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Joe Maddon chose not to read allegations against Addison Russell

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon has chosen to stick his head in the sand about the situation surrounding shortstop Addison Russell. Last week, Russell’s ex-wife Melisa Reidy-Russell wrote a blog post detailing years of mental and physical abuse from Addison. As a result, Major League Baseball placed Russell on administrative leave while the league continues its investigation of allegations that surfaced last year.

What are manager Joe Maddon’s thoughts on the situation? Well, he hasn’t even bothered to read the allegations against his star shortstop, per 670 The Score. Maddon said, “I’m not involved in that at all. It’s a league situation. There’s a process in place to deal with this between the players’ union and MLB and of course Addison’s involvement too. I’m totally not in that picture right now.”

Maddon continued, “Addison hasn’t written anything either. I’m going to wait until the process runs its course. I’ll get all the information needed at that point. There’s nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing I can do to help the situation at all. Like I said, there’s a process in place. I haven’t spoken to Addison yet since this has all occurred. We’ll just let it play the course out. We’ll wait for decisions to be made based on folks who actually are investigating this. I really have no involvement. I really do want to stay clear of it because there’s nothing I can do to help it.”

Defending his choice not to read Melisa’s allegations, Maddon said, “I’m not going to be swayed one way or another by reading this I really have no interest in reading this. I’m more interested in waiting for the investigation to finalize itself, and then I’ll read what’s going and what had been said once it’s been vetted properly. Anybody can write anything they want these days with social media, blogging, etc. So I’m just going to wait for it to play its course, and then I’ll try to disseminate the information based on both sides, MLB itself, along with the players’ union and getting together with Addison and his former wife, and then I’ll read the information to try to form my own opinions at that point.”

Maddon’s comments on the surface seem rational and level-headed. However, Maddon is simply abdicating his responsibility as a public-facing authority figure in baseball. He thinks that he doesn’t have to pick a side. To quote Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

This isn’t just a blog post. Last year, Melisa made an Instagram post accusing Addison of cheating on her. In the comments, Melisa’s friend accused Addison of abusing Melisa. MLB began an investigation into the situation, but Melisa ultimately chose not to cooperate, which is common among victims of abuse for a multitude of reasons. She filed for divorce, then stewed on the situation for over a year before deciding to come forward with details.

For Maddon to say, “Addison hasn’t written anything either,” is to cast heaps of doubt on Melisa’s claims. This is damaging to Melisa, who had to display tremendous courage to come forward. It is also damaging to the many people watching the situation unfold, telling them that if they were to follow in Melisa’s footsteps and out their own abusers, they will be summarily discredited and not believed. Maddon’s comments reinforce baseball’s toxic culture which favors abusers over victims, something MLB is obviously trying to change with its recent amendments to the domestic violence policy.

MLB has made laudable efforts in recent years to open its arms more to women, people of color, the LGBQTIA community, and other marginalized groups. Its last two World Series winners — the Astros and Cubs — keep stepping on rakes, threatening to undo the progress that has been made. During the offseason, MLB needs to instruct players, coaches, and front office personnel how to appropriately talk about sensitive issues like domestic violence. And Maddon needs to sit in the front row for that seminar.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.