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Friday, June 6, 2008

Dukes

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.

15 comments:

Sean Hogan said...

I think that Dukes didn't really make the right decision to snark at the umpire. When you're under the microscope like he is, why rub more people the wrong way?

I think it's funny you mention the VT communications office. I've been hanging around there since I was like 12, since my dad broadcasted baseball and I think football games when he was a student on WUVT. I can imagine it making a few of the guys in there upset (but a few others turning the other way).

MikeHarris said...

They had to jump through some hoops to set things up so Marcus was "protected" from those vicious animals in the media.
Who is your dad, I probably know him. I covered VT in some form from 1992 until 2006.

George Templeton said...

Look his past is reprehensible and is a product of a horrific upbringing in one of the worst neighborhoods in Tampa. That's not excusing his behavior, I am just stating a fact. The Nats won't molly coddle him, if he does snap he will be gone. But being up in the D.C. area and out of Tampa and the bad influences down there is really key and he has a chance to be come of the kind of person that will be glad to have in our organization.
Instead of just expecting the worst, can we at least give this guy a chance to disappoint us before assuming he is going to.
As for the point about him being jail if it were not for his talent. Hello folks, Dukes isn't the first and he won't be the last. Yes it's not fair, but that is the way it is these days. The privileged (talent, money, social position, connections) can get away with a lot more than regular schlubs.

Ironic Goat said...

What did Dukes do that makes him worse than other professional ball players who have actually used force against women?

The only person Dukes actually assaulted was a team mate, right?

Thats not right, and threatining an innocent women and innocent children is terrible. But people seem to view Eli as some sort of super villain, when MLB is peopled with people who have done worse things than he has.

Dmitri actually assaulted a 21 year old girl, right?

Ironic Goat said...

Forgive me, there is also the Gatorade throwing.

MikeHarris said...

Goat - he's been suspended FIVE straight seasons. Dmitri's actions were bad but they appear to be a blip. Dukes has a history of bad behavior. Yes, not all of it is criminal. I do hope all of it is behind him. ALL of it.

Dmitri's girlfriend was 21?

Ironic Goat said...

I thought she was, but I cant find where I read that. Maybe I was wrong.

He's been suspended, he's got problems, I wouldn't want to be friends with him. But Dmitri's actions, in my opinion, were far worse, even if a one time thing. Brett Myers actions were worse. Talk about Eli as a suspension risk, sure. Talk about him as angry guy, sure. Dangerously immature, sure. I just have this feeling, and maybe I over react, that when people think of Elijah snapping they imagine someone dead. And I dont see that yet.

And also, if I I can be totally unfair for a moment, Jim Bowden or Tony Larussa are much more likely to kill someone than dukes.

Sean Hogan said...

My dad is Tim Hogan. He occasionally does spotting for football games. I actually covered the Georgia Tech game in 2006 from the press box for my high school newspaper.

sec314 said...

I stopped thinking much about the personal lives of ballplayers when one of the first baseball players I admired, Denny McClain, came to Washington, stunk up the joint and then stunk up his life.

Yes, Dukes would probably be in prison if not for his raw athletic talent. But so would a lot of other MLB, NBA and NFL players.

And there are plenty of other thugs in the business world. Luck and fate are not fair.

After seeing the WaPo's Spring training video profile of Dukes at the Driving Range, I kinda liked the guy. He seemed to have a sense of humor, he understood body mechanics and baseball, he was well-spoken and didn't seem to be too much of an arrogant ass.

And I like watching him play. He doesn't scare me in the outfield like Milledge, he runs the bases well and he's starting to hit.

He's a cheerleader and a highly competitive. This teams needs someone like that! He WANTS to WIN.

MikeHarris said...

We were in Baltimore years ago and some Red Sox pitcher got arrested for beating up his PREGNANT wife in the team hotel. Name escapes me now. Anyway, McNamara is the Red Sox manager and the guy is scheduled to pitch the Sunday game. He was asked, "Will he pitch?" and the answer: If he's not in jail, he will.
To say my wife went nuts is an understatement.

I agree ED is far from the worst in pro sports or in baseball. I wouldn't be thrilled by any of them, either. I am willing to give ED a chance and, again, I hope like hell I am wrong.

I, too, enjoyed that golf video. You think he can hit it a long way?

WebberDC said...

Mike -

There is a longish thread on BPG that began with a sentiment similar to yours.

The problem is, I just don't see the chest thump as anything other than a self-congratulatory act. May dislike that type of think, and some don't. I don't think there is any conclusive evidence that it was directed at the ump, but I will accept that as a reasonable point of view.

But I think it is extremely dangerous to link Dukes' threatening behavior with the ex-girlfried, assualt of a teammate, and other transgressions with a reaction after a walk-off bomb -- directed at the ump or no. It reeks of condeming present-bad behavior because of past-bad behavior that is totally unrelated.

It is wrong to show up umpires because they can affect your success. It is not wrong-er to show up umpires if you have threatened your Baby's Mama in the past. Nor does it mean you are going to choke Rob Makowiak in the clubhouse if he cracks a bad joke before tonight's game.

I do not think that Dukes' past troubles (all his own fault) are in any way predictive of the fact that he would sass an ump with a chest thump. Me thinks that your post, the BPG thread, at some folks' fears of Dukes are due to an expectation that people who behave badly in the past per se cannot change. Amazingly, 23 year olds make hideous mistakes in life and change all the time. Why should Dukes be any different?

WebberDC said...

Uh . . . that would be "Many people dislike that type of thing," rather than "May dislike that type of think."

Can you edit my posts, as well as respond to them?

Steven Biel said...

I don't mind. Young man yells at the ump. He has emotion. A little problem with authority. Feels misunderstood. Is misunderstood (disagree with me if you want, but I'm not listening unless your dad is in jail for killing someone for selling bad crack to your mo). Thumps his chest in a moment of victory. Tells the man to go fuck himself. I say good for him. Keep winning, stay out of the papers for the wrong reasons, but if you wanna keep telling the man to go fuck himself, you speak for me and a lot of others, son. Go Elijah.

MikeHarris said...

Thanks for all the contributions, I respect all the opinions. Someone like Dukes is going to cause much disagreement and that's OK.
And, once more, I hope I'm very wrong. I think I base my opinions on a string of events rather than one or two events. That doesn't make me more right than anyone else.


I did hear ED on the pregame interview last night and he came off well. He did say the team, the media seem to be giving him a fair chance and that's all he can ask for at this stage.

By the way, I usually AM wrong.

Thanks again for all the contributions.

p said...

>>>Dmitri actually assaulted a 21 >>>year old girl, right?

Nope, was an attempt to tap the money, she lost, charges dropped. (From what I understand)

I like Dukes. I like his passion. He's 23, and 23 year old athletes are supposed to be passionate. He's talented. He has potential to be great. He's part of a club where, if he crosses the line (again), he stands to lose a LOT. I would argue that most 23 year old guys don't fully understand the law of action/consequence. I hope Elijah Dukes does, and chooses to keep that in perspective. I did a lot of maturing in my mid twenties, I'm going to give Dukes the benefit of the doubt like folks did for me. Because I had the good fortune to be surrounded by outstanding people I was able to grow out of my past. With any luck, Dukes will recognize the outstanding people around him. If that happens his FULL potential to be great will be realized. Scary in a good way.