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March 17, 2010

Transaction Action

Put Up Your Dukes?

by Christina Kahrl

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CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Jeff Marquez, 3B-R Dayan Viciedo, and OF-R Stefan Gartrell to Charlotte (Triple-A); released RHP Daniel Cabrera and DH-S Jason Botts. [3/17]
CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed MI-S Anderson Hernandez off waivers from the Mets; designated INF-R Brian Bixler for assignment. [3/17]

Not that I'm a huge, raving, wildly enthusiastic fan of Anderson Hernandez, but as utility infielders go, you could do a lot worse. The Indians have expressed a desire to have a middle infielder who might spot for Luis Valbuena at second base against lefties, and however limited Hernandez's batting might be, he has at least provided some value against southpaws, hitting .289/.354/.396 against them on his career. He's employable at short, plays a decent second base, and has moderate value on the bases. He may not box out Mark Grudzielanek's non-roster bid for a share of the second base job, but he makes an adequate infield reserve for a team that didn't really have a true middle-infield reserve type who was major league-ready.


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Released RHP Yusmeiro Petit. [3/17]

Between Jason Vargas, Lucas "Mr." French, and Doug Fister on hand, the Mariners were and are well-stocked for alternatives as far as manning the back end of the rotation, and Petit's slim shot wasn't helped by his being initially delayed in Venezuela with undisclosed personal distractions. Having already kicked him off of the 40-man, the M's appear to have not wanted him around to distract them, which may not bite them in-season or ever, but it returns a notionally useful fifth starter type to the open market at a time when a few clubs might be feeling needy.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Ick. Perhaps if they'd waited a few hours, they could have just wound up getting Yusmeiro Petit back, but instead they've got this well-worn attempt at retreading to sort through as they figure out where to get starts and innings during Brandon Webb's absence. Otherwise, there's Rodrigo Lopez, and Kevin Mulvey if you dig past Lopez. Happily, because of the scheduled early-April days off, the Snakes might only need to use a fifth starter once, perhaps twice before Webb might return from the DL, so whether it's Lopez or Mulvey or Benson, they might only have to let the temp chuck and duck a couple of times out there.


CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHPs Chad Reineke and Jesus Delgado and OF-R Luis Terrero to minor-league contracts. [3/17]
WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Released OF-R Elijah Dukes and RHP Logan Kensing. [3/17]

There are a couple of levels on which to look at this, the baseball side of things, and the rest. As a pure baseball equation, something this drastic looks stupid in the abstract, the sort of thing that, like Billy Beane's giving away Jeremy Giambi, defies easy explanation without the back story. Beyond any doubt, Dukes is an excellent talent heading into his age-26 season, a hitter with a spread of projections that put his 2010 performance possibilities between a base .270 with an upside trending towards .290 for TAv in the rosier scenarios.

That's a lot to give up for a last-place team with what really boils down to place-holding alternatives to fall back on. There's Roger Bernadina, slightly older than Dukes, and as prospects go, he's a speed guy coming back from a year nearly wiped out by an ankle injury; he's a better prospect as a fifth outfielder than a starting right fielder, assuming teams made space for fifth outfielders any more. There's also Justin Maxwell, the even more injury-plagued and older still prospect, a toolsy right-handed power source who, like Bernadina, has the speed, range, and glove for center; his upside projections reach up towards Dukes' median, without anything like the same sort of potential for development or becoming a premium producer in right field.

Those are the best of the kids in camp. Pondering their virtues, Maxwell might be best employed in a platoon or job-sharing arrangement with the reliably surprising Willie Harris, a utilityman with a talent for reinvention, and someone who went from a slappy speed guy rep to an odd sort of Secondary Average supersub, providing walks, steals, a bit more power than expected... and nevertheless somehow remaining unloved because he doesn't make for many easy comparisons. A less powerful John Lowenstein? A slower Pat Kelly (the Orioles' outfielder of the '70s, not the Yankees second baseman of the '90s)? These weren't guys who easily fit into most manager's pre-fabricated molds, and Harris doesn't either.

If Jim Riggleman decides to rely on some combination of Harris and Maxwell, that's not so bad. It's not a solution with upside, but it's a scenario in which Maxwell might carve out a career for himself while Harris provides his rare brand of value and utility. If Maxwell isn't up for it yet, they can keep Kevin Mench as Harris' platoon partner, or use right field as a slot in which they also cycle in utilityman Mike Morse. As solutions go, sticking with what they've got from among those options wouldn't be a disaster, and it has the virtue of not being a distraction.

If, on the the other hand, Mike Rizzo decides to play for bolder stakes, maybe he make Jermaine Dye an offer he shouldn't refuse. That works as well. Such a pickup could give rise to a pair of positive possibilities if Dye plays well: he plays well enough to retain draft pick-generating status as a subsequent free agent or so well that he brings the Nats something in trade at the deadline in July. Either way, it's not the sort of pickup that would cost the Nats too much in Lerner lire, nor would it squelch some budding All-Star's opportunity, or a Rookie of the Year campaign.

Those are the happy scenarios. After that, you get into hoping Chris Duncan's fully healthy and still able to have a career, maybe at first base, and maybe with Adam Dunn getting parked out in right field. They wouldn't necessarily get enough runs back to avert a pitchers' mutiny, even if Duncan's comeback takes. Or they participate in the ongoing charade that Josh Whitesell's a prospect—and park Dunn in right. That's the Duncan scenario without the glimmer of upside. Or there's the absolute disaster scenario, the desert-island-and-I-have-to-perpetuate-the-species-level option: Willy Taveras. Who is in camp, and viable, having been an everyday player in the major leagues as recently as last year, and still gifted with the speed that kept him ahead of the torch-wielding mob in Cincinnati that wanted him gone soonest. These are the permutations that should tell Nationals fans to stop worrying and learn to love Willie Harris.

Which is fine. The entire organization, new park and all, won't go sliding into the Anacostia. What's to be made of Elijah Dukes? Can he still put together a career? To some extent, I guess what's in operation is a massive failure contrasted against the expectations that were in play. When Dukes and Delmon Young and B.J. Upton were being hailed as the outfield of the future for Tampa Bay, visions of a combination like Lloyd Moseby, Jesse Barfield, and George Bell didn't seem unreasonable. Now, Dukes might be halfway between worthwhile reclamation project and irredeemable social basket case, Young is a lingering disappointment whose abilities are only a caricature of Bell's, and Upton's sort of the baseball equivalent of "Pop Goes the World," a bit of a saccharine whimper when we were expecting Michael Bay-level thundering, earth-shattering explosions. A couple of years removed from those heightened expectations, do we know which of them will pan out? If any of them will pan out? Optimist that I am, my hope is that they all do, but Upton might be the only one the safe money would land on, and after last year, that's not very safe.

For Dukes, injuries have been an issue, yes, and being seen as a problem with the Rays and then coming the Nats at the tail end of the reign of Bowden's kleptocracy might not have been the best situation for him to get a fresh start. But the other thing that can't be avoided as far as what's in play here is the race angle. I can't pretend to speak effectively or knowledgeably on the subject, but it would be insultingly shallow if we wanted to pretend people aren't wondering what's up. That's not directed at the Nationals, the Lerners, the people in DC or the people who buy season tickets. More fundamentally, I guess I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the reported response from the Nationals' players seems eerily like that coming from the Cubs' after Milton Bradley was suspended last September, ranging somewhere between solidarity after turning out the pariah to muted jubilation. Maybe that's effective messaging; maybe that's corporate culture. And maybe it's genuine relief that transcends racial consideration, because some co-workers are less popular than others.

I don't have an answer, but with the repeatedly voiced concern over how baseball may not be doing a good enough job in reaching African-Americans, and the recent kerfuffle over Torii Hunter's remarks, these are the sorts of things that set me to worrying, to little point. Progress has been made, away from much fanfare; it looks as if MLB's RBI Program is slowly but steadily developing the kind of reach, commitment, and sponsor buy-in that it lacked in its earlier years. That said, high-profile divorces between clubs and players, whether in this instance or Bradley's, create a contrasting high-profile narrative that reflects the continuing importance that must be attached to race in the game. We don't know if there's a way for a ballclub to provide the kind of work environment that lets fans see Elijah Dukes' ability shine on the field; we don't know if that's on the player, or on the clubs.

Whichever it is, Dukes' history of off-field troubles is daunting, and whatever organization decides to take a chance on him might want to come up with something besides the Nats' decision to hire an ex-cop to follow him around as a "Special Assistant" to keep him out of trouble. Maybe he attracts trouble, and maybe he creates it. The team that helps him break that cycle and settle into having a career will have done a talented young man a favor beyond the compensations of being a big-league ballplayer.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

51 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

amazin_mess

The Kansas City Royals need to jump all over Dukes.

Mar 17, 2010 20:25 PM
rating: 3
 
jillsinmo

Perhaps a team with an African American manager-like the Rangers could be a place for Dukes. Maybe a guy like Charlie Manual, who has a reputation for being tough but fair and a great communicator-a team with two African American stars already on the roster, could be a place for Dukes to turn it around. I don't know if the Phillies would want to take him on, but he does have a minor league option left-he could be worked with out of the limelight for awhile.

Mar 17, 2010 20:50 PM
rating: 1
 
onegameref

That would make too much sense. What were you thinking? Maybe the Padres? He could party in Tijuana with little or no supervision.

Mar 17, 2010 20:54 PM
rating: -1
 
Richie
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I think I can explain the race angle perfectly for you.

White Brett Myers hit his wife. For which White Brett Myers was excorciated, very definitely including on this site. White Brett Myers was the epitome of evil.

If you hit the "off-field troubles" link above you will see what Black Elijah Dukes did. All that he's done. Wow. Wow wow wow.

And poor Black Elijah Dukes' difficulties are due to a racist America, a racist Major League Baseball, a racist Washington Nationals clubhouse. Gee golly, we just need to find a racially nurturing environment for the poor fellow.

Yes, there is plenty of racial bigotry on display here. From you folks. This race angle is all your very own.

Mar 17, 2010 21:10 PM
rating: -10
 
Joe D.

"White Brett Myers hit his wife. For which White Brett Myers was excorciated, very definitely including on this site. White Brett Myers was the epitome of evil."

No links? No quotes? No proof?

The Myers incident took place in June of 2006. I searched BP's articles of June and July 2006 to find where he was "very definitely excoriated." Damndest thing...the absolute strongest thing I could find was here:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=5261

I'll leave it to readers to decide whether this counts as being very definitely excoriated, let alone being held up as "the epitome of all evil."
(Hint: Nope. Not even close.)

Then again, I suppose it wouldn't have been convenient for your argument to note that its Premise #1 was pulled from your ass.

Mar 18, 2010 00:12 AM
rating: 5
 
doog7642

I don't take the stand of the poster you're responding to, but I think it he might be referencing the Book Comment from 2007 (see player card).

Mar 18, 2010 08:17 AM
rating: -1
 
Rob_in_CT

Yeah! Except... that's not what Christina said.

I don't think I agree with what she actually is saying (though I've no real way of knowing, since I'm neither in Elijah Dukes' head, nor in the Nationals' clubhouse), but damn, talk about misrepresenting somebody's argument.

Mar 18, 2010 06:30 AM
rating: 0
 
hjw099

I'm not sure why there is a race angle here at all. Sure, it's been a topic in baseball recently. But when his likely successor in right field (Harris) as well as the center fielder are black I don't see how you can distill this managerial decision to race. He was a problematic player that's gone. Lord knows the last thing any Washington franchise wants is another Gilbert Arenas debacle.

If there is a racial component at all (which, to be clear, I am not convinced of in the least), it's that the franchise would prefer their black athletes not be low character guys in a primarily black city. I mean, this isn't exactly a Milton Bradley situation where a notoriously surly player is given the axe. Dukes clearly has serious problems, not just attitudinal ones.

Mar 17, 2010 21:29 PM
rating: 8
 
Aaron/YYZ

Except that this whole statement is prefaced on the assumption that the other shoe is going to drop and we will here a story of some incident. All the reporting so far has been that this is purely a baseball decision.

Mar 18, 2010 10:03 AM
rating: 1
 
Kyle E.

Dukes was sent to Washington for Glenn Gibson, who had some upside, but not enough for Goldstein to place him among the Nationals' top ten prospects back in 2007, and it's not like the Nationals had a stacked farm system at the time (far, far from it).

The Nationals are really the second team to have cut bait on Dukes and his tools and potential. His problems were larger when the Rays decided to move on without him, but racism isn't what jumps to mind.

From SI: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/baseball/mlb/03/17/dukes.nationals.ap/index.html#ixzz0iVE9hDHG

"I don't know what to say. It felt a little funny," Dukes said told The Associated Press as he packed his car at the team hotel Wednesday afternoon. "I guess I wasn't expecting it. ... That's part of baseball. No big deal, no hard feelings. Just part of the game."

Dukes isn't crying foul, at least not in public. The Nationals brass are being quoted as saying its down to performance. Dukes has hit .150/.261/.250 in 23 PA so far this spring and the club was up against a cut deadline that would require them to pay Dukes around another $70,000 if they kept him another day. Small change, sure.

There was the Jim Bowden tweet that read, "After latest incident, credit Nats for making the right decision. They told him zero tolerance and followed their word." Said tweet has since been deleted. Bowden is kind of a clown, but surely still has contacts within the organization. How much weight you want to give to an undisclosed incident is up to you.

Christina, I'm normally a big fan, but I am left wondering why, "...the other thing that can't be avoided as far as what's in play here is the race angle."

What, other than speculation, leads you to believe it may be in play?

Mar 17, 2010 22:33 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

We both know that spring performance doesn't mean much, and the money's meaningless on the scale that teams operate at. But even so, I also really don't think that this is about the Nats; they made a decision they can live with on several levels, and for good and/or defensible reasons. But I also don't know if we can say that it's entirely about Dukes, although that clearly seems to be the greatest part of it. I really don't know if there's an absolute, perfect answer here. As I concluded initially, I'd hope for him to get more than a career on the field out of a positive change, landing in an environment in which he can succeed, period.

Mar 17, 2010 23:02 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

It could just be a matter that Dukes was one of Bowden's guys and now Rizzo's running the show.

Also, if the Nats are under investigation by MLB or the Feds for skimming bonuses, maybe they are just trying to clean out anyone who might even cause a distraction.

Mar 18, 2010 11:09 AM
rating: 1
 
Yah Mule

It seems a little unfair. Washington brings in this young man despite his history of problems. He shows major regression in all phases of his game last season. He has trouble staying healthy. He isn't able to eliminate the off the field issues. So, Washington decides they don't want to bother anymore and suddenly they're contributing to a retrogressive culture?

Dukes had a very difficult upbringing, which is unfortunate, but he will get another chance with a major league club. Probably more than one.

I think Torii Hunter just likes to complain. His recent clumsy remarks remind me of the time he resented non-African Americans wearing number 42 for one day to honor Jackie Robinson.

Mar 17, 2010 23:49 PM
rating: 3
 
gregorybfoley

I don't think Christina is saying that the Nationals dumped Elijah Dukes because they're racist a organization. As she stated, they made a good/ defensible decision that worked for them on a several levels. I think she's saying instead that there might be something cultural going on that makes it more difficult for African-American players to fit in and succeed in MLB. There are innumerable examples from the flak Lastings Milledge took for his over-exuberant celebration of a home run to the trouble Manny Ramirez was always in with ownership and the media in Boston. Not being privy to all of the details, we don't know, as Christina says, whether it's on the player or the team, but there does seem to be something going on.

Mar 18, 2010 05:00 AM
rating: 12
 
demedici

Don't make Torii Hunter come in here and school you on what exactly Manny Ramirez is, but it sure isn't African-American. :)

Still, I think you nailed Christina's point.

Mar 18, 2010 05:23 AM
rating: 5
 
yekkel

Unfortunately I think this is an accurate observation. With regard to Bradley, for example, I always took his accusations of racial discrimination with a grain of salt because of his well established inter-personal problems. Derek Lee, however, who is very popular in Chicago and seems to be a generally likable guy, also stated that he has been subject to racial discrimination while with the Cubs. Also troubling is that this issue seems to be largely below the radar.

Mar 18, 2010 10:47 AM
rating: 1
 
SamVan

Cubs fans? racially insensitive?! Horry Kow!

Mar 18, 2010 15:53 PM
rating: 0
 
Lindemann
(852)

"Beyond any doubt, Dukes is an excellent talent heading into his age-26 season, a hitter with a spread of projections that put his 2010 performance possibilities between a base .270 with an upside trending towards .290 for TAv in the rosier scenarios."

1. How is a .270 EqA (oops, I mean TAv) "excellent" for a right fielder? Although the League Batting by Position stats on BP's website don't show TAv for some reason, Dukes' 2010 weighted mean projection (.264/.345/.445) comes in about average for a RF in the NL in 2009 (.264/.339/.442). He projects to be average, not excellent.

2. If you quote the .290 possibility, don't you also have to quote the downside (.260) possibility? He did have a .257 TAv last year. And we should remember that PECOTA also takes into account Dukes' injury history by assigning him a mere 409 PA in the weighted-mean projection. Someone has to soak up those ABs.

3. Lil' Willie Harris has a better PECOTA projection than Dukes does.

I was shocked yesterday at the news, but I'm just not seeing how Dukes' projected production is "a lot to give up."

Mar 18, 2010 05:30 AM
rating: 0
 
jrfukudome

Excellent modifies "talent," not "TAv."

Mar 18, 2010 08:26 AM
rating: 1
 
Lindemann
(852)

His projections for the years to come don't show him rising above a .281 TAv or a 18.4 VORP for the rest of his career, the latter because PECOTA thinks he'll continue having injury issues. I don't think that's a poor assumption. His ceiling is a slightly above-average regular. That's "excellent" now?

Mar 18, 2010 09:16 AM
rating: -1
 
gregorybfoley

In 2008, when Elijah Dukes was 24, he hit .265/.389/.498 with 13 homers and 13 steals in 334 PA. He also had a +11 UZR/150 in RF. He put up 3.3 WARP and 2.8 WAR in 81 games. He clearly has the potential to be "excellent".

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/pecota/dukesel01.php
http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=4946&position=OF

Mar 18, 2010 16:00 PM
rating: 0
 
Lindemann
(852)

I'm just saying that BP's own statistics don't support a judgment of "excellent." He's had one good year (2008) and one awful year (2009), and he's been injured extensively both years.

At some point, as we know, you have to look at the performance on the field, not how strong or fleet of foot a player is. And Dukes hasn't shown much, especially if you include "not getting injured" as part of a guy's talent.

Mar 19, 2010 05:51 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

It doesn't HAVE to be about race. The guy could just be a complete tool.

Mar 18, 2010 06:35 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

I completely concede the point--that's very possible.

Also, thanks to gregorybfoley, because yes, that's what I'm driving at.

Mar 18, 2010 08:00 AM
 
CRP13
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Mike Rizzo's Top 10 reasons that Elijah Dukes was released from the Washington Nationals:

10. "The players took a confidential vote and unanimously decided Elijah is a total ******bag."

9. "An 8-year-old fan asked Elijah for an autograph, and he got one. On his face. With a knife."

8. "We offered to trade Elijah for Milton Bradley, but the Cubs wanted to improve the clubhouse atmosphere, not make it worse."

7. "We thought that Willie Harris, Justin Maxwell, Mike Morse, Roger Bernardina, and especially Willy Taveras give us a greater chance to have a successful ballclub" (ouch!)

6. "Even Adam Dunn thought he was a tool, and Adam Dunn likes everyone, so we had to release him."

5. "When Morgan encroached into Right Field, he was told, 'keep out or I will bust a cap in yo' ***** ***.'"

4. "Today is St. Patrick's Day...and he didn't wear green."

3. "Elijah was not the droid we were looking for."

2. "Elijah was told to report to the District of Columbia, and he showed up in South America ."

1. "He looked at Strasburg funny, so he just had to go."

Mar 18, 2010 06:49 AM
rating: -5
 
CRP13

Wow, you guys have no sense of humor.

Mar 18, 2010 08:01 AM
rating: -1
 
kjgilber

Apprently, neither do you.

Mar 18, 2010 09:30 AM
rating: 8
 
blw777

While I hardly think that racism is a thing of the past, I'm having absolutely no luck trying to fit racism into this situation.

I have to agree on Willie Harris. For a guy who seemingly has never had a future in the game, he always seems to be on the field and doing pretty darn well. Even he's really a quad-A player, he's doing surprisingly well in MLB.

Mar 18, 2010 07:28 AM
rating: 0
 
oira61

Talk of racism in baseball today always makes me want to see the proof, because it counteracts everything we know about the search for talent, as well as everything we know about statistics.

If African American players were unwanted by some organizations, wouldn't some general manager see it as an opportunity to stockpile undervalued talent?

Mainstream media writing stories on the issue usually grossly overestimate the percentage of African Americans among the total US population (Christina has not here). It was 12.9% in the 2000 Census, and that includes people listing black as well as other races.

Moreover, baseball heavily recruits abroad, but for some reason people seeing racism don't count black Dominican players as black.

So if the percentage of African Americans is significantly less than 12.9% of the percentage of all Americans (NOT all players) in the game, you can start to talk about racism. Is it?

Mar 18, 2010 08:34 AM
rating: 2
 
fairacres

Our society has racists. It is a fact of life.

What is more troubling to me is that "racism" seems to be "used" by people to express their point of view.

This bothers me.

On the current subject -- and Torii Hunter -- I keep getting back to the idea that, given that baseball is big business, and the goal is to win and make money (they usually go hand in hand, but if not, at least a goal is to make money), then rational market participants (MLB franchises) have every incentive to identify and source the best talent at the most advantageous cost.

"Racism" is not a luxury business can afford.

I just find it amazing that, in the wake of Hunter's comments, and in the much smaller wake of Dukes being let go, that few if any in the media say "it was a business decision, pure and simple."

Hunter is entitled to his opinion, but at best, his comments struck me as at best very offensive to Latin players, who arguably face greater challenges to making it into professional baseball than black Amercians (not that they don't face enormous challenges, they do). At worst, Hunter's comments, on their face at least, seem very racist, and the double standard employed by the media, to me, is both disappointing and troubling (but sadly, not surprising).

Hunter's comments imply that professional baseball is somehow ignoring black Americans. It is not. All its teams are trying to do is find the best talent they can to be as competitive as possible. The other misconception to me is that "great athletes" do not necessarily equate to "great baseball players" because baseball is largely a skills game. Athleticism helps, but the best players have skills that take years to develop and hone.

While the system is far from perfect (BP does a good job at chronicalling the frequent missteps in the process that all teams make), and talent evaluation and projection is far from a perfect science, I am pretty confident that, at any point in time, professional baseball has the best players competing at the major league level.

My hope is that over time, "racism" recedes from our society's conscience -- one of the things that makes America great is that over time, those people with desire and work ethic and talent, usually succeed.

Mar 19, 2010 13:35 PM
rating: 0
 
gregorybfoley

No one is accusing the Nationals of racism. No one is saying that the Nationals would rather have white players than good players. They're saying that the Nationals cut Elijah Dukes because he didn't fit in with their culture and although their decision may have made sense for them, it raises the issue of why Elijah Dukes didn't fit in with their culture. And why Milton Bradley didn't fit in with the Cubs culture. And why Manny Ramirez didn't fit in with the Red Sox culture. And Why Lastings Milledge didn't fit in with the Mets culture. And why Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield and Albert Belle had so many problems with the fans and media. The fact that so many of the players who have trouble fitting in are African-American implies that there may be something structural or cultural at work.

Mar 19, 2010 14:33 PM
rating: 1
 
smallflowers

People, for the love of Eldridge, Manny is from the DR!

Mar 19, 2010 18:51 PM
rating: 0
 
gregorybfoley

No disagreement from me on Manny's birthplace, but he did move to Washington Heights, New York when he was 13, so I thought he might have something in common with other players who grew up in poor, urban areas with large minority populations like Elijah Dukes, Gary Sheffield, and Dwight Gooden who grew up in Tampa, and Milton Bradley (L.A., CA), Lastings Milledge (Bradenton, FL) and Delmon Young (Montgomery, AL). Barry Bonds was born in Riverside, CA, but later moved to the Bay Area after his dad made the majors.

Mar 21, 2010 19:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BrettG

I hope someone will give Elijah Dukes a legitimate chance. He's been one of my favorites for a while and would really like to see him live up to his potential.

As for all of this racism BS, I'm sure Elijah knows that not all white people are racist. I know he has seen me in the stands in Columbus wearing an Elijah Dukes Devil Rays jersey. How do I know this? I've seen him look right at me and one of his teammates and him joking about it. And I am definitely white. If racism is the issue here, I'm sure someone will take advantage of the untapped market for black players.

Also, if the Nationals were truly racist, they would hold onto him until the last cut so that he couldn't tryout with another team in Spring Training.

Mar 18, 2010 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
Eddie

Disappointed to see racism mentioned here. Dukes is an ass, regardless of his color. If more team took a stand against against such characters, maybe baseball would be America's pastime again, instead of devolving into a league of thugs and criminals and druggies, which it seems the rest of the major sports leagues are doing.

Mar 18, 2010 10:22 AM
rating: -1
 
CJ

Mr French lol, I hadn't thought about Buffy et al for decades. Thanks for the chuckle

Mar 18, 2010 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
tim270

I think even mentioning racism in this case is irresponsible.

Mar 18, 2010 10:41 AM
rating: -2
 
hessshaun

I don't think the term racism should have been used at all without any evidence. I don't care if you are even using it in a speculative context. Even if it was, the clarification behind that speculation was basically pleaded ignorance. Above all, I don't think it's right to mention that for either Dukes or the Nationals organization.

With that being said, it's similar to linking names to steroids this day in age. Heaven forbid we claim Ortiz took steroids because he seems like a good guy; before Congress leaks names. It's not alright to do that but we can speculate racism?

I usually like to read these pieces because I can open up my Websters and try to follow along, while staying current. There is usually a bizarre angle or something I would not think of, which ultimately makes me think as the reader. Provided the criteria on this one....Golden Sombrero. I am sure you will hit for the cycle soon again.



Mar 18, 2010 10:54 AM
rating: -3
 
Richard Bergstrom

On that note, people have been so focused on steroids with a PED scandal breaking each spring training for the last 5-6 years, that other issues including race discussions don't get much focus. I kind of think that Pujols/Howard trade rumor was an attempt to scare up something to talk about...

Mar 18, 2010 11:11 AM
rating: -1
 
pakdawgie

There's no doubt that Dukes has been a thug although it seems that he has stayed out of trouble the last couple of years. I do however view him as a symptom of centuries of institutionalized racism (exploitation, ghettoization, intimidation, lack of opportunities - we all know the history).

He's a direct product of this history. In no way do I condone anything that he's done. But you've got to put into context. How many of us has gone through that sort of upbringing? Father murderer, mother crack addict. Some people may come out of it relatively unscathed, some emerge like Dukes but many end up dead or in prison.

It's always just easier for us to ignore this, deny it, blame him, say that we want nothing to do with thugs like Dukes. So just releasing him and breathing a sigh of relief in my view is the easy and standard thing to do. Sure he had a bad year last year but come one, he's dirt cheap, has an option remaining and showed tremendous potential in 2008. It's ridiculous to say that it's a baseball decision. Just admit that you don't want to deal with the bagagge and move on. Everyone does it.

Mar 18, 2010 12:36 PM
rating: 8
 
calhounite
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The reasons are manifest. The guy has an incredibly high daq test score.

There was a 3rd overll pick in the NBA draft once. Everyone said not come near, but a windmill dunk in about 10 steps from halfcourt and it was all over.

So the drafting team had to reserve one spot on its roster just for some has-been who could server as a full-time babysitter.

Stilled washed out in about 4 months.

Time then for an about face. Showed some wise judgement and collected some anti-dag points by having his gold-plated Merced smelted down for the cash.

Too bad forgot to get out of bed that morning.

This is Dukes all over.

And baseball is not hoops. Requires preparation, analytical projection, adjustments, ie, hard work, goal planning, and measured improvemnt.

Floating on talent buys a career year at 24, but that's it.

Now they've got the book and the hook on the guy.

So now they know what they were seeing and what they can look forward to.

Got all the tools, and still a bad fielder. This is called running to the ball and throwing accurately.

Won't even try to learn how to hit the curveball away.

Great.

Sucko play interpersed with tremendous amount of company paid dl time.

This is all about Dukes and absolutely nothing else. A team should not have to put up with a player like that just to fend off accusations it is somehow racially and/or culturally insensitive.

Mar 18, 2010 16:59 PM
rating: -7
 
amazin_mess

Damned if I don't understand half of what this post is even trying to say.

Mar 18, 2010 20:14 PM
rating: 5
 
mbrignall
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Dukes is definitely "a tool", but what I'm wondering about is the implied criticism of the Nationals' idea to have an ex-cop following him around. The fucker clearly needed it based on him doing and saying all the wrong things, both in life and in his career - and it seemed to be working. Until the whispers of some incident by Bowden, we hadn't heard of him doing anything fucked up for some time.

I'm sure he'll get another chance somewhere, but the guy better start hitting like Milton Bradley if he wants to get as many chances as Milty has had!

Mar 19, 2010 00:43 AM
rating: -6
 
HaroldGodwinson
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I read Christina and Baseball Prospectus for analytical insights based on metrics that traditional journalism lacks. The casual accusation of racism without data to support it is a departure from this norm.

What statistical evidence does Christina have for this assertion?

If she has data I would like to see it.

Mar 19, 2010 02:32 AM
rating: -6
 
HalfStreet

The racism argument would resonate a bit more perhaps if the main contenders to replace Dukes weren't Maxwell, Harris, and Dye, African-Americans all, and Bernadina, a black man from Curacao.

It is not wrong to bring it up, though. I think that Dukes's race/class/background are a disadvantage for him in our country, and we have the best nation going. Nobody can escape their perceptions of a ballplayer, and baseball considerations may never be all that drives a decision. I think many others have extended their careers well past baseball usefulness because they are perceived too well, perhaps.

Mar 19, 2010 05:48 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

I'm spotting a pretty disturbing trend on this comments thread. Almost EVERY person who's said that it's NOT about race has been given negative ratings.

I think it's pretty clear that there is at least one subject that people are not allowed to go against the media mainstream.

There's no proof that this has anything to do with race, neither Elijah nor his agent or lawyer has mentioned race, and none of his black teammates (or even Gary Sheffield!) has complained about Elijah being cut over race.

And yet, in the face of all of this, STILL those who dare suggest that the guy could just be an under-performing ball player and/or a social loser who has a history of extremely poor personal choices get treated like pariahs for DARING to go against the 'Race Card' fad.

I'm willing to bet my next paycheck that the same people are going to slap me with negative ratings for this too, and I hope you do because it only validates my point.

Mar 19, 2010 06:39 AM
rating: 2
 
hessshaun

Here is what it boils down to Chris and I agree with you. .

As a community and subset of another community, the premise is that there is infinitely more information at our disposal than what has been traditionally used to measure baseball. So in a sense, the community finds something, defines it, and then asks the baseball world to accept it. These are people who think outside the box to create this material.

For just general opinions on a piece we are talking about, it astounds me that we have such a close minded crowd. I personally find it pretty amazing.

This place needs a forum.

Mar 19, 2010 10:11 AM
rating: 3
 
CRP13

You're right, and unfortunately I had to give you a +1 because somebody already minused you, just in the last hour.

Mar 19, 2010 11:07 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

For myself, I've plussed your disagreements as well as those of several others in this thread, because I think a conversation on this topic demands that everyone be heard.

My point here was not to accuse the Nationals, since I did not, have not, and will not. On this sort of subject, I'd rather credit MLB for making a difference on other fronts, as it has, to increasingly better effect. I used to complain about the sporadic commitment to RBI, with programs in some cities coming and going hardly representing the best way to reach and make a commitment to kids in the inner city--this has changed, to the better, and to the game's great credit. And, as one counter-example of Trayvon Robinson reflects (here's a link to Kevin's excellent article about him from last fall), where you come from or the color of your skin are obviously not deterministic.

And yet, all of that said, as I noted initially, I worry about the racial dimension, and what that might mean for Dukes' past, present, and future. From the start, Dukes' background was considered an obstacle, and very obviously it appears to be one still. I don't know what team, what organization, which men or women or teammates, what brand of faith, can help Elijah Dukes, and not just to be a better ballplayer. It is, of course, easy to say that people should take better care of one another, and it's fair to say that isn't really baseball's job. I don't know if it matters if that help comes from people of any or every color or the same color. I hope there is someone who can, and will, not simply to help him have a career, but to help him have a life.

Mar 19, 2010 14:26 PM
 
tim270

But what does that have to do with race?

Unless you think Dukes' criminal past and obvious issues are a result of his blackness. That's demeaning to Elijhah and blacks in general.

He's clearly troubled, and I wish him the best- in life and baseball. I fail to see that as a racial issue; and I fail to see how it's somebody else's responsibility to "save" Dukes from himself.

There are plenty of well-adjusted blacks in MLB; and plenty of troubled whites. Elijah's problems are not caused by his race and to suggest otherwise is, as I said before, irresponsible and, quite frankly, racist.

Mar 19, 2010 14:43 PM
rating: 0
 
calhounite
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Nothing. Thuggery is neither a culture nor a racial characteristic. It's a blight on the human condition.

It's simple, get rid of Dukes before he blows up the franchise, and, if insinuations of racism comes with it, pay the price.

Baeball is cheap sport to get into. And the neocs who run MLB are cheap, too. They can't smell the buck unless spent hunting down a player who already has the ability, but that buck they will spend and they only care if the player qualifies as human (ex: Dukes).

It's up to the prospective player tho to get off his behind and earn the ability.

The daq* is sort of an life aptitude test. Like when the judge told Vick to turn over a new leaf or else, and the guy show's up with a joint.

Get a lot of points for that.


*d's for dumb, q for quotient..and a's for


artichoke.

Mar 20, 2010 05:35 AM
rating: -5
 
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