MESA, Arizona – It was not possible for Friday's Addison Russell hearing to say whether he was sincere in saying he is a changed man, or even a changing man.
The audience included a group of reporters, Cubs president, Theo Epstein, chief executive Jed Hoyer, director Joe Maddon, club spokesperson and Ricketts family public relations.
And that public certainly included you, the public – a mix of insightful people and people who want to believe, at any cost, Russell's metamorphosis from an abusive woman into an enlightened human being. The truth is that no one knows it.
What we do know is that the Cubs' shortstop came to a spring training press conference armed with answers. The answers seemed repeated. It's not that they were necessarily sincere. It's as if they were spoken as if they had been selected from a menu developed over the days and weeks. And then uttered by an automated voice from a mobile device.
Someone asked him how he could regain the support of the Cubs supporters after confessing to having abused his ex-wife.
"Thank you for this question," he says. "I know I'm still at the beginning of this process and, through this process, I realize that I've let many people down. I dropped the Cubs fans, our organization, my teammates, my family and myself. I do everything in my power to become a better person, a father, a teammate, a partner and a supplier. And through this process, I think I have already made great improvements.
"My family and children create a happy, healthy and loving home."
For those of us who thought it was a mistake for the Cubs to bring back Russell, Friday's press conference did little to change our mind. It was probably not easy for him to stand up to skeptics. He was probably thinking of that moment since October, when Major League Baseball suspended him 40 times for domestic violence involving his ex-wife, Melisa. But the words seemed to be spoken by heart, and it was an occasion where the heart was not going to cut it.
Someone asked him if his teammates had supported him.
"Thank you for asking that question," he said. "My teammates have only shown support for me and my family. I think that throughout this process, the person who has suffered the most from this process is Melisa. What I want to say to everyone here today and to her too, is that I want to take on these actions, and I'm sorry for … because … I'm sorry for the harm that I'm doing. I have caused Melisa and the pain that I have experienced here. And I do my best to become a better person. "
The Cubs have been clear that Russell can only stay on the team if he follows his advice and shows a clearer attitude towards women. So, who knows if Friday's performance was real?
I believe people have the power to change. I also think that some actions are painful enough for these people to be forced to change while working for another employer. The message that accompanies the reception of an honest player who has abused a woman is much stronger than the message of the baseball team confronting domestic violence head on by keeping it on its list.
Russell said that he thought he understood why he had a second chance.
"I think the organization and its staff, as well as my teammates, see something in me that wants to come out," he said. "They see that I am determined and that 110% are determined to make me better."
Russell's high performance Friday was a bad look. He was almost surely PR-ed up. More serious would have helped, but I understand: we probably would have found fault with that too.
The Cubs have chosen a direction and the only thing that matters is whether their stopover has learned anything. Once again, the question remains: who knows?
"Through counseling, I know how to identify my feelings much better," he said. "I would say that person is left behind."
It was the first time Russell had been speaking to the media since the Cubs had put him on leave in September after his ex-wife had published in a blog accusations of physical and mental abuse. . The first charges were published in 2017.
The most humane, least plastic answer given by Russell on Friday came after he was asked how long he had been preparing for his meeting with the reporters.
"My preparation for this press conference was difficult," he said. "It's difficult. I have never faced media like this before, and to do that, I think I'm becoming a better person. "
Is he? Nobody can say for sure. Time will decide that. He is more fortunate than the Cubs give it to him.