Addison Russell

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Addison Wayne Russell
born Geoffreye O'Neal Addison Robert Watts Jr III

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Biographical Information[edit]

Addison Russell was a first-round pick in the 2012 amateur draft.

Russell was a starting infielder for the junior Team USA in 2011. He hit .364/.481/.614 with 16 runs and 14 RBI in 15 games, while fielding .968. They won Gold in the Pan American junior games. He was picked by the Oakland Athletics 11th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, the second infielder taken, 10 choices after Carlos Correa. He was the first A's high school first-round pick since Jeremy Bonderman in 2001 and the first high school position player Oakland had taken with their first pick since Eric Chavez back in the 1996 amateur draft. Despite a commitment to Auburn University, he soon signed with Oakland. He made his pro debut on June 20th with the AZL Athletics, going 1-for-5 with an RBI. He played with two more teams that year, the Vermont Lake Monsters and Burlington Bees, finishing with an excellent .369 average, with 10 doubles, 9 triples and 7 homers in 5 games.

In 2013, he spent most of the year in the California League, playing 107 games with the Stockton Ports, where he hit .275 with 29 doubles, 10 triples and 17 homers, scoring 85 runs and driving in 60. He played in the 2013 Futures Game. He also got a chance to experience AAA for the first time, with 3 games for the Sacramento RiverCats, when he went 1 for 13. His success did not go unnoticed as after the season, Baseball America named him the #14 prospect in the major leagues. In 2014, he began the season in AA with the Midland RockHounds of the Texas League. He was hitting .333 after 13 games when he suffered a torn hamstring and missed two months. Shortly after his return, on July 4th, he was the key piece for the Chicago Cubs in a blockbuster trade with the Athletics, when they sent two very solid starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, to Oakland in return for Russell, OF Billy McKinney and P Dan Straily. The Cubs assigned him to the Tennessee Smokies of he Southern League, where he hit .294 in 50 games. He finished the year with a combined batting line of .295/.350/.508 in 68 games, with 14 doubles, 13 homers and 45 RBIs.

Heading into the Cubs' spring training in 2015, he was not expected to contend for a major league job yet, and went a bit under the radar as 2014 Minor League Player of the Year Kris Bryant got all of the attention. Both of them headed to the AAA Iowa Cubs to begin the year, with Bryant getting the call to Wrigley Field on April 17th, on the day he was no longer in line to be eligible for salary arbitration a year early. Russell did not linger behind him for long, however, as he was called up on April 20th. He was batting .318 while playing second base in AAA, while the Cubs' second basemen were hitting a mere .146 as a group. He was the Cubs starter at second base against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 21st, but went 0 for 5 with 3 strikeouts. His first big league hit came the next day, a single to center off Vance Worley in the 3rd inning; he was hitting 9th, below starter Jason Hammel, in that game. His first career homer came at Wrigley Field on May 1st when he led off the bottom of the 3rd by sending a pitch from Wily Peralta of the Milwaukee Brewers into the stands. The solo shot was the lone run in a 1-0 Cubs win. He played 142 games in his rookie season, starting at second base, and then switching positions with Starlin Castro to take over his more familiar position at shortstop. He hit .242 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs, also banging 29 doubles and scoring 60 runs to earn a spot on the 2015 Topps All-Star Rookie Team at second base. He then went 1 for 4 as the Cubs defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card Game and 2 for 8 with a triple and an RBI in the Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, he was injured in the third game of that series, and missed the rest of the postseason, being replaced by Javier Baez.

Starlin Castro was traded before the 2016 season, leaving Addison in sole possession of the starting shortstop job, with Baez and Ben Zobrist getting most of the playing time at second. All four of the Cubs infielders that year went to the All-Star Game: SS Russell, 2B Zobrist, 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo. He played 151 games for the team with the best record in the majors, hitting .238 but with 21 homers and 95 RBIs while usually batting at the bottom of the line-up. His defensive play also drew raves. This time, he was fully healthy for the Cubs' run to their first championship tile since 1908. He started off slowly, going only 1 for 15 in the Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, but he had 2 homers and 4 RBIs while batting .273 in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the World Series win over the Cleveland Indians, he led all players with 9 RBIs on only 6 hits.

In early 2017, manager Joe Maddon sat him down a few times in favor of Baez, as he was juggling with his line-up in order to try to wake up a strangely anemic offence. He was contributing to those struggles as he batted only .162 in May and had only 3 homers by the end of the month. On June 8th, accusations came out on a social media from a friend of his wife Melisa accusing him of being guilty of physical and emotional abuse against his spouse. Russell denied the allegations in a written statement, but Major League Baseball indicated that it would open an investigation. For their part, the Cubs asked Russell to take some personal leave while the situation was being cleared up, as team chairman Theo Epstein stated: "It's a very serious allegation, and it's something we had to deal with immediately". He returned to the team one day later. His wife filed for divorce two weeks later, but refused to cooperate with MLB's investigation. He went down with a foot injury on August 2nd and missed over a month, only returning on September 16th. He finished the year at .239 in 110 games, with 12 homers and 43 RBIs, his numbers a far cry from those of the previous year. He did have 4 hits including a pair of doubles as the Cubs defeated the Washington Nationals in the NLDS, then was limited to 2 hits in 16 at-bats, one of these a solo homer, as the Cubs went down to the Dodgers in the NLCS.

In 2018, he put up his best batting average at .250 in 130 games, but this simply distracted from the fact his OPS+ was the lowest of his career, at 73. That was because his power was way down, with 5 homers and 38 RBIs. Worse, on September 21st, he was placed on administrative leave as more allegations of spousal abuse, both physical and emotional, surfaced. MLB confirmed that its investigation on the matter, dating back one year, remained open if his former spouse was now willing to cooperate. If that season's precedent of how MLB treated the case of Roberto Osuna was any indication, Russell was likely facing a lengthy absence and possible suspension as the serious allegations were being investigated. His initial one-week administrative leave was renewed on September 27th until the end of the season, with no decision on whether or not he would be eligible to play in the postseason. He was not reinstated in time to play in the Wild Card Game, which the Cubs lost, then the following day, on October 3rd, he was handed a 40-game suspension retroactive to when he was first placed on administrative leave, with the remainder to be served at the beginning of the 2019 season. He was also asked to participate in a treatment program. His date for return to the line-up was May 3, 2019

In January 2019, Cubs President Theo Epstein, reacting to criticism about Russell being offered a new contract in spite of the accusations against him, explained that this should be seen as a "conditional second chance" and that even the slightest misstep on Russell's part would mean the termination of his contract. Epstein added that while he had considered releasing Russell, he felt the Cubs had some responsibility for what had happened, given he had been a part of the organization since he was a 20-year-old, and should be part of the effort to get his life back in order. He added that he had spoken to the victim, his ex-wife Melisa Reidy, and that she was supportive of the team's decision to offer a contract, as long as there were strict conditions attached. Russell had to face the media when he reported to spring training on February 15th and apologized for the hurt and suffering he had caused his ex-wife and pledged to be a better person in the future. He explained that he was undergoing counseling which had made him realize how much hurt he had caused. He was sent down to the minor leagues for a rehabilitation assignment at the end of April, 2019, but a couple of days before he was eligible to return. Epstein announced that the Cubs would keep him on option in AAA for a while yet, likely two more weeks. Plans changed because of injuries, however, and on May 8th, he was back in the Cubs' starting line-up, playing second base, after Ben Zobrist was placed on the restricted list because of an undisclosed personal matter and back-up infielder was unavailable to play the field because of a sore ankle. He went 0 for 3 with a walk. He did not manager to reclaim his starting job and in 55 games hit .247 with with 6 homers and 16 RBIs while playing mainly second base. On July 24th, he was sent back to AAA Iowa as the Cubs needed to make room on their roster for C Willson Contreras, returning from an injury.

Addison's unusual first name comes from a character played by actor Bruce Willis on the 1980s hit television show Moonlighting. His mother, Milany Ocampo-Russell, was a great fan of Willis and his character, detective David Addison, and decided to name her son after him. It is only a coincidence that Wrigley Field's address is 1060 W. Addison Street. His full name was much longer, with his original first name being the oddly-spelled Geoffreye; when his mother married his stepfather when Addison was 13, he got to choose the name he would go by and selected Addison, combined with his stepfather's last name of Russell.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Sources[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Nancy Armour: "Height of privilege? Criticizing the Chicago Cubs' decisions on fan, Addison Russell", USA Today, May 9, 2019. [1]
  • Tommy Birch: "Addison Russell surprised by demotion to Iowa, believes he still has a future in Chicago", Des Moines Register, August 14, 2019. [2]
  • Jay Cohen (Associated Press): "Domestic violence expert: Wait and see with Addison Russell", USA Today, May 7, 2019. [3]
  • Carrie Muskat: "Russell full-steam ahead with '18 goals in mind: Cubs shortstop focused on health for upcoming season", mlb.com, January 22, 2018. [4]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Addison Russell's name came from Bruce Willis' character on 'Moonlighting'", USA Today Sports, February 9, 2017. [5]
  • Bob Nightengale: "After greatest year of his life, Cubs star Addison Russell vows to stay humble", USA Today Sports, February 9, 2017. [6]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Suspended Cubs shortstop Addison Russell 'accountable' and 'sorry' for past actions", USA Today, February 15, 2019. [7]
  • Bob Nightengale: "With MLB suspension coming to an end, reality sets in for Cubs shortstop Addison Russell", USA Today, April 23, 2019. [8]

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