Time to Cut the Bullshit

Sunday night featured several unpleasant news items regarding the Chicago Cubs. Star INF Javier Báez, winner of the Fielding Bible Multi-Position Award for the third straight year, was overlooked at second base in favor of Rockies INF DJ LeMahieu in a very puzzling decision by Rawlings Sports that also snubbed Cardinals INF Kolten Wong, another strong contender.

This means that Báez will likely not have any major awards to show for an impressive 2018 season as Brewers OF Christian Yelich has become the overwhelming favorite to win the National League MVP award.

Cubs OF Jason Heyward, a five-time Gold Glove winner, also walked away empty-handed this year.

In another strange turn of events, Cubs INF Anthony Rizzo was a joint winner at first base with Braves INF Freddie Freeman. This is the second Gold Glove of Rizzo’s career. He was also a Platinum Glove winner in 2016.

While the snub of Báez is maddening to Cubs fans, the bit of news that really grinds my gears is the latest trial balloon being floated for INF Addison Russell’s potential return to the Cubs next year in a story by Patrick Mooney for The Athletic (link behind paywall). The headline glosses over the ramifications of Russell’s 40-game suspension following an MLB investigation into credible allegations of spousal abuse as a “messy situation”, and Mooney also links the allegations made by Russell’s ex-wife, Melisa Reidy-Russell, to the political and societal context of the #MeToo movement and the Brett Kavanaugh US Supreme Court nomination fight.

According to Mooney’s sources, the Cubs have not ruled out bringing back Russell next year even though the suspension had left his future with the Cubs in doubt. This is despite the fact that Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who previously traded for alleged domestic abuser Aroldis Chapman late in the 2016 championship season, made the following statement with regard to the Russell suspension during his end-of-season press conference: “I think it’s our obligation as a club – and my obligation – to see what we can do better going forward.” One way that clubs could do better going forward is immediately releasing players suspended for violations of the MLB domestic violence policy due to credible allegations of abuse. This would show players that teams really do care about character and that such behavior won’t be tolerated by their employers.

However, MLB franchises treat these suspensions as business risk events and in some cases, even profit off of them. This occurred when the Yankees were able to leverage domestic violence allegations to “buy low” when acquiring RP Aroldis Chapman after the news of a possible suspension derailed a trade from the Cincinnati Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees were then able to “sell high” later in the year and obtain one of Chicago Cubs’ top minor-league prospects, INF Gleyber Torres, who made his MLB debut with the Yankees this year.

At the time of RP Roberto Osuna’s 75-game suspension in 2018 after assault charges were filed against him in Toronto, Ross Atkins, the general manager of his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays, also claimed that Osuna would be returning to the Jays following his suspension. Despite his statement that “Roberto is our closer,” Osuna was traded to the Houston Astros and appeared for Houston during its postseason run. The assertion that Osuna would return was apparently an attempt to ensure the Jays would retain some trade value for their former closer.

One freelance sportswriter feels that Cubs front office staff may be engaged in a similar type of effort by floating these trial balloons about Russell in conjunction with leaks that they suddenly intend to be frugal spenders during an off-season when some of the best free agents to hit the market in years will be available to sign.

While it’s disappointing and infuriating to hear that Russell may be allowed to rejoin the Cubs, it is just as infuriating to think that the latest rumors are being manufactured by the Cubs front office in order to improve its bargaining position. If the first scenario turns out to be true, it means the claims by Epstein and Cubs ownership that they care about players’ character are just empty words and if the second is true, character considerations are secondary to the one true God, the Almighty Dollar. It’s time to cut the bullshit.