Jarring details of Cubs shortstop Addison Russell’s physical abuse of his ex-wife, revealed publicly by her for the first time Wednesday, has reignited public backlash over Russell’s continued employment with the Cubs but is expected to have little bearing on his status with the club or future eligibility with Major League Baseball.
If anything, the details offered by Melisa Reidy in a lengthy interview with the baseball website Expanded Roster underscore MLB’s justification for suspending Russell for 40 games under its domestic violence policy after an investigation of more than a year. He has 28 games remaining to serve at the start of the 2019 season.
The specifics were not news to either MLB or the Cubs, who reached out to Reidy and others in the aftermath of the league investigation in their own fact-finding efforts and to seek input for their decision on how to proceed internally with Russell.
Russell, 24, is participating in a league-mandated therapy and education program and has hired a personal therapist as well.
The Cubs tendered him a contract last month and have supported his rehabilitation efforts while vowing to monitor his progress and hold him accountable for future behavior.
Team president Theo Epstein has repeatedly said the club accepts part of the responsibility for what happened on its watch and that “the most important thing going forward is to be part of the solution and to focus on making this a better place.”
Said Epstein early last month: “Before he can play another game in a Cubs uniform, we need to know that he’s serious about self-improvement and has grown to the point where he can represent the club well.”
The incidents detailed by Melisa Reidy in a published report Wednesday include chasing and tackling her on pavement and another time grabbing her by her shirt and “throwing her across the room and onto the ground.”
Reidy had referenced emotional and physical abuse in a September blog post and subsequent ESPN interview, but the details weren’t disclosed until publication of her more recent interview Wednesday.
The interview was published less than 24 hours after a previous girlfriend – the mother of Russell’s daughter – alleged in a social media post years-old demeaning conversations and attempts to avoid child support. None of that is covered under baseball’s policies governing off-field behavior and some of it is disputed.
She was one of many potential witnesses contacted during MLB’s investigation, and her input was not believed to have affected the eventual decision to suspend Russell for 40 games.
Among Reidy’s accounts in the Expanded Roster interview was an incident on a team charter and multiple incidents involving enraged behavior around their son.
Among the excerpts:
- [On his general impatience:] “He would just get more aggressive, cornering me by the wall, and yelling in my face while I’m holding Aiden, taking Aiden out of my arms. I’m not playing tug-of-war with my two-month-old baby…he’s screaming and he doesn’t even know how to calm him down. [Aiden] is scared. He feels that, babies feel tension.” Melisa remembers pleading with Russell to give him back until he finally relented.
- [On an incident after she retreated to a room in the home “hoping he’d calm down”:] “He kicked the door down and ripped Aiden out of my arms. I’m following him, like…please give him to me, I’m nervous. I don’t think he’s going to hurt [Aiden] but he’s drunk,” Reidy explains. “Honestly I’ll never forget that. That feeling was like, you know when your dad yells at you when you’re a kid, and you’re like, “Fuck. I’m about to get a spanking.” It’s probably the scariest thing as a kid to feel. That’s basically what I can relate it to.”
- [Same incident:] Reidy says Russell had their son in one arm, and grabbed the front of her shirt with the other, throwing her across the room and onto the ground. “I was this close to my head hitting the coffee table,”
- [On a team charter families were invited on:] She was sitting with Aiden near the window when she says Russell came over, grabbed her leg, squeezed it, and started to whisper in her ear. “He was like, “If you don’t fucking act normal right now, I swear to god, I’m going to embarrass both of us on this plane. Do you really want that? Do you really want me to embarrass you in front of everybody? …Act fucking right, act like I’m your fucking husband. Treat me like I’m your husband,” Melisa says she asked him what he wanted her to do. His response? “He was like, talk to me. Turn around. Look at me. Sit closer.”
- [On tackling incident:] One of the worst incidents that she remembers with Russell occurred after she went out for a “girls night” with a friend. Reidy says he came to find them and immediately said they were going home. Once in the cab, Russell was yelling at her (“in front of his friend and my friend and the taxi driver”) so she told the cab to stop and decided to get out and walk home. “I was crossing the street, I saw Addison coming out of the taxi. You know, you just know…he just starts running towards me,” Reidy says. Her fight or flight instinct kicked in and she took off running. “He slips…which pisses him off even more. I remember him gritting his teeth. I look back…and so I just try to run. And then everything kind of went sideways.”
- [Same incident:] “He slammed me into concrete…like, football tackled me. His friend was there and Carlie was there and they watched it. I was down, he was on top of me, yelling in my ear, saying, “You like doing this to me. You push my buttons. Do you like it when I get like this? Do you like doing this? You like pushing me to the point where I have to act like this.”
- [Same incident:] When he apologized, she says he told her, “I would never really hurt you, I just needed to get your attention because you weren’t listening to me.”