Chicago Cubs infielder Addison Russell was recalled from Triple-A Iowa Cubs ahead of Wednesday’s tilt with the Miami Marlins. He went 0-3 at the plate with a walk and strikeout. He didn’t play on Thursday and was 1-3 with another walk today in the 7-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
But we’re not here to talk about Russell’s performance on the field.
He’s coming off a domestic violence suspension, probably the biggest player controversy at the Friendly Confines since Sammy Sosa strolled out early on the last day of the 2004 season. Oh, how the world has changed. Russell had been mum on the topic, but now that he’s back in the bigs, things have trickled out.
Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times goes in depth on it here, but I want to focus on one particular Russell quote from within:
“I’m a baseball player for the Chicago Cubs.” “I’m one of the dudes in this clubhouse. I’m one of the guys who goes out there and puts his [body] on the line. We do it because we love it. We want to win, and we want to bring another championship to Chicago. And if hometown fans want to boo someone that’s trying to help bring the team a World Series again, then that’s on them.”
All I have to go off of here is written words. I looked for a video to try to get a sense of tone, demeanor, or body language in order to understand it better, but it was to no avail. Effectively, I’m drawing a conclusion with partial facts at best. And my conclusion? It comes across a bit passive-aggressive. The focus on what HE puts on the line, not once but twice mentioning he was a contributor on the 2016 World Series championship team, with almost no veil to it. He also put the onus back on the fan by saying “then that’s on them.” If I came across a work email from someone I’d never actually met or talked with and all I knew was that this was their response to a question about criticism, passive-aggressive would be the PC way of describing it. Not apples to apples exactly, but I think it’s darn close and most of us can relate.
Russell seemed to walk back those comments a bit today.
Fortunately, on this one, I was able to see the video, hear the words, and formulate a better understanding. In my opinion, it sounds like he sat down with a PR person. He addressed his perceived slight toward the fans, how he has to be responsible for his actions, and how the fans are entitled to react and cheer as they see fit with him respecting it all the while. Respect. That seems to be the magic word; he dropped it five times. I don’t know how long the raw footage is, but it was cut down to 37 seconds in the clip above. It was all about how the fans deserve it, how he has it for the fans, how his goal is getting it back from the fans. It just felt too prepared for me to think anything else.
What I’m really curious to know is, what would we as Cubs fans do differently if it wasn’t Addison Russell? Meaning, Addison Russell has been a solid to very good contributor between his glove and bat in his MLB career. But he’s not a superstar. He’s not a perennial MVP, and he never looked like one either. He’s good, but the organization has shown it has an ability to replicate the totality of his on-field performance, or at least get close enough. What if he was a future HOFer? Forget baseball, since no single player is good enough to single-handedly bring his team from start to finish. What if he was a star backcourt player on our basketball team? The elite skill player on our football team who bent games to their will? Would we still look at things the same way; boo and take offense? We all sure seem to think so. It is my sincere hope that none of us have to face that truth. And honestly, I wouldn’t mind if I never talked about this one again either.
Featured Photo: David Banks/Getty Images