Hard as it might be to believe, Addison Russell is only 23 years old.
The All-Star shortstop has made quite an impact in his time with the Cubs, though. He was good enough at 21 years old to dislodge Starlin Castro from the shortstop position at Wrigley Field, and at 22 years old, he hit 21 homers and had 95 RBIs, made the All-Star team and helped the Cubs claim the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908. And, you might remember, Russell had a home run and six RBIs in that win-or-go-home Game 6 in Cleveland during that World Series.
So, yeah, he’s accomplished a lot in his two years with the Cubs. Anyway, a couple days before his team opensits 2017 season on Sunday with a game against the rival Cardinals in St. Louis, Russell chatted with Sporting News about a variety of topics in a phone interview, as part of his partnership with MET-Rx. A portion of that interview follows.
SPORTING NEWS: Considering everything you’ve experienced with the Cubs the past couple years, does your time with the A’s organization feel like forever ago?
RUSSELL: Yeah. You know, as a high school guy, I got drafted in 2012, and really that’s only about four or five years ago, but it feels like a long time away. A few seasons ago, trying to make the push for the World Series and getting knocked out, then last year winning the World Series, going all the way and winning it, really kind of sped things up for me, I’d say. Looking back on it now, it seems like when I played for Oakland was such a long time ago.
SN: I’m curious about this. Two years ago, your season ended when the Mets beat you guys in the NLCS. Last year, you won the World Series. Is there a difference in offseason motivation between those two very different types of finishes?
RUSSELL: When we got kicked out by the Mets two years ago, everyone wasn’t satisfied with the results, obviously. So going into the next season, we definitely wanted to be the top dogs. And winning the whole thing, we definitely are the top dogs, so it’s all about trying to repeat and do that again.
SN: Now that you’re in your third full year in the bigs, is there one area of your game you’re hoping to improve?
RUSSELL: Definitely up there at the plate, I would like to cut down the strikeouts. But just more consistent over the course of the year, as far as making the routine plays and not trying to do too much at the plate.
Russell, in his days as an Oakland A's prospect. (Getty Images)
SN: Everyone loves to talk about your manager, so I will, too. Was there a moment you knew Joe Maddon was different from other managers?
RUSSELL: I haven’t had a lot of experience with a lot of managers, but I’m pretty lucky and fortunate enough to have someone like Joe, with such a proven track record with players in the league, a lot of retired players, and a lot of coaches, as well. He’s won a ring before. He’s just a player’s coach. He definitely has a lot of feel for the ballgame, he knows what athletes go through on a day-to-day basis in order to get their body ready for the game. As far as a skip and a manager, I think he’s probably the best out there.
SN: You guys have a unique situation, with so many guys who can play different positions, guys like Javy Baez and Ben Zobrist, and even Kris Bryant plays outfield, too. Does it take a special group to accept that approach, playing different positions instead of everyone being locked into a spot?
RUSSELL: It’s a good thing we have guys like that. Each game is like a chess match, in a sense. We have to put the right guys in the right spot at the right time. Joe and Davey (Martinez), they do a good job of making sure that happens.
SN: OK, a random one. Where’s your favorite place to eat in Chicago?
RUSSELL: My favorite place to eat in Chicago? I’d say RPM Steak. Yeah.
SN: Nice. You a filet guy? T-bone?
RUSSELL: I’m a big filet guy. I get an eight-ounce filet, and maybe a Knob Creek on the side.
SN: Nice. Tell me about your partnership with MET-Rx.
RUSSELL: Coming off winning the World Series, I really wanted to take my training to the next level, and MET-Rx and I are continuing our partnership to make sure that happens. You’ve got the whole league gunning for us, so you’ve got to be on point and continuing the partnership with MET-Rx, I’ve been able to do that. I feel confident about my training.
SN: Was it fun for you guys, coming into spring training with that target on your backs?
RUSSELL: Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. I just go about my business the same way I’d been going about my business, just trying to get better on and off the baseball field. Going back into that clubhouse and seeing all those guys again and hearing about their offseason and seeing them in the clubhouse gets the fire going again, you know? Gets me ready for this next season.