Somehow, it makes sense for a minor leaguer to get 50 games for marijuana use while Chicago Cubs infielder Addison Russell got 40 games for domestic abuse.
In the season’s final month-plus, the Chicago Cubs attempted to hold off the surging Milwaukee Brewers without one half of their talented middle infield combination. Just over a year after domestic abuse allegations surfaced against Addison Russell, they once again came to light, eventually resulting in a 40-game suspension.
Of course, Russell did not serve the entirety of said suspension in 2018. He’ll open the 2019 regular season suspended and the Cubs will have to mix and match to fill that void (at least as the roster currently stands).
Since a breakout 2016 campaign, the former third overall pick hasn’t been the same guy. Since the start of 2017, Russell has slashed just .245/.311/.376 and his power numbers have been on a steady decline. After smacking a career-high 21 long balls in ’16, he hit 12 the next year and only five in 2018.
When the league suspended Russell, people passionately weighed in on the issue and whether or not Major League Baseball should have been stricter on the young infielder. Then, as the Cubs decided to tender him a non-guaranteed contract, those same debates reignited, with many believing the franchise marred its image in bringing him back into the fold.
Both Russell and Cubs president of baseball operations released corresponding statements following that decision. But what about the league’s role in all this?
MLB needs to send a message
In recent days, baseball handed St. Louis Cardinals prospect Griffin Roberts a 50-game suspension for a second positive test of a ‘drug of abuse’. In a tweet, Roberts made clear the drug in question was cannabis – a substance that is legalized in some form in 33 states, as well as Washington, D.C.
So let me get this straight. Domestic abuse is only worth 40 games, but smoking weed is somehow worth an extra 10 games worth of a suspension?
Now, players on 40-man rosters and the general minor league player population are governed differently when it comes to ‘drug of abuse’ usage. But that’s not the point. The game is telling players that it’s somehow worse to smoke marijuana than it is to engage in domestic abuse – and that’s unacceptable.
Eight players have been suspended by Major League Baseball for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy since 2015. Russell’s 40 games fall somewhere in the middle of the suspensions handed down, with the biggest going to Jose Torres of the Padres last year (100 games).
The upcoming CBA discussions are sure to feature an array of headline-grabbing matters. Whether or not the designated hitter comes to the National League, a potential expansion of 25-man rosters and even shortening the regular season have all been mentioned as possible talking points.
But the league owes the players, their families and the fans a service – a simple, fairly straightforward one, at that. Prioritize issues like domestic abuse when it comes to suspensions and make it perfectly clear – it won’t be tolerated in any way, shape or form – and the punishment will, at long last, fit the crime.