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Pelfrey: "He was telling me to 'Bring it on.' "

My apologies for not updating the blog during the game tonight. I had to keep a running tab on the game (and all of its madness) for the print edition, so I could file a story with a degree of punctuality that won't lead to my firing. Anyway... now that I've taken care of business, I want to hear what you think of Elijah Dukes' behavior/performance tonight.

To recap:

* He homered in the second

* He took an inside pitch from Mike Pelfrey in the fourth and got into a prolonged jawing match with the New York pitcher. Both umpire Doug Eddings and NY catcher Brian Schneider stepped in front of Dukes to restrain him. Manny Acta and Lenny Harris came out to get him under control. ... Oh, and then he smacked a double.

* When he scored in the fourth, he gave a little wrestling-style crotch motion to the crowd before returning to the dugout.

* He was hit (lightly, across the jersey) on a full count by Pelfrey in the fifth, but walked to first without indicident.

* When he grounded out in the ninth, trotting off the field to a chorus of boos, he incited the crowd by raising his arms -- as if asking them to increase the volume. Then he blew the Shea faithful a little kiss.

Dukes declined to talk after the game. What did others think about it?

Ryan Zimmerman: "That's not for me to talk about. He's an emotional player, but I don't know if there's really a place for that in this kind of game. But he's a great player. He's got a lot to learn, but he showed what kind of talent he has tonight, too. It's just one of those things."

Manny Acta: "It's unfortunate that he couldn't keep his cool, but he's been great for the most part of the year... I think he had a very good game; he hit a home run and a double. Everybody knows he has worked very hard this year and the Nationals have worked very hard with him to work with his temper, and he's been great the whole season. It's unfortunate what happened tonight, but he's human."

Mike Pelfrey: "He was upset I guess. I wasn't trying to hit the guy... It happened and he kind of started flipping out and I tried to tell him, 'Why would I hit you, dude?' I don't think he cared too much. He was kind of mad. I'm just glad in his next at-bat, when I hit him at 3-2, that he knew that wasn't on purpose either."

Also from Pelfrey: "He was telling me to 'Bring it on,' and 'Let's go,' and I'm like, 'Dude, man, I didn't do that on purpose, you know?' So I was just kind of shocked that it escalated like that."

Lastings Milledge: "I mean, you can't fault him. You can't really fault him. I got upset the other week when LA hit me, and they probably didn't do it on purpose but they're just trying to back you off the dish. And you have to stand for what you know up there. You can't let them ring out and and get uncomfortable. So he made a statement tonight, and that's that. It's nothing more than that."

By Chico Harlan  |  September 11, 2008; 12:06 AM ET
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i'm of two minds about this. that pitch wasn't anywhere near his head, which would have made his anger with it more understandable (the stuff with the crowd is nonsense, but funny). BUT - there hasn't been much of this kind of behavior from him this year, and i have to say honestly i find that kind of emotion from a player on a last place team in the middle of september pretty refreshing.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 12:46 AM | Report abuse

The Mets announcers made the point (in addition to pointing out that he's a psycho - not a characterization I would use, but they were on him...) that by going off on Pelfry that Dukes took away the inside pitch... Darling made that point, and said that Pelfry made a mistake by not going right back inside and re-establishing himself. Of course, Pelfry did come in later, but Dukes did nothing...

I was watching the game pretty closely at that point in the fourth, and there was nothing that would have indicated that they were throwing at him, or that he might interpret that inside pitch that way.

I was dismayed by it all... That is the sort of thing that Dukes needs to walk away from... even in cases when they ARE throwing at him...

The incident at the end of the game was probably uncalled for, too... but it is hard to imagine anyone having restraint when you're facing the polite Mets fans.

Posted by: Wigi | September 11, 2008 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Didn't see the game, but those actions are consistent with some of the other subtle actions observed on the field throughout the year. (Speaking of end-of-game situations or other at-bats where he gestures toward the pitcher, whether in triumph or anger.)

Talent or no talent, I can't root for a guy like that, and can't even seriously root for a team that chooses to have him on their roster. He belongs on a football field, not in baseball. Despite whatever personal "work" he's done, it always seems like he's a ticking bomb prone to explode at any one of a dozen perceived provocations.

Of course, I don't have his background, his upbringing, his situation, or his environment. Or his talent, his potential, his income, or his public-facing responsibilities.

Posted by: Mr. Pink (Witness Protection Program - Participant #23) | September 11, 2008 1:00 AM | Report abuse

An old cliche is that you can't play baseball mad. We'll see. Now that Dukes is the biggest offensive threat on the team, I bet teams will try to get in his head and cause him to get himself suspended or at least to lose focus. Hope he can realize that his treatment is actually because he's feared, not disrespected.

Posted by: Geezer | September 11, 2008 5:32 AM | Report abuse

Geezer, I agree with you - if Dukes keeps this up, everyone is going to figure out pretty quickly that the best strategy is to get him to lose his temper. Dukes needs to figure out that the best revenge is getting a good hit.

Posted by: Traveler | September 11, 2008 5:53 AM | Report abuse

Reposted from right after the 4th inning

This is why Manny Acta is not a good manager. All this teaching and preaching crap is BS. Dukes should have been pulled the second he blew a kiss to the Mets Dugout. That is just bush league and Dukes needs to know that no matter how good he could be or even is now....that just will be acceptable in the game. It was Acta's job to teach him by sitting his butt down for a few games. It is not the Mets job to teach him, it is Acta's job, yet like some many other things Acta has ignored this year Dukes stays in the game and continues to make a fool of himself several times over. Acta is a poor excuse for a major league manager.

Posted by: JayB | September 11, 2008 6:01 AM | Report abuse

I did watch the game. Elijah Dukes doesn't like to lose, and he isn't going to end up unconscious staring at the light Piazza-like just because he did his job in a previous at bat. Clemens shut down Piazza with thuggery. Dukes sparked a 5 run rally. As far as his home run trot, so he's not a white guy in the 50's. He is nothing compared to Manny admiring his work from the plate, sometimes on balls that are staying in the park. Manny cooled him down - very redemptive, considering where they were earlier in the season. Some of you need to act like Nats fans an not the Miss Manners of Baseball.

Posted by: flynnie | September 11, 2008 6:11 AM | Report abuse

Dukes didn't think they were throwing at him, but Pelfrey's comments show he was throwing near him and didn't care if he did hit him. What if the earlier near miss had actually hit him instead of the 2nd lower pitch? A 94mph pelfrey fastball to the head might even kill you.

This is old school, if you don't stand up for yourself you either stay in there and risk having your head knocked off someday or you bail out, giving up the inside and end up in AAA.

He didn't charge the mound, with the bat (which you would think was his MO) he got mad and made Pelfrey pay for it with a double.

I say bravo! As for the after game stuff, blowing kisses is the exact right response, if he gave them the bird that would have been too much, but waving and blowing kisses is showing you can razz me all you want, but I'm down here playing and your up there paying to watch me so enjoy it all you can.

Again Bravo!

Posted by: estuartj | September 11, 2008 6:48 AM | Report abuse

"The benches never emptied, however."

This is what cracked me up. It took 10 minutes to calm Dukes down and the benches never cleared? It's cuz everyone is so freakin' SCARED of him!!

Posted by: NatsNut | September 11, 2008 6:54 AM | Report abuse

Yes, indeed, NatsNut. The two words any pitcher should fear hearing from his manager is "Nail Dukes."

Posted by: Clemons | September 11, 2008 7:15 AM | Report abuse

The coverage in the New York Times does play down the Dukes stuff, but includes: "“He’s probably not the guy you want to make mad,” Pelfrey said of Dukes." Also, NYT says that Manny Acta and Dmitri Young, not Lenny Harris, came out to calm him down.

Posted by: Traveler | September 11, 2008 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Like millions, I stopped watching the Nats months ago. However, reading the NJ I can say at least he did not charge the mound with the bat. From what we heard last winter, he came across as a player that would do such a thing.

Mornmally I do not like players like Dukes. I entered the season with an open mind about him. He has impressed me all season. It is mid-September and he is still out there to win. Good for him. Nothing wrong with defending yourself and talking trash... and just taking your base when hbp.

Posted by: ChrisC | September 11, 2008 7:45 AM | Report abuse

?? Millions??

Posted by: Traveler | September 11, 2008 7:50 AM | Report abuse

"Also, NYT says that Manny Acta and Dmitri Young, not Lenny Harris, came out to calm him down."

Interesting. I didn't see the game, so I have to rely on press reports to know what's happening with the team. It seems like Lenny Harris and Dmitri Young are now so close in appearance that they can be mistaken for each other, even in uniform with their names and numbers plastered all over their backs. So Chico, which is it? Has Dmitri's conditioning program worked, and he's returned to the team all slimmed down, or has Lenny Harris turned into a beached whale? Does Lenny Harris need to be sent to the JayB School of Conditioning and Hard Knocks (Our motto: You're benched! And while you're sitting there, drop and give me twenty!) so as not to be a bad example for his hitters? Or if it really was Lenny out there, shouldn't we be giving him props for his hitting coaching since Dukes did in fact double right after that? Where was this savior hitting coach from the minors then? Sitting on his a** on the bench? Fire him!

Posted by: 506's snark has a groin pull | September 11, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Chico your article today was way out of line. It was a horrible piece of reporting. Dukes plays with lots of emotions, so after he hit his home run he kissed it good-bye. Big Deal. You knew the Pelfrey was going to hit him his next AB and Dukes and the Ump also knew it. Since, the pitch wasn't at his head Dukes should have just reacted by not reacting, but all he did was have a few words with Pelfrey, no big deal except that it probably intimidated Pelfrey and took away the inside pitch and Dukes doubles. It didn't take that much to restrain him. He wasn't that mad, just having some words. The next time up Pelfrey hits him and Dukes does nothing. He new it wasn't intentional and just took his base.

Dukes is an emotional guy who likes to win. He gets a bad rap because of his past. However, he did nothing wrong last night. I like it, it shows emotion. However, he has to know that if he does these things the other team may retaliate.

Your article was way out of line and much to harsh on Dukes. You blew things way out of proportion. Dukes has been great since he has been here, stop trying to drudge things up.

Posted by: BRothbart | September 11, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

He was not hit lightly across the jersey. He was hit directly on the inside of his bicep, and it must have hurt. And he walked to first like a man, showing all the restraint we were told he would never have. Not that you even saw fit to mention that in the gamer.

BRoth is right. That story was absurdly slated against Elijah. First, there was just way too much about his blow up. Second, no mention *at all* of him getting beaned and walking away?

I guess it helps sell papers to make Dukes seem worse than he is. But you could do this kind of hatchet job on anyone--just write about the bad, make no mention of the good--and we'd all come out looking bad.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | September 11, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

I totally agree with Brothbart. I saw most of the games. Dukes yelled at the pitcher, Schneider did his job getting between the plate and the mound and the Ump warned both benches. Dukes stood up for himself. End of story. Chico should have written more about how our starting pitching has been blowing up lately. With out run production we should have swept. Oh well, our "tragic number" (see NFA) has improved. Any comments on the Notebook interview with JimBo? It appears that he is on board with the concept that 1st base is open to competition next year.

Posted by: Sec 204 Row K Seat 11 | September 11, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

What's the big deal? It's about time somebody on this team showed some fire!

Posted by: Chinatown | September 11, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I'm with Brothbart somewhat. I think the Dukes treatment in general reeks of light racism. Same thing with Milledge. These guys are playing hard and love the game and love to win and that is great to see. If we can find a balance where these cultural nuances are acceptable yet the grand old game is still respected I think you might finally have a place where more African Americans can come back to the game.

And on another note, the Shea boo-birds have been obnoxious for 45 years. They even get on their favorite Mets players. So if they got on my case I might egg it on too.

Posted by: GoNats | September 11, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Everybody has a bad day. It's a full moon. Stuff happens. Seems like Dukes has an awful lot of patience at the plate for a supposed hot head. Got much more patience than the rest of the well-mannered suck-ups on this team. Maybe he could bounce around like Zimmerman and flail at low and away breaking balls, develop a big high leg kick and hope that his timing is right on every pitch. Or he could keep his hands still, his head and body still, and sweep the bat through the zone the way you're supposed to.
Nice guys finish last. Manny's a nice guy. And look where we've finished, about 35 games under .500. And then we've got a GM that's so full of bullsh*t, he couldn't give any specifics if he wanted to. My contention all along is that the players could never be this bad over the course of the season unless there was something systemically wrong with the organization. Ayala, Rauch, Lopez, Church - how many more players are they going to run off because of the organization's attitude toward winning? Hey how about that bullpen, huh? The only highlight is Garrett Mock. The rest of them you could throw in a bin.
They'd rather pay some loser like Dmitri to be a role model and babysit. Maybe the manager should be a role model, one who shows them how to win, and have the team focus on getting players that can play. Of all the brilliant baseball minds out there, and they end up with Acta, some guy who's not even 40, never played a day in the majors, and is super-rigid in his thinking. If they don't offload Bowden and Acta before next season, they're gonna lose a boatload of money in ticket and concession revenue. Maybe they can understand that. Or maybe not. Look at Danny Boy Snyder - you can't buy intelligence, and it's pretty much the only thing you can't buy. Of course, they'll still be rich whether the team sucks or not, which makes it all that much tougher on the regular people that have to perform in order to eat. rant over

Posted by: Brue | September 11, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Don't blow this out of proportion. Did Dukes overreact a little bit early on - probably.
But he still got back in there and ripped a double.
Then later when he did get hit, it was a 3-2 pitch and it was clear Pelfrey was upset with himself for the ball riding in and was scared he was about to be tossed from the game. I thought Dukes showed great understanding of the game in that situation to simply head down to first instead of reacting on what so many of you seem to think is some uncontrollable animal instinct the man has.
As for the crowd inciting, the easy thing to do there is for whichever coach he is listens to the most take him into the video room, show him what that looks like on TV and ask him - is this how you want to represent yourself and the Nationals? He'll get it. No need to preach down at him.

Posted by: Ryan | September 11, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I don't mind Dukes showing a little bit of temper on an inside pitch. It doesn't hurt, if you're Dukes size, to remind the pitcher that you could kill him with your bare hands. Fear for him, arrogance for you. Good combination.

I did mind that garbage of blowing a kiss to the bench after the home run. A while back, I think it was Sutton who relayed a conversation that Kearns had with Milledge -- Kearns told Milledge that he was going to get one of his teammates killed if he kept showboating. Milledge said he didn't mind if pitchers threw at him, but he didn't want to get his teammates nailed, so he would tone it down.

Same thing with Dukes. It's lucky that Pedro wasn't pitching; the next batter probably would have drilled in the helmet. It's one thing if you're not afraid of retaliation, but you ought to have enough respect for your teammates not to put them in the position of getting targeted for your antics.

Posted by: joebleux | September 11, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Is Manny afraid of Dukes? Dukes should have been benched when he blew the kiss to the Mets dugout after his homer. If Pelfrey was trying to hit him he deserved it after that bush league display. Why does Manny allow Dukes to make the other players feel and look like a bush league team. His antics are only going to get worse if he is allowed to continue. If a player is benched for not hustling he should also be benched for this kind of behavior - it is not good sportsmanship and only makes us look worse. I feel sorry for the other players, look at Zim's remarks, he was embarrassed and doesn't feel it's his place to comment - how can you be a leader if you don't feel like you can comment? Why isn't Manny sticking up for the other players who would never do anything like this? What does this teach the new, younger guys? Look at Milledge's response - he doesn't see anything that Dukes did wrong? Just ask the old time players what happens when these bush league antics occur. Ray Knight put it very well last night - Dukes will either be hit or another innocent team mate will be hit. I am really disappointed in not only Manny's dismissive comments but the fact that he didn't bench Dukes after the homer. Is bush league the kind of team we want to be known as? We're already the joke of the league.

Posted by: cadeck | September 11, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

SoCH: Now, Steven, in your rush to defend Elijah, you mischaracterized Chico's article.

From the gamer: "When Dukes came to bat again in the fifth, a full-count pitch from Pelfrey brushed the inside of Dukes's jersey, sending him to first. He walked to first without incident. "

From Steven's 8:10 AM post: "Second, no mention *at all* of him getting beaned and walking away?"

I think most of the things you post defending Elijah deserve thought, even if I can't come to the same conclusion as you on a few of them. The Dukes line of the story was pretty significant, since the 4th inning incident caused a major delay. To the extent the NYM crowd will view him as a villain in the future, this will affect NYM / Nats games in the future (warning - Red Sox analogy - they and TB have been fighting for 8 years over some HBPs by Pedro and Ryan Rupe that have led to altercations and suspensions in the middle of the pennant race). It does deserve focus for that point alone. Also, as you know, anger management looks like the only thing that could prevent Elijah from being one of the best in game, so any time he goes a little bit off, or he demonstrates restraint, it will get mentioned.

Personally, I'd prefer take out slides and bunts close to the 1st base line (a la Jackie Robinson) as a way to get even, rather threatening an altercation. But, if Elijah's method ended up having Pelfrey give away the inside and get shelled, congrats to him for getting inside Pelfrey's head. Maybe Pelfrey is the one who does not have a head for the game.

Posted by: PTBNL | September 11, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

new post, youns.

Posted by: joebleux | September 11, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

My question is, why WASN'T Pelfrey trying to buzz him in the 4th? Dukes hits one into Suffolk County in his last AB and is a little flashy about it, you've got a 6-run lead, even if you're not trying to hit him, you should probably brush him back, just to let him know it won't be that easy for him again. I loved the Mets announcers who were so sure that there was no intent on Pelfrey's part -- if there wasn't, there should have been.

Posted by: MJ | September 11, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

What I find interesting is that there is all this over Dukes and nothing -- not even a team reaction -- when Kendrick threw at Zimmerman's head, and Utley flew into Flores in what looked to me to be a clear intent to injure him.

I don't think the Mets are the team the Nats should be fighting.

As an aside, did anyone notice how quickly Brian Schneider rushed to Pelfrey's aid and put himself between Dukes and Pelfrey. Quite a leader. The longer time goes on, the more I dislike that trade.

Posted by: Ray | September 11, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is losing sight of the fact that the reason the Mets pitched him inside was he blew a kiss to the Mets bench after the homerun. Dukes caused the entire mess last night and no one is to blame but Dukes. And defend him all you want, but doing a wrestling crotch chop, wagging your tongue at the crowd and blowing kisses is just bush league and as Ryan Zimmerman said last night, there is no place in this game for that. The Nats can do whatever they want for Dukes but the bottom line is he is a thug, and he will always be a thug. The kid has enormous talent but he will never get it.

Posted by: Mike | September 11, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Let Dukes be Dukes!!
He didn't threaten to kill anyone, dawgs! He just got a little emotional. The team probably needs more of that. Sure it would be nice if he'd rein in the celebrating a little. But it ain't no biggie.
Today's Post article was yet another example of spending 400 words on one "featurey" element of the game and 100 on what happened. Guzman hitting two home runs was barely mentioned. Tell your editors Nats fans want to read about the game--at least half the article--=not, for example, which of Dmitri Young's relatives were in attendance when the Nats went to Detroit.

Posted by: John DC | September 11, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Elijah won't stop this until he gets back on his medication. He has a mental condition that can be controlled. Believe me I know.

It is sad that his kids have to witness this type of behavior.

Posted by: Tampa | September 11, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

The Nats suck. Good for Dukes for not buying into whatever Milquetoast Manny has "preached."

Nats average less than 26,000/game next year, even after they overspend on a wannabe superstar 1B.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Much ado about nothing. It doesn,t make him a badguy when all you experts and that idiot N.Y. sportswriter make such noise. If you want to understand his reaction to those inside pitch's CHECK HIS LAST 10 GAMES AND SEE FOR YOURSELF HOWMANY TIMES HE HAS BEEN HIT BY VARIOUS PITCHERS!!! IT MIGHT MAKE YOU THINK TWICE ABOUT BRAKEING HIS YOU KNOW WHAT!!!!!

Posted by: vergens2 | September 11, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

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