This is not a bash. I said I wouldn't do that for 10 days and I'm mostly a man of my word. This is merely a discussion.
Sam's comment on my post from last night's game about his friend and her education about Elijah Dukes got me thinking about a similar conversation I had with my wife.
We're watching on TV and Dukes came up shortly after his activation. New guy, she asked? Sort of, I said. You wouldn't have noticed him in the opener. Got hurt, left, just came back. I love the name, she said. What's his deal?
So I told her and got the reaction you'd expect.
I had no argument but said I was willing to do the clean slate thing. He's only 23. We don't know about his upbringing, maybe a new environment will do him some good, etc. Zero tolerance. Fine, she said, so long as she didn't have to cheer for him. She then posed a question: If you, at 23, had that history, wouldn't you be in jail?
Yeah. But I'm not big and strong and capable of mashing a baseball. It may not be fair but it is the way things work. So I'm trying to be open minded.
I'm finally able to see a little of why there's so much fuss about the kid's ability. I'm now convinced he's a very good defensive player. He's athletic enough to recover when he misjudges a ball. He has an arm. I don't know that he'll ever hit for average but lord-a-mighty he hits it hard. That triple last night flew. His hard single later came off the bat so fast the second baseman didn't move. His home run was a serious shot.
So there's reason for some hope and so far so good, it seems, on the behavior front. I wish I could say my concern was easing. It is not, not very much anyway.
This article in ESPN the Mag, written by my bud Chris Jones, bothers me. You can't molly-coddle him. Virginia Tech did it with Marcus Vick and I know it ticked off some in the VT communications office. Special rules for a guy because he's been in trouble? I worry very much about guys whose bosses are worried about how they'll handle interviews.
I'm also bothered by something last night. A buddy of mine in Indiana is a Cardinals fan and we were messaging back and forth. He signed off by saying "good game, Dukes was terrific and that HR was a shot. But what a (bleep) move after he hit it."
I thought Dukes had just gestured toward the bench in delight so I wondered what he meant. Then I saw the replay a few (thousand) times and my pal was right. Watch it again if you don't recall. Dukes turned and snarked at the umpire, which was totally classless and unnecessary. You just won the game son. Take your ass around the bases and enjoy your pounding at the plate (I love that recent tradition for some reason).
I wish I could get the fear that he's going to snap out of my head. I really, really do. I want this to work. I want him to be one hell of a player and become one hell of a person. Unfortunately, I remain unconvinced. This is another time I want to be very wrong.