November 21, 2007

The Dukes Hazard

Once again troubled (Devil) Rays OF Elijah Dukes is back in the hot stove gossip. Dukes is playing winter ball for the Licey Tigers in the Dominican League. Nats third base coach Tim Tolman is managing the Tigers. Manny Acta is from the Dominican, and has been back to visit since winter ball started. Even a novice DC conspiracy theorist could spin a pretty good yarn with just those facts. And basically, those facts are all we have. Jim Bowden was uncharacteristically unavailable for comment. (Passed out under a table or chained up in Kasten's basement? We report, you decide.)

Rocket Bill Ladson notes that the while the Nats have expressed interest in Dukes, they're looking to buy low on the scandal-plagued youngster. Dukes, you'll remember, had an on-going cell phone based disagreement with his estranged wife and doesn't seem to have met a teenager he hasn't impregnated. On the field his nice long vacation from the (Devil) Rays this season was just the cherry on top of a couple of past minor league suspensions. Long story short, Dukes has problems like the Titanic had leaks.

At this point I could go one of two ways. I could talk about how everyone deserves a second chance, and kids, especially talented, pampered athletes from less than stable backgrounds are a p
retty good bet to screw up at some point. I could say this 23-year old has plenty of time to turn his life around both on and off the field. I could note that Jim Bowden has a pretty good track record dispensing second chances and observe that our own lovable tub o' goo Dmitri Young is living proof that maybe somebody's life story shouldn't be reduced to the single worst thing they ever did. And I could say all those things with conviction, because I believe them. I just don't think they apply here.

I don't want Elijah Dukes to be a member of the Washington Nationals. I don't want him to put on a uniform and be held up as a representative of my team and my city. I don't want him to be a symbol of what the Nationals stand for or what DC-area children should aspire to. It's not often that character trumps talent in professional sports. But this is one time when it damn well should.

Some athletes, like Josh Hamilton, come right to the brink of squandering their prodigious talent before they figure it out. Others, like Young, have a good reputation marred by one unforgivable incident. And some guys, like Robert Fick, just do stupid things because, well, they're kinda stupid. Elijah Dukes is in another category. He's not Hamilton, who was mostly just hurting himself. He's not Dmitri Young, who had a 30-year track record of being a pretty okay guy to fall back on. And he's not Fick, who will forever be linked to one inexplicable dumbass on-field decision. Right now, Elijah Dukes is a danger to himself and a detriment to everyone he comes into contact with.

I hope Elijah Dukes gets his personal life straightened out, and goes on to a long and successful professional baseball career. And I hope he does it without ever donning the Curly W. On this Thanksgiving Eve I am thankful that, for the moment, Elijah Dukes plays for someone else.

7 comments:

MissChatter said...

Ahh now I don't have to flex any mental muscles and post because you pretty much summed up my exact feelings on Dukes.

Nate said...

Go ahead and put your feet up. Happy Turkey Day!

David Chalk said...

Nate, I'm curious what basis you have for saying "Right now, Elijah Dukes is a danger to himself and a detriment to everyone he comes into contact with."

Tim Tolman, his manager for Licey and the Nats 3B coach, had plenty of positive things to say about him and his character. As did his TB teammate Delmon Young. Why why it be so terrible if he got the chance to continue his progress next year in a Nats uniform?

Nate said...

David,

I know you've followed the Dukes saga closely (nice work at B&C, btw) from the wife and kids death threats to the call-in radio rants to the propensity for finding himself in compromising positions with high school students. In my scorebook a month of model citizen behavior in the DR doesn't quite bring the scales back in balance and demonstrate to me that Elijah has set his feet firmly on the paths of righteousness. Elijah Dukes may be a fine teammate (though his minor league disciplinary issues suggest that then again, he might not) and I've no reason to doubt that he's conducted himself professionally for Tim and Licey. But again, I weigh that against his much longer track record of on and off-field misbehavior.

To clarify: I wish Elijah Dukes no ill. I have no problem with him getting a chance to rehab his life and career. I just would prefer the Nats not be the team to give him that chance. If at some point in the future he demonstrates maturity, remorse and a genuine understanding that what he did was not only wrong, but unacceptable for a person who has, fairly or not, been put in position to be a role model for his community, then we can revisit the question.

Is that a high bar to clear? Surely. But it's my blog and my opinion. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Thanksgiving.

David Chalk said...

Nate -- I appreciate the kind words and you taking the time to clarify your stance.

I have a couple more thoughts though. You say a month of good behavior in the DR -- if memory serves, the last bad story was in June, and both incidents happened before the end of March or April. So Dukes has been behaving himself for a lot longer.

And it seems like if the Nats eventually do give ED a chance, they're certainly doing things the right way and not rushing into things.

So, if after spending a few months with him in the DR, Tolman and co. think he's already demonstarting the maturity and remorse you're talking about, why wouldn't you support that? I think -- if that's the case -- the Nats would be lucky to have him.

Chris Needham said...

the Nats would be lucky to have him.

Wow. Lucky? Seriously? Lucky?

Bob said...

Nate,

I think you are right about Duke's behavior but wrong because you don't believe people change. I think if Tolman's accounts of Duke's behavior ore accurate, Dukes has taken measures to curb his temper. Tolman has spent a lifetime in baseball coaching and mentoring many young players who needed guidance getting beyond their immaturity and lack of social skills.

As a baseball fan, if the Nationals can make a deal for Dukes, it would make the team stronger. I'll trust the management to keep him on an even keel.