” makes very little sense: Reidy-Russell has removed herself from the marriage and her divorce is finalized. She wrote in her blog post that she finally feels like she is in a place where she could share her story to help other women, and makes no mention of wanting any sort of punishment for Russell. Reidy-Russell was never an MLB employee and has every right to make a decision that’s in the best interests of her family—regardless of how that might make baseball fans feel. She has the right to cooperate with MLB this time. She also has the right to tell them to go fuck themselves.
But angry fans might not spend money on tickets and trinkets, so MLB made a move regardless of whether it will actually accomplish anything. The Cubs put out a statement saying they “take allegations of domestic violence seriously.” MLB promised it does too. What probably matters most, though, is that Russell already had questions about his performance this year due to a sore shoulder. It’s always worth wondering if a healthier player would have been treated differently.