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Elijah Dukes released (updated)

The Nationals this morning granted outfielder Elijah Dukes, a player brimming with potential yet haunted by a controversial past he had seemingly moved beyond, his unconditional release.

"Everyone in Elijah's camp is surprised," said Dukes's attorney, Grady Irvin.

Manager Jim Riggleman said it was a strictly baseball decision and not related to any off-the-field problems. "We like some of our other options in right field, really," Riggleman said. "Elijah was great."

General manager Mike Rizzo called the release "a performance-based decision" but also implied Dukes's place in the clubhouse adversely affected the Nationals. Rizzo said the Nationals "will be a more cohesive, united group" without Dukes.

"The clubhouse will be more united," Rizzo said. "We'll have a better feel around the ballclub. We'll gain just by that alone."

The Nationals discussed the possibility of parting ways with Dukes this winter, Rizzo said. The Nationals "made several inquiries to many" teams, Rizzo said. "We found there was no interest in a trade for Elijah." The Nationals could have also optioned Dukes to the minor leagues, but they felt he had peaked in his development, Rizzo said.

Grady Irvin, Dukes's attorney, echoed the Nationals's firm assertion that Dukes had experienced no off-field problems. Team officials believed Dukes had grown this offseason, which included tragedy. Dukes's father died of cancer in November three weeks after he was released from prison. Elijah Dukes Sr. spent 14 years in jail after pleading guilty to shooting a man. Dukes was 12 when his father went to jail.

"He's matured so much as a person and a responsible father," Irvin said."He'll be fine. He'll be just fine. He's going to be an asset to some major league team.

"There are absolutely no off-the-field issues whatsoever. Absolutely none. You can look at anything you want to."

The candidates to replace Dukes in right field are Justin Maxwell of Olney, Maryland, Roger Bernadina, Mike Morse and Willie Harris. The Nationals believe they will get better produciton by platooning a combination of these players than by playing Dukes alone. Rizzo also said the Nationals will consider looking outside the organization for a replacement, although they team has not discussed free agent Jermaine Dye.

The Nationals represent "the kind of situation [Dye] is looking for," according to a league source, because wants to and feels he is best suited to play every day. Acquiring Dye would give the Nationals a veteran who hit 27 home runs last seasons to go with a .340 on-base percentage.

Dye would also give them a potentially valuable trade chip. Dye is typically a fast starter - over the past five seasons, Dye has an .891 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) before the all-star break. If the Nationals fall out of the contention, the Nationals could use to him accrue prospects, as the Oakland A's used Matt Holliday last year.

There will be more later on this story, a stunning development that seemed to take the clubhouse completely by surprise.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 17, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
 
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Comments

what?!?!?!?!

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | March 17, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

What the heck is this about?! This is the one player I love to see play every game. I even had a customized jersey made because I believed in this player so much. Does this mean the Nats plan on using Maxwell as a full-time player? Wow... this has really ruined my day.

Posted by: wertzme | March 17, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Pretty shocked by this. I really wanted to see Dukes succeed.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | March 17, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Whatever the reason, I wish Elijah the best with his career and family. Hope he finds another place to make it work. Please I hope folk don't rush to judgement and start to speculate on why this happened, and also lets not drag him through the mud. As a Nat, he was a relatively model citizen.

Posted by: jfromPG | March 17, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

THey couldn't even trade him for the proverbial bag of balls? Something ain't right here...there must be an off-field component to this...

Posted by: mvm2 | March 17, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Carrying forward: I'm surprised at the Dukes news. I feel bad for him what with his dad's recent passing and all.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 17, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Sure it's not a mistake in the twitter and they meant to say Villone?

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | March 17, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm very sad about Dukes too. He has so much potential.

But now the biggest competition of the spring is now underway -- who will start in right field -- Maxwell, Bernadina, Morse, or a player to be determined....? Second biggest competition -- who will be the first to post an update with more details on why Dukes was released -- Kilgore, Zuckerman, Goessling, Blogger to be determined....

Posted by: Section222 | March 17, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Well this sucks. And throws the RF situation into chaos. Gahhhhh

Posted by: WrongDog | March 17, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Someone on MLBTR suggested Jermaine Dye.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 17, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Woah!? That is a shocker. I too was hoping for Dukes to break out. I always want to see the guys with problems overcome. Looks like that will have to happen to Dukes, if it does, with another club.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 17, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I think that they stand pat with the club they have. Harris, Desmond, Mazwell, Duncan maybe all looking for AB's, this move just created a bunch of them. I hope nothing crazy happened with the guy.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 17, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Goessling said on twitter that his release "had nothing to do with off the field issues." Now I'm really confused on one hand, and happy to hear thats not the case on the other.

Posted by: jfromPG | March 17, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Enter Bernadina? Is this an attempt to make Desmond the super utility guy and give the a SS/2B/RF platoon?

Even so, hard to imagine an outright release as being the solution.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 17, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang...been a while for me-to busy reading both here and on Marks' site...but, yea, I was a big Dukes fan. Can't wait to get the story-and to hear from the sages here....
Wow....does this mean Desmond will be in right? Was Elijah guilty of some new transgression? Or was he.....who knows? Gonna have to wait and read...
Peri....BinM....Dove...Natsfan(all)...JnyMpls...Tip..secs-whatever
Cvrlack...KevC...Nun....Ipat....Ed...Biscuit....
506....Sofa...postischeap...dfh...soundbloke...
Peteywheat......
AND appologies to ALL of you regulars who I couldn't recall off the top.....
But DANG!!! If the Nats had a lineup like this we'd be runaway champs.
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | March 17, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

And the Skins just signed Rex Grossman. Ugh.

Posted by: trezmartin | March 17, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Wow- biggest news of the spring. I think this may send a message that no positions on this team are secure and guaranteed anymore. Lets face it- Dukes was not going to take this team to the next level anyway.

Posted by: Tom8 | March 17, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Hey gang....oops-at least gotta add anon andJayB
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | March 17, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Forget trades- they could have sent him to the minors for the season instead. Somebody is lying here. You don't give away an asset if you are actually trying to win.

Posted by: dime_dropper | March 17, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

This is awesome news. There was no indication that Dukes was ever going to reach his potential, and there was every indication that if he did reach that potential, he'd be a completely unmanageable headcase along the lines of Milton Bradley.

Good for the Nats in continuing to sweep out Jimbo's garbage.

Posted by: joebleux | March 17, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Amazing symmetry here. You baseball-only fans might not see it, but on the same day the Nationals release young, troubled and once highly coveted Elijah Dukes, DC United released the young, troubled and once highly coveted Danny Szetela.

Posted by: fischy | March 17, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Arrested, domestic violence, stalking again? Or just a bad clubhouse guy? I hope not but it seems he has too much talent just to be cut without there being some other issue.

Posted by: jksesq1 | March 17, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

They could have swept out Jimbo's garbage at any point this offseason, joe. Why today?

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 17, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

If this is NOT for off field issues then it's insane. Why would you cut him loose when you control him with options???? If he doesn't produce, he goes down. Even in the bigs, he's at the minimum. Something is fishy here.

In the meantime, I'm crushed. I was pulling VERY hard for this kid. I really wnated to see him overcome. I hope he still does but very sad it won't be here.

Can't bring myself to speculate on RF yet. Props to Dukes, I'll do that later.

Posted by: Avar | March 17, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Please, please tell me this wasn't because of spring training stats...

I don't see how this could be a baseball issue. Why not send him to the minors or trade him?

Posted by: cassander | March 17, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The Yankees should sign him, quickly. They have no OF depth that is RH batting.

Posted by: dime_dropper | March 17, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang...me too Avar,,,,,was hitting .261, 250 slg.-not great but within the lines....
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | March 17, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Nothing this team does is strictly a baseball decision. That's why they didn't wait until the end of spring training and make a trade for him. The organization doesn't have enough talent to be giving people away.

Posted by: Brue | March 17, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I wish Elijah and his family the best. I'm sure he will hook on with someone, but I do believe in the baseball decision.

- Elijah can't hit the breaking ball
- Maxwell is a better defender, baserunner, and has similar offensive potential (not saying the job is now Maxwell, just making a comparison)
- Elijah has speed, but poor judgement on the basepaths
- He has a strong arm, but not as accurate as should be
- He has concentration issues

Finally, Riggleman had already been talking about batting him 8th. Clearly that was a sign that the team thought his offensive potential was limited.

Again, best of luck to Dukes.

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 17, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Dunno, JiM. I'm as curious as anyone as to "why"; I'm just glad that it's done, and really happy that guys without evident character issues like Maxwell and Bernadina will have another roster spot to shoot for.

Posted by: joebleux | March 17, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

A shock indeed. But Maxwell and Bernadina are primed to mash this year, beyond what Dukes is going to put up. All other issues aside, those two guys are hungrier and want it more.

But. . . despite all their quotes saying otherwise, does this mean Ian Desmond is the opening day right fielder?

Posted by: chekhov1 | March 17, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Something stinks. They wouldn't have dropped him like a hot potato unless he did something pretty bad. Wasn't he on "a regularly scheduled day off" or something just yesterday or the day before? Has to be related.

Posted by: futbolclif | March 17, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

But the real news is that the Nats also released Logan Kendling ...

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 17, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

he is a bum and will be lucky if he is not gunned down for his poor off field behavior.

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | March 17, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

er, ummmm, Kensing

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 17, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I don't like this move one bit. This guy was a power hitter who was finally coming around as a clubhouse guy. I hope someday we find out the truth. There must be a sigining coming on the back end of this.

Good luck Elijah!

Posted by: NatsandSkinsareclassclassclass | March 17, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

This is very strange indeed. Theories:

1) It is about off-field issues, but they haven't made it to the news yet and the Nats are trying to make sure they don't.

2) It's Rizzo pulling a Crazy Ivan. Every now and then he veers suddenly and dramatically, perhaps just to see if any Americans are following him.

3) There's a bigger deal coming down the pipe and they're making room.

4) It's something that happened on-field between Dukes and someone else.

Posted by: Section506 | March 17, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Dumb decision, whats the point of the past 2 years? What a waste, first thing weve done this offseason that I dont like.

Posted by: DMoney28 | March 17, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

But the real news is that the Nats also released Logan Kendling ...
------------------------------------------------------

I think you mean "Kindling"

Posted by: fischy | March 17, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Harsh Sofa King. Very harsh. I think given what he has endured in his life, he is doing extremely well. I would hope I would do as well but not convinced.

Posted by: Avar | March 17, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

natsbiscuits summed it up well, and we can throw Dukes's right knee into the equation.

Posted by: ericp331 | March 17, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Man Oh Man!! Really sad about this. Absolutely rooted hard for Dukes and loved watching him bat and hoped and believed he would turn into a really fine player. Still think so. He was one of our favorite Nats. This is stunning and I think really sad news. Something is definitely missing from this.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 17, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Ian Desmond is having the best spring and is the closest to Dukes athletically. He has shown some power and speed. My guess is Riggleman got his way ... Guzman at short Desmond in right. Wonder how Rizzo explains that?

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Wow this is shocking! Good luck to Elijah I am sure someone will take a chance on him, I think his best years are in front of him. I wonder if the Pirates will give him a call, then they could have an all Nats OF when McCutchen takes a day off Church, Milledge and Dukes!

Seriously though, wow as far as I know no one except for Desmond has impressed both offensively and defensively in the OF.

Adam - What is Mench's arm like maybe he joins the big league camp?

Posted by: markfd | March 17, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

If Riggelman wants Desmond in right and Guzman at short, then I want Riggelman gone yesterday.

No, that's not it peri.

Posted by: Section506 | March 17, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Neither Maxwell, nor Bernadina are full-time players ... nor is Harris and truth be told it sounds like Willie prefers 2nd base.

And they couldn't even trade the guy? (Dukes). Wow, just wow.

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

OK, now Riggleman is on record saying this was a pure baseball move. The only out I see for avoiding that being a lie or incredibly stupid is that something happened in the clubhouse so was technically baseball related.

Makes minimum, has an option year. If Maxwell, Bernadina, Morse or anyone else is better - play them and send Dukes down. But why release him? No logic here unless....it was in the clubhouse. I don't want to wonder about Riggleman or Rizzo's integrity or judgment but I'm struggling a little here.

Posted by: Avar | March 17, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Just as he was getting his life in order. What a bombshell, Why release him the Giants were looking for a bat? Might he go to the Indians???

Thanks Dukes the fans loved you even if Rizzo didn't

Posted by: hansenjo | March 17, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

LOL - some guy said he actually had a custom-made Dukes jersey made. Must be the same guy that I see at the Skins game wearing a Frerotte 12.

Anyway, just like Pedro Surano, Elijah can hit fastball very far, butnot hit curve ball worth a bleep.

(no relation to Mike Rizzo)

Posted by: jrizzo5751 | March 17, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Okay 506, then the next best option offensively would be Mike Morse in right with Desmond at shortstop. I expect they would get better production from Morse as starter again when he doesn't have to worry as much about fielding a challenging position like shortstop as he did in Seattle for McLaren.

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

If there truly are no off the field issues this does not make sense. The salary is manageable and the potential for greatness is there. Very low risk and high upside. Exactly the type of player the Nats should be looking to if they hope to emerge as contenders in a few years. That lineup is less scary with Bernadina in the eight hole but I suppose he is truly an eight hitter. Strange spaghetti in this solemn city.

Posted by: drew_gallagher | March 17, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I love Willie Harris but he has a well-established body of work and if we can't do better than his bat in RF, that is bad and will hurt us.

I totally disagree that Maxwell or Bernadina aren't every day players. To quote Kip Dynamite, "How can anyone even know that Napolean"? Let them play and we'll find out.

I would love to see Morse in RF but not Desmond. Although...if you want to play Guzie and Desmond is killing the ball, how do you send him down to play SS and put a lesser hitter in RF? Very tough call.

Posted by: Avar | March 17, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I think what everyone who is proposing that Rizzo should/could have sent him to Syracuse is that Elijah doesn't WANT to go to Syracuse. Elijah probably would have rebelled against it and created a distraction - which would make it best for all involved to simply part ways.

Also, if they really think Elijah has peaked, why waste at-bats at Syracuse on him when those at-bats could be used to develop an up-and-coming prospect?

Posted by: MBUSA | March 17, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"Okay 506, then the next best option offensively would be Mike Morse in right with Desmond at shortstop."

I'm for that.

Posted by: Section506 | March 17, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Half St, Jermaine Dye? Really? C'mon that doesn't sound right.

The guy is pushing 36? They were starting to use him as a DH?

If there is one thing we know. Rizzo likes 'em younger.

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

If this truly is for baseball reasons, then it's hard to believe that they would not have found a trading partner even for a low level prospect. Why just release him? It makes no sense.
Therefore, it's hard to believe that it really is just for baseball reasons.

Like many, I was really rooting for Dukes. (And SofaKing, your opinion is absurdly harsh, Dukes has been fine off field in every way since he's been here, and the "lucky if he is not gunned down" notion is stupid).

Posted by: Sunderland | March 17, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Again just blown away by this. As a big Dukes supporter, how could they just drop him and not get a single player for all that potential? This is too weird.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 17, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

MBUSA makes good point. If they were going to send him down and he pitched a fit, that is a baseball issue.

OK, still clinging to Rizzo and Riggleman being smart and honest. Cue abusive responses....

Posted by: Avar | March 17, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

WOW,,,,, Like most. I had allot of hope for Dukes.
Something must have happened in the clubhouse for him to be abruptly released.

Posted by: dashriprock | March 17, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Kensing? I didn't see that on NAF. Brian must be really busy with school.

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Errrr NFA.

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

This may be a bit too cool-headed in the current mood...but what if, after watching a player for several years, you simply became convinced as a manager that what you have seen is as good as it's ever going to get?

Not all players can be fixed...

See Cabrera, Daniel.

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | March 17, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Wow!

I liked Dukes and hoped that he would do better. He showed flashs of brillance but more often then not showed a lack of concentration, in the field, on the bases or at the plate. I wish him luck.

BUT, we controlled him and he had potential and was making the mininum so I want to know WHY NOW.

Posted by: alm1000 | March 17, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

there is little chance they are going to get better production from the cast of characters listed.

Not to mention the depth in left and center is reduced. It is doubtful that Willingham and Morgan are going to play 150 games each in 2010. To let Dukes go for nothing indicates off the field issues got to be too much.

Posted by: Pensfans | March 17, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I'd expect that other than the beat reporters Brian over at NFA would have the best "deep" skinny on this. He just says "now we wait". For what?

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Long overdue. He was toxic in the clubhouse. Good job Rizzo.

Posted by: dclifer97 | March 17, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Although there aren't any great replacement options I don't think this is necessarily a bad move. The guy hadn't progressed as they liked, he was a moronic base-runner and rumor had it was a problem in the locker room. Better to cut bait and see what else you've got.

Posted by: trezmartin | March 17, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

But if Dukes was assigned to Syracuse and refused the demotion - the Nats can suspend him and that limits Dukes. He cannot sign anywhere else. Dukes really cannot refuse the demotion and use it as leverage. I think if he refuses the demotion, the Nats can place him on the "Disqualified List" and even free up a spot on the 40 man.

Posted by: comish4lif | March 17, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Wow! Sure he's the worst baserunner in the history of the game, but I was really encouraged by how he (finally) stopped chasing breaking balls out of the zone late in the year. This is a huge surprise, and I can't believe he couldn't be part of a trade package...especially with an option left. Just PLEASE don't bring in Jermaine Dye and his bad back.

Posted by: InTheCheapSeats | March 17, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

"But if Dukes was assigned to Syracuse and refused the demotion - the Nats can suspend him and that limits Dukes."

Do you want him anywhere in the organization? He can be toxic in Syracuse too.

Posted by: dclifer97 | March 17, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I am shocked. Just shocked. How could they release Logan Kensing?

Posted by: Santa72 | March 17, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

dclifer - have you been in the Nats locker room? I haven't, so, I cannot say what type of presence Dukes has there. Have you been in the locker room, or, can you point to me where he's been a cancer?

I'm not saying that he's a boy scout, but I haven't really heard anything about him being a negative presence. So, please, enlighten us.

Posted by: comish4lif | March 17, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Dukes

cannot hit the curve
cannot stay healthy
is a poor baserunner
and obviously did not have any trade value.

What he has brought to the table over the last couple of years is easily replacable.

Posted by: Sonny9 | March 17, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I am a Rays season tix holder. We know Dukes by 3 words:

Procreator
Cancer
Immature

His chances to prove everyone wrong are now running very, very thin....

Posted by: buccosean | March 17, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Everyone forgets that Rizzo is the guy who released a pitcher last year because: "I didn't like watching him pitch", so it could be any reason down to Dukes looking at him funny during BP last week, who knows.

I think Rizzo realizes that Dukes is also not a AAA player and since he couldn't trade him did right by Dukes in releasing him with hopefully enough time to catch on somewhere else.

Posted by: MBUSA | March 17, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

What do the coaches and the front office think about Desmond? Is he better suited to play the outfield? Is he or Espinosa the future shortstop? Judging from the offseason with bringing in a couple of second basemen and not moving Guzman to short you've got to wonder what they think because Desmond has had plenty of minor league seasoning and should be about as ready as he will ever be.

Posted by: Sonny9 | March 17, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

If Lastings Milledge had trade value, then Elijah Dukes has trade value.

The more I think about it, the more I am going with the "Crazy Ivan" scenario. MBUSA, "I didn't like watching him pitch" was the first thing I thought of when I read this headline.

Posted by: Section506 | March 17, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Not moving Guzman to second...

Posted by: Sonny9 | March 17, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

From MLB Trade Rumors:

"This is very surprising news, as Dukes projected as the team's starting right fielder and has a minor league option left. Goessling talked to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, who said the team made many attempts to trade Dukes but could not find an interested team (Twitter link)."

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what a development.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 17, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

It's not often you can say nobody here saw this one coming.

Posted by: nats24 | March 17, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they can get Austin Kearns back from the Indians.....just kidding!

Posted by: HistoryBoy | March 17, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Ok it's noon now. Where's the freakin reporting on this story. I'm sure everyones out at the park by now working out. Where's the story?

Posted by: dovelevine | March 17, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed by this news and there has got to be more to the story.

I say Good Luck to Elijah in his mission to turn his life around.

However, the team will move forward with Bernadina, Maxwell, Morse, etc. in right and quite frankly, not miss a beat.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 17, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

So is there ANY team willing to sign him to even a minor-league contract now?

Trying to remember if there's any other JimBow-era reclamation projects still hanging around the clubhouse now.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | March 17, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Willingham and Morgan are going to play 150 games each in 2010. To let Dukes go for nothing indicates off the field issues got to be too much.

Posted by: Pensfans | March 17, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse
______________________________________

Actually, If we just read above... Rizzo said exactly why they got rid of him... He is a cancer in the clubhouse... so why keep a guy like T.O. if you don't have to... in order to be a head case you better have mad skills or it's not worth the headache.

Posted by: tony325 | March 17, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I always thought that Dukes was right around the corner from being a very productive outfielder and thought his Father's death might have matured him. As much as they say its an onfield decision I can't imagine Dukes, as a person, doesn't have just as much to do with it - but no way can the organization say that. Will be interested to see where he lands.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 17, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"The clubhouse will be more united," Rizzo said. "We'll have a better feel around the ballclub. We'll gain just by that alone."


I think Rizzo's quote says it all.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 17, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Dukes will get picked up. Don't feel too sorry for him. We gave him a break when others weren't willing to. Clubhouse issues aside, he has managed off field issues (at least publicly) quite well.

Posted by: Tom8 | March 17, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Lastings Milledge was more immature than limited by talent. Dukes has raw tools, but its still a little unclear on the talent. I don't mean to defend Milledge, but I think it is much more likely Milledge has a 10+ year carreer with decent numbers than Dukes will. Word out of Pittsburgh is that Milledge has finally got the message that he's not in high school anymore.

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 17, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I think what everyone who is proposing that Rizzo should/could have sent him to Syracuse is that Elijah doesn't WANT to go to Syracuse. Elijah probably would have rebelled against it and created a distraction - which would make it best for all involved to simply part ways.

Also, if they really think Elijah has peaked, why waste at-bats at Syracuse on him when those at-bats could be used to develop an up-and-coming prospect?

Posted by: MBUSA | March 17, 2010 11:25 AM

If we're all attaching ourselves to hearsay and rumors, this seems like the best one to believe.

This could essentially be an agreement between Rizzo and Dukes (and agent). Rizzo makes it clear that Dukes is really not in his short or long term plans. Dukes not happy at the thought of another trip to Syracuse. Rizzo cuts it all out of the equation by granting Dukes a release with time for him to catch on with someone else - maybe even the Marlins (who knows?), where he'll be closer to home. And those are all issues that fall under the umbrella of 'baseball related'.

It's a shame that Elijah couldn't dramatically improve here - he had the potential to hit the snot out of the ball. I'll always remember the clout he hit in Philly last Summer - I think it's still bouncing around the slums of South Philadelphia.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 17, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

There goes a lot of talent.

I guess it takes an accountant to understand addition by subtraction.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | March 17, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget this Dukes was pretty much the last of Bowden's 'high upside' guys left. I'm sure that, at least to some degree, to Dukes down a notch in Rizzo's eyes. Granted, there was the thing with this father, but he showed nothing in winter ball and nothing this spring. And he was still a negative influence on the clubhouse. I have no problem with this. Maxwell, Morse and Bernadina are ready. And I don't mind Harris getting a shot at every day play.

Posted by: chekhov1 | March 17, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Alright, Rizzo, say something to prove me wrong: You made this move because he irritated you.

That's a bad way for a GM to make decisions.

Posted by: Section506 | March 17, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The "more unified clubhouse" quote clears it all up for me.

I guess we have to get used to a GM who doesn't tolerate guys who combine bad performance with bad attitude. Ok...I'm used to it. That was easy.

Posted by: Avar | March 17, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Dukes will have an easy time getting signed to a big league contract. Washington, Licey, and Tampa Bay have basically said the same about the guy.

The thing that will now always follow him will be Barnum Bowden stating that (paraphrase): "I told ownership that he would either be in the allstar game or in jail. 50-50. For the price he's worth the risk."

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Good Move. Now Trade Guzman or release him. Big deal he hit a homer today when the game was over. Move on NATS!!!

Posted by: billm32 | March 17, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Like it - removing a toxic presence in the clubhouse. Look, the only thing you need to know about this move is that "We found there was no interest in a trade for Elijah." Enough said - he's been living a career for several years based on 'promise' or 'potential.' It's a lot tougher to carry a guy like that when he's a divisive, disruptive force within the team. Sounds like the rest of baseball agrees.

Posted by: SavedByZero | March 17, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

As my Daddy used to say: "Something's rotten in Denmark." A team doesn't just up and release it's starting right fielder in the middle of spring training for no reason....and especially for the BS "more cohesive clubhouse" excuse offered. That makes no sense at all. Somewhere buried in all this has to be an enormous problem that has not yet come out.

Posted by: lesturgill | March 17, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Had to say I was disappointed in Dukes's performance on TV the other night...looked lost at bat and was getting late jumps on balls hit to RF and then nonchalanting the catches. That's only one game of course, but, if the decision was based only on baseball ability, the brass might very well have concluded after watching him this spring that he was never going to improve. But the unconditional release clearly points to off-the-field considerations, which Rizzo did indeed reference in his comments.
I join others in wishing him well with his life and his baseball career.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | March 17, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Admitedly, I'm having trouble keeping up with all the posts (Wow! This is great.) so perhaps this has already been reported, dissected, and debunked, but:

... According to Rich Coutinho of ESPN 1050 in New York, the Mets have discussed Cristian Guzman as a potential replacement for Jose Reyes.

Let's go Mets; Let's go Mets ...

(Actually I like Guzman, but Desmond needs to play).

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 17, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't a locker room issue count as an off-the-field issue? I think Rizzo means that there was no repeat of some of the earlier problems Dukes had experienced.

It's still strange that the release occured today. I wonder if a specific locker room event sparked the release.

If so, you may not hear about it, unless a player speaks off the record.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 17, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't think anything stinks. The Nats are loaded at that position and Dukes just isn't as good. A change of scenery might help him.

Posted by: richs91 | March 17, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"The candidates to replace Dukes in right field are Justin Maxwell of Olney, Maryland, Roger Bernadina, Mike Morse and Willie Harris."

Worth noting - those four potential replacements have played about 21 games of major league right field, combined.

I don't think Rizzo is done making moves this Spring... we'll see.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 17, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

When they fire Rizzo someday, and it will be for saying stuff like they would have sent Dukes to the minors in lieu of releasing him but they thought his development had peaked. IF Dukes makes another club and produces at all, Rizzo is going to look like an idiot. And there is a decent chance that Dukes does just that.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 17, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry but I find this to be a really sad day in Nats history. And considering the state of the Nats and their history, that sez a lot.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 17, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I wanted to see Dukes succeed, but I believe that their is more to this story.

I wish him the best of luck.

Posted by: eriksorenson | March 17, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Natsbiscuits: who would we possible want from the Mets in return for Guzie? A bag of balls, Jeff Francoeur, an A-ball picther?

Posted by: MBUSA | March 17, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Richs91 - can you explain to me how the Nats are "loaded at that position" - Willie Harris, Desmond, Maxwell, Mench, Bernadina, and Chris Duncan? That doesn't sound loaded to me...

Posted by: comish4lif | March 17, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Justin Maxwell of Olney, Maryland, Roger Bernadina, Mike Morse and Willie Harris

Maybe they can match what Dukes did last year, probably not do better than that.

Posted by: Pensfans | March 17, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Next, Guzman!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | March 17, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

didn't the Nats employ a retired police officer to watch Dukes?

Is he unemployed now too?

Posted by: Pensfans | March 17, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

@comish4lif

You are kidding right? Aside from what Rizzo said, here's a tip, google "Nationals clubhouse dukes" and see what you find.

Posted by: dclifer97 | March 17, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Behind the scenes reports are that Dukes is going to become an ultimate fighter.

Posted by: state82 | March 17, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Any of the players comment on or off the record on Dukes' release?

Posted by: markfd | March 17, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Elijah Dukes
Age: 25
'09 MLB Numbers
AB: 364
.250/.393/.729
HR: 8
RBI: 58
SO: 74
SB: 3 / CS: 10

Justin Maxwell
Age: 25
'09 MLB Numbers
AB: 89
.247/.449/.793
HR: 4
RBI: 9
SO: 32
SB: 6 / CS: 1

Posted by: Kev29 | March 17, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Jesus, you'd think that the Nats just released Albert Pujols. What more needs to be said than your GM stating the clubhouse will be more unified and the team will be better merely from his subtraction? I think Rizzo might have better insight into this than anyone on here.

If Dukes was an intolerable cancer when struggling to hold a spot on the Nats roster, what do you think he'd be like if he actually produced? You can't polish a turd. So long Elijah, now let's see someone in RF that appreciates the opportunity.

Posted by: MDPensfan | March 17, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Dukes appears to be the kind of guy who finds a job on losing teams. Good teams wouldn't put up with him. If the Nats want to become a winning team (or at the very least convince their current players, the fans and everyone else in MLB that they're trying to be a winning team) they needed to make this move.

BTW, I wouldn't rule out signing Dye, as long as you don't plan on playing him every day. His numbers against lefties last year were good.

Posted by: baltova1 | March 17, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Good comparison, Kev29. Remember, Maxwell hit much better in September when Rick Eckstein lowered his hands and made his bat quicker.

Posted by: baltova1 | March 17, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

dclifer97, before Rizzo's quotes went public - you were stating it as a fact - and not the innuendo and rumor that is out there.

And still, Rizzo didn't put much concrete facts on the tbale here.

The Nats would have been better off sending Dukes to Syracuse and trying to get him to increase his value. He'd get minor league pay in Syracuse, and wouldn't have much choice other than to go to Syracuse or quit baseball.

Posted by: comish4lif | March 17, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

dclifer97, before Rizzo's quotes went public - you were stating it as a fact - and not the innuendo and rumor that is out there.

And still, Rizzo didn't put much concrete facts on the tbale here.

The Nats would have been better off sending Dukes to Syracuse and trying to get him to increase his value. He'd get minor league pay in Syracuse, and wouldn't have much choice other than to go to Syracuse or quit baseball.

Posted by: comish4lif | March 17, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Actually, you can. I saw it on Mythbusters. No foolin'.

-----

You can't polish a turd.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 17, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a mistake. I think Dukes had a lot to offer and hope he lands a position with a NL team and shows the Nats what they just GAVE away!

Posted by: burnie4241 | March 17, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

The Nats would have been better off sending Dukes to Syracuse and trying to get him to increase his value. He'd get minor league pay in Syracuse, and wouldn't have much choice other than to go to Syracuse or quit baseball.

Posted by: comish4lif | March 17, 2010 1:45 PM

Or Rizzo just decided, 'why pu$$y foot around here? Let's just cut ties.'

Posted by: Kev29 | March 17, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

dclifer97, before Rizzo's quotes went public - you were stating it as a fact - and not the innuendo and rumor that is out there.

And still, Rizzo didn't put much concrete facts on the tbale here.

The Nats would have been better off sending Dukes to Syracuse and trying to get him to increase his value. He'd get minor league pay in Syracuse, and wouldn't have much choice other than to go to Syracuse or quit baseball.

Posted by: comish4lif | March 17, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

One thing that might be getting overlooked in these posts is what role in this decision did Riggleman play? It was well publicized in the off season how Riggs tried to reach out to Dukes after his father died but Riggleman also has a reputation as a manager who wants his players to play the game "the right way" and to respect the game. He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who will put up with a lot of nonsense on the field or in the clubhouse. I'm not saying Dukes did not go all out all on the field but what about his practice habits and how he went about his work? If the manager didn't think he was taking his work seriously and there were problems in the clubhouse as Rizzo has suggested, than I can see the rationale behind this move especially if they could not find anyone interested in a trade.

Posted by: CHAMP1464 | March 17, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

No off-field problems but clearly a locker room problem. Keep making the changes that need to be made to improve this team.

Posted by: POPS1 | March 17, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

JiM, I saw that, too! I think they make jewelry out of it in some places...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 17, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I too was pulling for Dukes to continue to develop and felt he had stayed out of trouble and controlled his temper. But the team's statements are contradictory - 'just a baseball decision' implies performance on the field, but 'the clubhouse will be more united, we'll gain by that alone' is not on the field performance. I have a feeling that he didn't have friends on the team or even speak to anyone much and other players didn't like that. But if you are a professional athlete you should be able to deal with having teammates of various personalities.

If the Cubs could trade Milton Bradley the Nats surely could have gotten someone for Dukes. And like others pointed out, he is getting a minimum contract and is under team control it doesn't make sense to just let him go. If you have better options then why are they immediately talking about bringing in someone else like Dye.

I'm looking forward to some WP reporters getting the real story behind the decision.

Posted by: CoachD1 | March 17, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

On behalf of JohninMpls:

http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/mythbusters-polishing-a-turd.html

Posted by: smirkman | March 17, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

No sh*t. I must have missed that episode.

(After Googling.) Oh, I see that smirkman beat me to it. (And no, that particular piece of jewelry is *not* going on my wish list.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 17, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm willing to believe it's baseball until proven otherwise. The guy is a .250 hitter with bad knees and no hints of a gold glove in his future. If clubhouse issues were all that, they'd have kept Villone. Rizzo just doesn't believe Dukes will get much better, and they have other outfielders who can probably hit .250.
I'm not surprised there was no trade interest. There wouldn't have been much in any case, and if other GMs smell a patterson coming, they can afford to wait. Rizzo is probably thinking he's doing Dukes a favor by cutting him now, while it's still early.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 17, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I was reading Nationals Insider. There is a great quote the many times Nats320 called Dukes a 5 tool player.

Nats320 is such a tool. Seems Rizzo didn't think Dukes had enough tools in his shed.
----------------------------
Steve M. said...
I keep thinking of Nats320 stating many times since 2008 that Dukes was a 5 tool player.

I saw one tool that was amazing. The man has a gun for a arm. I never saw the other 4 tools working at the same time.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 17, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I think it's pretty obvious that Riggleman/Rizzo (should I just call them Rigz?) feel this is addition by subtraction. They actually did Dukes a favor by releasing him now. If he's as promising as some folks think he is, he'll have plenty of opportunity to catch on with another ballclub. If not, he'll be driving a UPS truck. I'm genuinely sorry he lost his dad, but nobody owes him a job in the majors. If it's true he wasn't ready when the bell rang this spring (which Rizzo is quoted as saying this morning on Zuckerman's Nats Insider blog), then Dukes has nobody to blame but himself.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | March 17, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Willy Tavares is motivated as today's rightfielder. 2 for 2 with a HR

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 17, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

>>I'm looking forward to some WP reporters getting the real story behind the decision. Posted by: CoachD1

That would be a first. Maybe we should wait for the NY Post version.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 17, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I kinda called this in a post last week. I said that Dukes would lose his job to a platoon of Bernadina and Morse by May. While outright releasing him is a bit of a shock, I think its a great move and shows the Nats have turned the corner and become a professional organization rather than a laughing stock. The message has been sent: Enough with the head cases with attitudes - We want real ball players who want to win, Period. Rizzo is a PRO.

Posted by: hersheyman | March 17, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

periculum, others-

Wow, what an awful lot of posts on this one. I hope we get a chance to talk about Dye a little more later, because it seems you have more insight than I do. I see that he had a great 2008, and 2009 was down. Still, with 27 HR and 64 walks, he had some production and an OBP 90 points better than his .250 BA.

I guess it is pretty obvious that he isn't the player he had been, and I am not advocating more than a year's contract. However, I am not sold that Maxwell or Bernadina could match even those lesser Dye numbers, at least this year.

Marquis was lousy again today. So much for the good feelings from yesterday's sweep.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 17, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

1/2 St.: FWIW, Dye's numbers last year against LHP:

.292 BA
.387 OBP
.508 SLG
.894 OPS

Only 150 plate appearances, but it makes you wonder if he'd be worth it in some sort of platoon.

Posted by: baltova1 | March 17, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The story thus far:

Dukes gone. Marquis hammered again. Capps hammered again. Maxwell not producing. Ditto for Duncan.

Is this any way to run a baseball team? Sure, it's only ST, but things gotta start gelling soon.

Posted by: luv2bikva | March 17, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Maxwell. Batting .107. When you can't bat your own weight that is bad, but when you can't bat your wife's weight, time to hang up the cleats (unless you have a super obese wife).

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 17, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see him go. He is a cancer in the locker room, a stirrer of trouble, talks behind the managers back, and is a bad influence on younger players.

Posted by: MKadyman | March 17, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Terrible decision. Absolutely dreadful choice by the Washington front office. Our lineup took a serious hit today. At his best, Dukes is a .370+ OBP guy who can hit for power and has a cannon arm and good speed/reflexes in RF. I hope he catches on somewhere else and makes 5 All Star games to stick it to this inept front office.

Don't worry we have Pudge Rodriguez to fill the void in the lineup... and we won't even need much offense, haven't you seen what the SP has done this Spring? Look out everyone, we might only lose 98 this year!

Great...

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | March 17, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

With perennial underachiever and overly immature EDukes, we can safely assume there is more to the story than (initially) reported.

The trouble is, does the underlying issue rise to the threshold where participants need to lawyer up... or can we just keep it quiet and let those involved work it out on their own terms?

Regardless of how it ultimately breaks, it's noteworthy that EDuke's lawyer should be the first to speak up on his behalf... vice the man himself... or his agent.

Posted by: Vic1 | March 17, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see him go. He is a cancer in the locker room, a stirrer of trouble, talks behind the managers back, and is a bad influence on younger players.

Posted by: MKadyman | March 17, 2010 3:11 PM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And you know this because you are in the locker room??? Shut the "F" up on stuff you know nothing about.

Dukes had not 1 issue while he was in DC except for the time he was late coming back from his Little League appearance.

Again, he may not be the 5 tool player one guy thought he was going to be so it isnt like he wasnt a good everyday rightfielder just because he isnt going to the All-Star game!

Lets see who can put up the type of numbers he had while daring baserunners from stretching a single into a double after a rattler in the rightfield corner.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 17, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

If the team would give Mike Morse a shot for a year, they may find a pretty good hitter with reasonable defensive skills.

Posted by: turkerm | March 17, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

UPDATE: Maxwell now Batting .103.

Also, where is Mike Morse? He didn't play in either game yesterday or today so far.


Posted by: dmacman88 | March 17, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Well, they're serious now. Bernadina, Morgan, and Willingham are the starting outfield to start the season...

Posted by: bromisky | March 17, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Dukes had "potential". So did Austin Kearns. Enough said. Potential doesn't win ball games.

Posted by: lj1126 | March 17, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Well, they're serious now. Bernadina, Morgan, and Willingham are the starting outfield to start the season...

Posted by: bromisky | March 17, 2010 3:41 PM
++++++++++++++++++

Did Rizzo tell you this?

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 17, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"You don't give away an asset . . ."

I think what the front office is saying is that Dukes does not represent an "asset."

The Nats are not quite bottom fishing any more.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 17, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

wow.. The Nats still are not dedicated to winning.. Just keep buying those tickets DC fans....

Posted by: robinhood2 | March 17, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Had the pleasure (not) of watching him during his years with the Rays and in our minor league system. He was a volatile, inconsistent player who was poison in the clubhouse - a terrible influence on younger players and peers and an irritant to established players. You were always waiting for the next incident. Plus he was just downright mean to people. We were thrilled to be rid of him.

Nats fans, this is addition by subtraction. You will be a better team for this.

Posted by: stpetecat | March 17, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

wow...Just keep buying those tickets DC fans....Posted by: robinhood2


Yea Well I just bought my tickets for an April game against the Dodgers when it's still early enough in the season that we can still kid/delude ourselves that we're still part of the real season and still in it. Too much after that and it gets sketchy.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 17, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

stpetecat: Dukes was a horrible influence on the younger players when he was in the minors with Tampa, you mean when he was like 19-20 years old? Come on.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 17, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Just a patently idiotic move, if there really was no precipitating event that they aren't revealing (and apparently not, according to all the hints in the piece).

25-years-old, five tools, and a salary under .5 million. Rizzo is as big a dope as I feared. With the Nats *right on the cusp* of a World Championship in 2010, he simply couldn't wait any longer for this guy, lol. Especially after he'd made such strides emotionally. That needed to be punished, apparently.

There is no way you don't send a talent like this to AAA, or get something real nice for him. Pittsburgh alone I'm sure would have happily ripped Rizzo off again with some glorified 4th OF or middle reliever arm in exchange, just as they did in the Morgan/Milledge deal. They specialize in taking Rizzo's high-upside players off of him, just as rebuilding teams should be doing.

Rizzo is turning out to be "old school" in all the self-destructive ways. It's gonna be a long few years here with this fool in charge.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 17, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Good grief, just read this again and am shaking my head. The Nats are going for "more production" in RF. Maybe sign someone expensive with a track record (Dye), who's soon to be on the decline.

Last place teams should not be "looking for production". They should be looking for players who will be major parts of a contending team 3 years from now at low salary. Players like Elijah Dukes.

Rizzo. Has. Zero. Clue.

Sad.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 17, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

My instincts tell me that this move was more about getting rid of the Bowden past (ie. similar to Lastings Milledge) than about Dukes ability to contribute. Possibly he had personality conflicts with some of the team leaders (Zimmerman, Dunn, Pudge) and they felt it was better to go with some of the other younger players like Maxwell who played well last year.

We haven't waited for the other shoe to drop and the Nats may well sign Jermaine Dye to have a veteran RF who is a known commodity. Given Dukes' injury history and inconsistent play, the Nats brass must have felt they could get more production out of the position and didn't want to carry Dukes on the roster as a platoon player. I was sorry to see he was let go from a personal standpoint because he's made a lot of progress off the field, but this appears to be a baseball move.

Posted by: wizfan89 | March 17, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Willie Mays hit .236 with 4 HRs during his second season. The Giants should have released him outright that year. I mean, the guy clearly sucked. Right Mikey?

Posted by: B2O2 | March 17, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't wish Dukes ill, but I'm pleased to see this move. For goodness sake, Dukes was never going to be the Nationals' right fielder for the long term. If Rizzo's emphasis on character and clubhouse cohesion hadn't made that clear, we haven't been paying attention.

The Nationals' future right fielder might well be be Bryce Harper. He also might be Michael Burgess or Destin Hood. He was not going to be Elijah Dukes.

Posted by: Drew8 | March 17, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

MBUSA:

"Also, if they really think Elijah has peaked, why waste at-bats at Syracuse on him when those at-bats could be used to develop an up-and-coming prospect?"

Oh yeah, Dukes is "all washed up" at 25. But Justin Maxwell, who whiffed in over 1/3 of his at bats last year in AAA at age 26, is a promising prospect. And Willie Harris and 5th-OF-fodder Roger Bernadina? Seriously?

I say it again: Rizzo is in WAY over his head in this job. This is painful to watch.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 17, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Mays only hit 4 HR because he only played in 34 games that year because he was drafted into the Army and missed most of that year and all of the next. The year before he was Rookie of the Year.

Dukes is also 4 years older than Mays in that year and still hasn't shown that he can stay healthy for a full season.

Not a valid comparison B2O2

Posted by: packyderm2 | March 17, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Did someone actually mention Willie Mays and Dukes in the same sentence? If Dukes had Mays' glove, arm, and speed and played centerfield that might have been a relative comment, not to mention a definite age difference between Mays' second season and Dukes'.

Posted by: Sonny9 | March 17, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Addition by subtraction. Important meal money saved. Gained: three wins just getting him outta the locker room. Lost: image of baseball whizzing toward the fence past the bill of Duke's cap. Dye is not the answer, and neither is anyone else who doesn't stand a chance of being around to compete for a division title in 2012.

Posted by: TheophilusS | March 17, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

This made me so sad when I heard.

It's obvious Rizzo is big on "character" guys so I guess I can kind of see why he did this if it's true that Dukes wasn't a great clubhouse guy.

Still, I really thought he'd turned a corner after he got sent down last year.

The fact that he DID have a good attitude when he got sent down to Syracuse, they fired his watchdog which didn't cause any problems, and he seemed to respect both Rizzo and Riggleman and sounded like he wanted to do well for them. Plus it's an important year for him.

I'm just really bummed for the guy. He's not had a very good couple of months.

Hang in there, Elijah. I wish you the best.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 17, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Sorry it didn't work out, hope the guy lands on his feet.

The way people who know so much about what goes on in the locker room and who's a toxic cancer take time to post here is touching. I mean, surely they have more information than reading the same newspaper articles as everybody else.

Love Willie Harris, but he really can't be your everyday right fielder.

Posted by: markfromark | March 17, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Good move by the Nats.......the guy was a jerk in the clubhouse, just like that other jerk Milledge.......I'm sure the players are glad to see him go. The clubhouse will be so much more enjoyable. The guy, like Milledge, was not a very good player......terrible baserunner, too many holes in his swing, and of course, a clubhouse cancer........the Nats actually had to pay someone to follow this guy around so that he would behave himself!.......this isn't supposed to be a liberal social experiment to redeem immature ghetto people.....this is a business where cohesion is important.

Posted by: msg8568 | March 17, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

There's obviously more to this story than been reported thus far. The guy still has potential and is young--the fact no other team would trade ANYTHING for him indicates to me that there's more trouble we don't know about yet that killed any other team's desire to take a chance on him. So it is good Dukes is gone. Hope in replacing him the Nats make an upgrade rather than try and plug in a likely disappointment.

Posted by: smartheart | March 17, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Due to his past off-field issues and his tenure with the Rays, and now being released by one of baseball's previously worst-performing teams, I can understand why there would be little to no interest in him during the offseason. I wonder, as some others have wondered, if it wasn't a clubhouse issue/problem that's being kept quiet. His injury history isn't fantastic and he still has trouble with breaking balls. Still, he matured a lot over the past few years, and seems to have dealt with the sad loss of his father quite well. Can't say I fault the team for releasing him. At the same time, I feel sad for Dukes. I hope it wasn't anything like stealing or fighting in the clubhouse. Whatever happened, if anything did behind the scenes, I wish him luck and success for the future.

Posted by: samantha7 | March 17, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Just my thoughts -

1. Dukes is a typical "toolsy" player who got by on sheer athleticism. He never really developed as a player. Sometimes the absolute athletic ability and lack of focus doesn't make for steady development.

2. He could run down anything, but too often, didn't take the best route to the ball.

3. He has a cannon for an arm, but like many before him, couldn't hit the broad side of a barn as often as a major leaguer should.

4. He could hit the ball a mile, when he actually hit it. Never really learned to hit a curve ball (and remember, in the majors, everything breaks). He was fooled too often, too badly.

5. Sometimes he has amazing plate discipline, but too often wouldn't exercise it.

6. In showing very little improvement, over the past couple of years, when he was beginning to get at bats, he projected an increasingly limited realistic upside.

7. My best guess (and I'd put $ on it) is that he was offered to a number of clubs over the winter and nobody bit. With a mediocre attitude and early spring training, he was simply not an attractive option for most clubs.

I wish him the best, but my recommendation would be to suck it up, play independent ball for a year, and hope to get noticed.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | March 17, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Elijah, get to Court quick, and get your child support payments reduced to reflect your current salary. Trust me, better to do it now than later.

Posted by: cr10 | March 17, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

There's a player who hit 3 HR in his first 52 games (over three seasons) at ages 24-26. Obviously that guy couldn't last in the majors. Well, he's hit 175 over his past five seasons (ages 33-37). Guy by the name of Raul Ibanez. So you people saying he _can't_ be [blank], you really don't know.

But that said -- Baseball Reference says Dukes is most similar to Laynce Nix...when you look at Dukes' comparables, you can see why they got no takers.

Posted by: gbooksdc | March 17, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

I felt bad about this decision until I read up on just how "controversial" Dukes' previous behavior was. See the wikipedia link below. Sounds like the guy had baggage galore and even if he was starting to work through it having a player like this is like having a ticking time bomb. Sounds like his dad was violent and so was Dukes, especially towards women. The Nats shouldn't have to put up with that trash. Goodbye and good riddance!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elijah_Dukes

Posted by: nvamikeyo | March 18, 2010 5:27 AM | Report abuse

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