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Posted at 12:35 PM ET, 02/13/2011

A welcome to Viera, and five things to watch for there

By Adam Kilgore

space coast.jpg

I arrived in Florida today, for the start of the Nationals' spring training in Viera. It's already been an eventful day. The drive from the Orlando airport to the Residence Inn that I'm calling home included a stretch Navigator limo drilling a wild turkey in the middle of Route 528. The limo, with some major damage to its grill, survived. The turkey did not.

Not all is that sad. The sun is shining, Nationals players are still trickling in, and within two days pitchers and catchers officially report. Team employees spent today finishing up the clubhouse so it's ready when players arrive in full. There should be some guys working out tomorrow, and updates and interviews should follow. The first game, by the way, is Feb. 28, just 15 days away.

For the time being, here's a quick look at five of the story lines I'm most looking forward to following this spring:

Jayson Werth becomes a National. Ever since the Nationals handed him the 14th richest contract in baseball history, Jayson Werth has existed more as an idea than a baseball player. The discussion and debate about the merits of his contract was, without question, appropriate. But after a while, it also obscured something else that's important: Werth is a darn fine baseball player and will most likely be excellent for the 2011 Nationals.

With spring here, we can place the contract talk on the back burner and focus on analyzing Werth as a player. It will be fascinating to see how he fits into the lineup and in the clubhouse, how he handles right field in Nationals Park, how he deals with the new pressure to lift the Nationals out of their last-place abyss. Whether or not Werth's contract looks good years from now is one thing. Put that on hold. Now that spring is here, we can finally just watch him play.

Bryce Harper's first spring training. Harper more than held his own out in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .343 with a homer, a double, a triple and four walks in limited time. He was playing with some of the prospects in the majors. This spring will provide a new challenge to Harper, an 18-year-old who devours new challenges. At least for a short while, he'll be facing the best players in the world.

It will also be interesting to watch Harper interact with teammates, all of them much older. We still think of Ryan Zimmerman as a relatively young star, and he is EIGHT YEARS older than Harper. Ivan Rodriguez is old enough be his father. Last year's reigning first overall pick, Stephen Strasburg, was a model for high-profile rookies who want to impress veterans. Harper tends to be more demonstrative than Strasburg, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It'll be different, though, and worth watching.

Mike Rizzo's defense debuts. The Nationals rebuilt themselves as a defense-first team this offseason, swapping Adam Dunn for Adam LaRoche at first base, positioning Danny Espinosa to take over at second base and adding Jayson Werth to the outfield while subtracting Josh Willingham.

The infield especially figures to be improved when you factor in the jump Ian Desmond is expected to make in his second full season. We'll begin to see what kind of effect the improved defense has on the pitching staff, and the team as a whole.

Can Nyjer Morgan seize center field? Morgan enters spring as the Nationals' everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter. The best version of their defense includes him locked in out in centerfield, and the best version of their offense includes him creating havoc (the good kind of havoc) in the leadoff spot.

That being the case, Morgan has a lot to prove after his disappointing 2010. Hitting Morgan leadoff is not tenable if he logs another .319 on-base percentage - including .280 against left-handed pitchers - with a 73 OPS+ while leading the league in getting caught stealing to boot.

The Nationals are giving him the spots to start the year. But he'll have to earn them in order to keep his important dual roles. If Morgan falters, the Nationals could move to a platoon, perhaps with Werth taking center and Michael Morse taking right field against left-handed pitchers. Or Morgan could lose the spot altogether to Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina. The Nationals want Morgan to be their guy, but it's up to him and his performance.

The state of the rotation. Rizzo couldn't land the No. 1 starter he wanted to this offseason, but the Nationals' starting pitcher - among the worst in the majors last season - figures to improve, anyway. Jason Marquis should be an adequate piece of the rotation after his injury-filled disaster of a 2010. John Lannan finished the year strong. Yunesky Maya had a great winter. Chien-Ming Wang should finally contribute. Jordan Zimmermann will have a full season and is further removed from his Tommy John surgery. Tom Gorzelanny gives them added depth. Ross Detwiler should come into the spring healthy. Etc., etc.

It would be a little optimistic to think that everything would go right for all those starters. Plus, Livan Hernandez is more likely to regress than improve after his superb 2010 season. Chances are, though, the Nationals will field a far more respectable rotation this year than last. Now we get to see it take shape.

By Adam Kilgore  | February 13, 2011; 12:35 PM ET
 
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Next: Long toss: What are your top story lines?

Comments

Hope springs eternal - For 2011, I'd hope for a much-improved infield defense, 'bounceback' seasons from Lannan & Marquis, 'breakout' years from Storen & Desmond, and possibly climbing past both FLA & NYM in the NL East standings.

Posted by: BinM | February 13, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Hoping that Flores plays great out of the gate. He's had enough bad luck for a while. Stay healthy Jesus.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 13, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

In addition to the other best wishes above:

Here's hoping Corey Brown makes folks forget about when Harper gets to the majors so that he can get at least 2 years of solid seasoning down there. (Which from my perspective is Rizzo's hope.)

And I think Gorzelanny is more than "added depth" or an after-thought for that matter. In the end I believe its about endurance. How well he, Zimmermann and perhaps Detwiler (if he makes it) fare in the latter parts of the season. I still have to believe that both Lannan and Marquis get traded at some point soon ... Milone is just about ready and Livo makes a better rubber-armed fifth/long-relieve/spot starter at this point in his career.

Posted by: periculum | February 13, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

For me great defense is as exciting and valuable as any other aspect of the game.
It bolsters the pitching staff, chokes off rallies, energizes the offense and pumps up the fans. I am so tired of seeing the extra pitches and runs surrendered by failure to make routine plays, let alone the rally killers. Desmond and Morgan need to play up to their potential to make the defense hum.

Posted by: Natmeister | February 13, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I will add my wishes of Desmond having a huge drop in the number of errors, a combination of LaRoche and his year of experience. We are not playoff contenders but I think our infield could be terrific. I am also hoping for Marquis to return to his previous standards which are not great but at least solid. Can't wait to see how long they stay with Morgan and like Peri, want to see more of Brown. I have never believed in platooning and don't want to see Werth or Bernadina doing spot duty. Not only would I love to see 75+ wins, wouldn't it be great if we were at least in the picture for the wildcard with a month to go. This is what spring is all about.

Go Nats!!

Posted by: sjm3091 | February 13, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

One thing Natinal fans should look for are Natinal players smoking the wacky-tobacky.

That would help explain why the team is flat out terrible.

Who knows, maybe the Natinal players got some of that salvia crap and smoke that instead. Would explain why they'll lose 100+ games this year.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 13, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Elijah Dukes -- I will say this once more, 2008 season he had a 127 OPS+. He had every raw talent conceivable, power, speed, range, strong arm, plate discipline. What he lacked for in instinct he provided in effort on the field. Not once did he dog it, any true Nationals fan who watched the games would know that.

To make an argument that he is not in the league for "baseball reasons" is an argument not easily won. I can provide the statistics of dozens of players currently on the rosters of each team that are similar or worse than Dukes, and most of them do not contain a sliver of the potential he did.

Was he cancerous in the clubhouse? Who is to say? Upon his release I waited and waited for any news publication to file a report that he was a bad influence on the team.

One player rejoiced in his departure, it was Justin Maxwell. A career loser who never once posted the numbers that Dukes did in sustained MLB playing time. He was jockeying for position on the depth chart and still fell short.

If drug use is what you wish to hang your hat on as viable reasoning for Dukes' blackballing, I simply point you in the direction of Tim Lincecum and Josh Hamilton. Two WHITE players celebrated by the media who have both used and continue to use drugs. If Josh Hamilton were a black man, he would not be in baseball today. End of story.

It is truly sad to see what has happened to Elijah Dukes, especially after all of the adversity he has faced to get to the point he did. If many of you took the time to read his story, his upbringing is ripe with horror and tragedy, yet he managed to forge a career - though, briefly - as a major league player and he was, in my mind, a success at it. I wish Washington would admit their wrongdoings and invite him to re-join the team, we could certainly use his help.

Those of you who mentioned earlier that I, not the Nationals, and not major league baseball, am the racist and that I am in the wrong for bringing up race, that's fine. If you truly believe that, there is nothing I will say to dissuade you. I have discovered that over the years, most people see really do see what's happening, but only a few will believe and admit to it.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | February 13, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

You know what helps Hamilton and Lincecum?

They're GOOD.

Dukes sucks, of course that explains why he played on the Natinals.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 13, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

>I have discovered that over the years, most people see really do see what's happening, but only a few will believe and admit to it.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq

Oh get off your high horse. Part of racism is fear. Looks more like the button-downs who run the game now are afraid of him, so it's easier to ignore him. The same marginalization that the rest of black society talks about. The thing about Lincecum is weird - it's like the culture out there doesn't care about weed. Besides, he wasn't getting high BEFORE GAMES. At least not when he pitched. That's the kind of crap (smoking weed before games) these idiots I used to play with in high school back in the '70's used to do. Absolutely useless. He deserves what he gets, but yeah, all the GMs are afraid of him. I thought the players union would have stepped in and kept him under contract while they sent him to treatment or something, make a statement, etc., but it must not have been a 'treatment' offense so they just cut him.

Posted by: Brue | February 13, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Once you know the schedule for the Nats next week can you please let us know? I'm planning on driving up from Venice on either Thursday or Friday to try and get few autographs before the March 1st opener and want to determine which day and time I should try and arrive. Thanks!

Posted by: brothbart | February 13, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I visited Space Coast Stadium on a post-Christmas trip to Florida and they still had a sign up designating Stan Kasten's parking space. I hope they've updated the signage to give that prime real estate to Rizzo.

Posted by: greggwiggins | February 13, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

The limo, with some major damage to its grill, survived. The turkey did not.

------

I think I'd avoid Panera for a few days, Adam. Just saying...

Posted by: baltova1 | February 13, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

You stay classy, musiq. Nice cheap shots at Lincecum and Josh Hamilton. BTW, you ignored the Nationals' willingness to give Dmitri Young several chances. You forget that Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden got all kinds of second chances. Why? Because they were worth having on the team, if they could stay clean. You can't say the same thing about Dukes. If you could, he wouldn't have to be a rapper these days.

I can't wait for camp to open so we can move beyond these kind of BS stories.

Posted by: baltova1 | February 13, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we can move beyond poopy pooping his pants every post.

Posted by: periculum | February 13, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Brue- I'm not on a high horse, I'm just a guy with an opinion. Also, what evidence do you have that Lincecum has not smoked weed on days that he pitches? And maybe they don't care about weed on the West coast, but the Cy Young voters and high ranking officials of the league don't all live in Cali.

Baltova- Dmitri Young was given a second chance under Jim Bowden, a man who only sees talent and potential. No chance that would have happened under the current regime. I didn't take a single cheap shot at Lincecum or Hamilton, I stated facts. Period. If Dukes were not worth having on the team how do you explain the numbers he put up in 2008? A fluke? If that's your argument, fine. I just don't buy into it.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | February 13, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I'll just say one more thing and then I'll leave it alone, just please do me a favor.

GOOGLE SEARCH: Deadspin -- The Devil Is Still In Josh Hamilton.

If those were pictures of Torii Hunter, do you think the mainstream media would have picked up on them? Or do you think the league would have turned a blind eye as they did for the great redemption story, Josh Hamilton: White Knight of Baseball in Texas?

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | February 13, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Brue- I'm not on a high horse

Dmitri Young was given a second chance under Jim Bowden

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq

You're cryin like a baby. This is where your argument falls apart. Only reason Dmitri got another chance is because he was under contract. He stole about 10 million. Didn't change anything for him - he said this year he was riding around the country in an RV getting stoned. People don't change unless they want to. If you're dumb enough to get high before games, and then call it peer pressure, like he's 14 or something, then maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to babysit him through his denial. Might be years before he gets his act together, but if you think you can hit major league pitching stoned, you're a complete *******.

Posted by: Brue | February 13, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

As someone who both lives on the west coast and has a prescription the wacky-tobacky let me say that NO ONE out here does care about weed.

Too bad the rest of the country can't wake up.

Time to go hit the bong.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 13, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

It's an omen--Harper is the limo, his bat is the grille, and the ball is the turkey!

Posted by: rockcreekbob | February 13, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Brue - A lifetime 104 OPS+ at age 24 is where your argument falls apart. Maybe you can hit major league pitching stoned... lol

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | February 13, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

>Brue - A lifetime 104 OPS+ at age 24 is where your argument falls apart. Maybe you can hit major league pitching stoned... lol

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq

Story: My team (W-L) is in the Virginia AAAA playoffs in '79, we're playing at Fairfax high school against Woodson, I played CF, and before the game, the RF went out to the woods there and got high. And he comes over and tells me he just smoked some hash. This is the regionals, and I ain't playing with this. Guy leads off for us anyway, and don't you know he homers in his first at bat. Then he homers AGAIN in the fourth inning. We rolled on to play Marshall in the regional final. If we had won the game against Marshall, lost in extra innings, we would have played Woodbridge in the state semi-final (whom we'd already beat that year). Maybe it's because we ultimately smoked too much weed that we didn't get a shot at the state finals that year.

Posted by: Brue | February 13, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Note to Musiq: I can't say i disagree with some of your opinions Josh Hamilton was a serious drug abuser (yes he has talent) and he was given every chance to right his life i saw his story on OTL on a sunday e s p n episode. I stated last season that i thought that Dukes was treated unfairly by this organization and Rizzo and Riggleman basically told this fan base that we don't feel we owe anybody an explanation. I've said before that the fact that this team doesn't have a black coach bother's the hell out of me and did it ever occur to this franchise that keeping F.Robby in the loop would have been the smart thing to do. I'm waiting to see if the Nationals will drug test player's for pot or just ignore Duke's claims as lunacy.

Posted by: dargregmag | February 13, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

As someone who both lives on the west coast and has a prescription the wacky-tobacky let me say that NO ONE out here does care about weed.

Too bad the rest of the country can't wake up.

Time to go hit the bong.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 13, 2011 4:50 PM


Well Poopy, now we know. As a west coast stoner why on earth do you give a rats's kazoo about the Nats? Is there something about the curly W tat gives your pot addled brain the loop-di-loops? I thought pot made one serene and blissful. You need to change your prescription.

Posted by: Natmeister | February 13, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Natsmeister. Maybe now the WaPo will begin to do its job.

@Baltova...What makes you think that the bird was "ruined"? Is it possible that they are frying up a turkey for a pre-ST picnic? The fanbase wants to know!

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | February 13, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

>...keeping F.Robby in the loop would have been the smart thing to do.

Posted by: dargregmag

Here again, they marginalize a HOF. Establishment practices. The herd of midgets rules. Never forgive StunK for never bringing FRobby back.
Anecdote - My mother was down at spring training because she lives in Florida for the 2006 season, and Frank has just come back as manager after they finally made up their mind, and she's come down to see if she can get an autograph next to the dugout, and thanks him for coming back because the team really did need some stability. And he comes up and says THANK YOU' and gives her a hug.

Posted by: Brue | February 13, 2011 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Kind of agree with @Brue on that. I think this team, as it currently stands could play .500+ ball with FRobby managing. No one is sure with Giggleman.

Posted by: periculum | February 13, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Brue
You went to W-L in 79? As a W-L alum '01, I have to ask, did you tag Sandra Bullock?

Posted by: alex35332 | February 13, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Okaaaay. So we've worked our way through Elijah Dukes and now we're back to complaining about how Frank Robinson was treated. What's next? We going to rehash the choice of the name? Whether Bob Short should be prevented from moving the team? Can we take back the Denny McLain trade? Was Ted Williams a good choice as manager? Calvin Griffith?

Time to get the fellas on the field to freshen up this place...

Posted by: baltova1 | February 13, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Time to get the fellas on the field to freshen up this place...

Posted by: baltova1 | February 13, 2011 7:59 PM

Agreed, to quote Mr. Ditka: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift. That's why they call it the present.

Posted by: Natmeister | February 13, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

The Nats can't just decide to drug test players for pot. The union and the CBA won't allow it. There needs to be evidence that a player has used, possessed or sold pot during the past 12 months.
And I hope it's not lost on people that Ron Washington failed a drug test for cocaine and is still managing the Rangers.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 13, 2011 8:28 PM | Report abuse

"And I hope it's not lost on people that Ron Washington failed a drug test for cocaine and is still managing the Rangers."

That's not what happened to Dexter Manley ...

That's the part and parcel of the big money baseball pays. Players can afford high-end recreational drugs. Its not like big corporate executives don't partake.

Posted by: periculum | February 13, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Can't believe I am just learning this but we have no black coaches on our major league staff. Not sure I am happy with that, but I sure don't want the card player back. I would have loved to have Grissom back to try and impart some sort of wisdom into Nyjer.

Posted by: sjm3091 | February 13, 2011 11:11 PM | Report abuse

>Brue
You went to W-L in 79? As a W-L alum '01, I have to ask, did you tag Sandra Bullock?

Posted by: alex35332

No man - she came after me. But she's in touch with Derrick Pearson, who used to be on the Redskins show with Tony McGee awhile back, he's doing radio and TV out in Salt Lake City right now. I played on the same team with Dirk from little league up through high school.

Posted by: Brue | February 13, 2011 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Whatever happens to Dukes now doesn't matter to me, but I have fond memories of a couple of his HRs. I wish he could have been the player lots of us thought he might become.

As for the topic beaten to death lately, I'd recommend Daniel Okrent's "Last Call'' on prohibition and the long out-of-print "Licit and Illicit Drugs'' by the editors of Consumer Reports.

And let's get back to spring training.

Posted by: nats24 | February 14, 2011 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Baltova1.....I love your post... "What's next? We going to rehash the choice of the name? Whether Bob Short should be prevented from moving the team? Can we take back the Denny McLain trade? Was Ted Williams a good choice as manager? Calvin Griffith?"
........................................
It sounds just like a GEICO commercial!! GO NATS!!!

Posted by: Pete433 | February 14, 2011 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Poopy sure knows a lot about drugs, explains a lot....

Posted by: bromisky | February 14, 2011 6:59 AM | Report abuse

sjm3091 wrote:
"I have never believed in platooning and don't want to see Werth or Bernadina doing spot duty."

What on Earth makes you think anyone would consider WERTH for spot duty???

Posted by: dabagley | February 14, 2011 7:30 AM | Report abuse

"Can Nyjer Morgan seize center field?

He shouldn't even be on the team. He's stinks offensively (does he even have an OB%) and he's not worth the effort. Move Werth to Center - he's fast and has a gun for an arm. Move Morse to Left Field and try and get somebody for right. Bernandina seems to be a nice guy but he couldn't hit off-speed pitches and in fact looked like he couldn't catch up to fastballs. Bryce will look better than anyone out there in Spring Training in Right but he should be in AA or High Single to start the season. They need to get somebody!!! Not Ankiel!!!

Posted by: Dog-1 | February 14, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

All-

Please remind me- is this the last year the Nats are bound to Viera? It would be good to separate from another bid of Expos legacy from when MLB neglected them.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | February 14, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

kevincostello; There used to be not much to do in that immediate area -- which has improved -- but strictly from a baseball sense Viera used to be a better place for spring training. But even as the community has developed other teams that used to be nearby have moved to other parts of Florida or even Arizona (see "Dodgers"). It's now a trip of more than 50 miles to the nearest other Grapefruit League complex (that would be the Astros' home in Kissimmee) so moving someplace closer to the other teams would be logical. The Nationals are looking for a new spring training home and they'll probably find one in the next year or two. I'll like the ability to more easily travel to Nats' Grapefruit League road games but miss the relatively cheap beachside lodgings (I'm renting an oceanside condo for the month of March for $1600) in an area that is kind of depressed due to NASA's cutbacks.

Posted by: greggwiggins | February 14, 2011 9:16 AM | Report abuse

One point on Dukes. I saw him play for the independent league Newark Bears last year. He thoroughly and obviously displayed no interest in playing in the field. This is in a AAA-level independent league with many former MLers, some fairly recently in MLB (Jay Gibbons, Carl Everett, Mackowiak, managed by Tim Raines). He did not look like a guy trying to impress scouts.

Posted by: PLPGE1 | February 14, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

What is, "Yunesky Maya had a great winter," supposed to mean? I had a great winter, too. Did he play well somewhere, or simply avoid arrest or controversy? Or did he just not injure himself? Is he going to contribute, or is he going to "Wang" or "Marquis" us this summer?

Posted by: trebor0012 | February 14, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

BTW, regarding Dukes (whom I actually liked): he was brought here under the condition that this was his last chance, and that one slip-up was unacceptable. After overlooking a couple of confrontations with the coaching staff (not to mention the infamous "walk-off walk" display), management evidently decided that his one slip-up was cashed in. Would they have done the same if he were more productive? Probably not, but life isn't fair, and no one owes Sly Eli--or you, or me--anything. He had his opportunities and has no business complaining.

Posted by: trebor0012 | February 14, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq

Well said. Its tough to speak your mind and stand up against the prevailing wind and you made some good points especially vs. Josh Hamilton.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 14, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

@trebor0012:
From this link:
http://www.federalbaseball.com/2010/12/27/1899069/washington-nationals-yunesky-maya-named-dominican-winter-league

"Rather than taking time to adjust to his new home, Maya's spent his winter working in the Dominican Winter League....In 8 starts and 41.0 innings pitched for the Leones del Escogido, the Pinar del Rio, Cuba-born righty has K'd 42 (9.22 K/9), walked 9 (1.98 BB/9) and given up 27 hits, 1 HR and 8 runs total, 7 of the earned.... Maya's eight Liga de Beisbol Dominicano outings were impressive enough that he was named 2010's Dominican Winter League Pitcher of the Year."

Welcome to Nats Journal, trebor. You must be fairly new to the site, since Maya's stint in the Dominican Winter League is old news around here. Some have derided it as playing against AA-level competition, although other MLB players were in the DWL. Still, I think it answers your question, "Did he play well somewhere?"

Posted by: bertbkatz | February 14, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Sunderland pointed out above: "The Nats can't just decide to drug test players for pot. The union and the CBA won't allow it. There needs to be evidence that a player has used, possessed or sold pot during the past 12 months." That may be why Dukes got the ejection so abruptly. IF, and it is a big, speculative if and all, but if he's saying that he provided MLB officials with evidence that players were using, the club may have made a choice right there and then to 86 the guy in lieu of tarnishing other maybe more valuable and less obviously thug-like players on the Nats roster. Who knows what really happened.

I also find it odd that a guy with the skill set that he has in terms of raw tools is not playing someplace. When he got cut last year, I presumed that he'd be on some other club's 40 man rostert within the month, he was healthy and he had stayed out of trouble. Did not make sense.

In any event, for the sake of his kids, I hope that he finds success and some kind of real peace in whatever he does.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 14, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

@dfh21:
"...it is a big, speculative if and all, but if he's saying that he provided MLB officials with evidence that players were using, the club may have made a choice right there and then to 86 the guy..."

So "it is a big, speculative if and all", but your statement implies that MLB's spokesman was lying when he said that Dukes had not provided any names of others who were violating MLB's rules regarding drug usage.

This is certainly possible, as Dukes alleges in the article from the Tampa paper. My feeling here is that Dukes is trying to give his nascent musical career a boost by portraying himself as the victim of an MLB-run conspiracy.

It is possible that MLB views marijuana offenses as less serious than PED violations. I'm not sure how being cut from the club would prevent tarnishing the reputations of other players. This would require MLB contacting the Nats and offering a deal involving Dukes' termination in exchange for termination any investigation into the matter. MLB says they did not pass on anything from Dr. Westreich to the Nats management.

I wonder why Dukes waited until now to air these charges. I suspect he still had hopes of resuscitating his career last spring, but now sees the possibility as too remote to consider. I think his on-field performance and off-field problems have more to do with his lack of MLB-employability than some MLB-run conspiracy.

Posted by: bertbkatz | February 14, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

bert -- I am not suggesting that MLB lied, just that it certainly is possible that Dukes is telling the truth. Should Dukes be looking to gin up some publicity for his hip-hop career would not he reach for something sexier than this storyline -- I told a psychiatrist that I smoked pot with other players due to peer pressure and that they snuck drugs onto planes in fancy handbags?? Not exaclty the kind of stuff that is gonna sell rap records, I would think.

And the statement from MLB that Dukes did not tell the psychiatrist anything about any players using drugs makes me ask, why would MLB know what Dukes tells or does not tell to some medical professional in confidence? Just sounds fishy.

Whether Dukes or the club or MLB or the boogie man or whomever is to blame, we'll likely never know the truth, but it is very odd that he got cut when he did and the way he did. The guy had put some time between himself and any drama and he was healthy yet he got cut prior to ST by a last place team with no clear replacement for his position. No desire by the club to shop him during the spring? No desire to see if he came in and played well in Florida? They just cut bait. Something happened. Or at least I am guessing that is what the other clubs were thinking -- the only reason the Nats release Dukes is because they know something bad enough about the guy to cause the move.

Anyway, his claims of being pushed out of the game may not be even close to true, but he would not be the first person to call out MLB for collusion. We are dealing with people that have a long, storied history of rigging the system one way or another. Maybe if they had some grand history of having clean hands, I might not be so jaded as to think them capable of such dirty dealings.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 14, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

@dfh21:
No real argument with your post, save for the timing of Dukes being cut by the Nats. It was NOT "prior to ST", it was around March 17, or less than three weeks before the season began. IIRC, he had not had a particularly impressive Spring Training until that point.

Posted by: bertbkatz | February 14, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

It is past time for the Nationals to make peace with Frank Robinson, still the most respected man ever to wear a Nationals uniform, and have a special day honoring him at the ballpark this year. As for Elijah Dukes, not sure what happened with him and the Nats, but I sincerely wish him well in the future.

Posted by: dontknowdiddley | February 14, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

What's the weed situation? That sure explains Austin Kearns and whathisname other than "brainless" Lopez and maybe a few...dozen...others.

Posted by: hz9604 | February 14, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone understand why the guy named POOPY is so fixated on the Nationals? Could he be Peter Angelos? Indifference is insulting; hatred is a form of flattery. Glad to see POOPY respects the Nationals enough to spend this much time on them.

Posted by: longbow1 | February 14, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

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