Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Moms of Great Falls Say, "You OK, Dawg"

How much do I love this? The Nationals idiotically fine Elijah Dukes for being 5 minutes late after staying a little too long at a little league function in Great Falls, and the moms of Great Falls (clearly a bunch of Judy Feder voters) raise the money to pay the fine.

The only problem is that they apparently gave their money directly to the team, so the odds of Elijah seeing a dime of that money seems pretty slim. (Don't they know that all checks for Elijah should be made out to "Nishea Gilbert"?) Manny said they "don't care how the fine gets paid," but you could hear Mark Lerner in the background saying, "or how many times it gets paid."

Can you imagine if Dukes had actually been sent to Syracuse over this? He would have had care packages arriving daily.

As if the Nationals don't look stupid enough in this whole thing, we get this quote from Manny yesterday:
But what a lot of people are misunderstanding is, this was not a team function. If this had been [set up] through the team, I think someone would have advised him not to do something like that before a day game.
Stop, Manny, just stop. So, what we fail to understand is that because Dukes was helping out at the little league game on his own initiative, not ordered to do so by his employer, that somehow makes it worse?

(Apparently he was paid $500 for the appearance, but whatever--I don't thing very many pro athletes would spend a morning with kids for double that.)

Just more evidence that the myth created by the Tampa media that Elijah Dukes is some puppy-strangling, baby-killing neighborhood scourge is just that--a myth. He's had problems in the past controlling his temper, and he would have been a lot better off if he had been sick the day they did the "condoms don't work" lecture in Jeb Bush's abstinence-only education program, but when the papers are going red in the face over "crimes" like throwing an empty pop can at somebody and a teenage pot bust, your bullshit detector should be going crazy.

P.S. Gotta do a better job charging those base hits, Elijah. I didn't like you jogging lazily up to that Matt Diaz single and letting him take second base. Aside from that, you okay, dawg.


John O'Connor said...

Manny should spend his time reading "Double Switches for Dummies" instead of standing by the time clock like a boarding school house mother.

Dawg OK with me, too.

An Briosca Mor said...

"Stop, Manny, just stop. So, what we fail to understand is that because Dukes was helping out at the little league game on his own initiative, not ordered to do so by his employer, that somehow makes it worse?"

Stop, FJB, just stop. What you fail to understand is that Dukes broke the rule, and like any other player would have had to, he paid the price. This revelation that he was doing the charity gig on his own initiative rather than at the behest of the team just removes any possible excuse he might have had for being late. He should have known that he absolutely had to be at the park on time, no excuses. That's the rule, and it applies to everyone on the team. He doubly should have known because he already broke the rule once last year and paid the price then. No excuses. The idiocy would have been if Manny had let him slide on this. What message would that send to the rest of the team, some of whom may have had to struggle to make it in on time that day themselves, but they managed to do it while Dukes didn't?

Steven said...

Here's what you do--you pull the guy aside and you say, sternly, don't do that again.

What message does that send? It sends a message that the team hasn't totally lost it's mind. That there's still some rational leadership around the team.

Instead, the message that they sent was, "we're in total panic mode, and by the way we still don't understand the first thing about PR."

Forget about the clubhouse issue. This is just another example of bad press for a team that desperately needs some good ink. On a day when they finally win, when the DC baseball world should be celebrating the Ryan Zimmerman signing, what's the lead story on the Nationals in the Washington Post?

This goes right with "Natinals," the Chad Cordero thing, SmileyGate, the stadium rent, and all the other PR blunders that are killing this team's brand. If you are a casual fan, the person who might have gone to 3-4 games in 2005, but hasn't been to the new park more than once, all you hear is that the stupid Nationals once again did something stupid and alienating.

An Briosca Mor said...

PR doesn't count for squat when you've lost your clubhouse, Steven. Are you really as stupid as this continued argument makes you out to be?

JayB said...

Falls Church or Great Falls.....Huge difference in Average Income level Steven.......I had to agree with ABM but you are indeed off base here.....just like your boy Lastings.

John O'Connor said...

If you're afraid of "losing the clubhouse" because the other guys are mad about what happened with Dukes being late, announce that you're referring the matter to the players' "kangaroo court" for appropriate consideration. They would probably just make him do something embarrassing and move on.

James Bjork said...

I think Steven wrote more passionately than usual, because this incident plays into his Dukes-is-a-victim-of-the-Whitey-establishment meme. That aside, I'm with Steven on balance.

Had Dukes opted to get a little extra cash by making a celebrity appearance at a used car lot or something, and had been 5 minutes late because of it-- no question a fine. It just so happened that the promotional event was little league (complete with Mom and apple pie). Yes, Dukes should have reported on time, but the Nats should have foreseen the PR disaster of fining and benching him after asking him where he had been.

Setting the guy aside and giving him an in-your-face warning would have probably accomplished the same behavior change and credibility without making the team look so incredibly tin-eared.

The team had every right to be pissed, though, because Dukes' choices that day put them in such a hard position.

From a tactical perspective for a team struggling mightily with its image, Steven's right. The PR damage from fining Dukes for this particular reason for tardiness outweighs the behavior-change benefit of the disciplinary message supposedly sent.

At least give some credit to the Post for enlightening us all as to what it was about- 1) Dukes' choice to do something positive for the community, 2) his choice to be late to report so as to high five EVERY child in attendance before splitting, 3) The team's choice to fine him anyway, 4) Manny's choice to dig the team in the hole deeper by running his mouth, and 5) an interesting special-interest story about the parents coming together to pay Dukes' fine. Interesting reading for sure.

sid bluntley said...

Really JayB? Class warfare too?

This whole thing is ridiculous. You all can go on about "team rules" and all that, but I have a really hard time believing that if this were Ryan Zimmerman five minutes late because he was at a Little League event, he would be benched and fined. Once again the Natinals (and that's how I am spelling it from now on) look stupid.

I want to bench and fine Manny for using Alex Cintron as a pinch hitter last night, by the way.

John O'Connor said...

And I guess this is a good time to note that a grand total of four Nats came to the January fan fest for season ticket holders and posed for pics with fans: two guys eager to make the team (Mock and Terrell Young), one guy who had just signed a new contract (Willie Harris) . . . and Elijah Dukes.

Sometimes you need to go "easier" on guys who have been a complete mess; a zero-tolerance approach can kill whatever gains you've made along the way.

Anonymous said...

The utter ridiculousness of the whole situation, is, unfortunately, reflective of the team as a whole. Guarantee if this was Zimmerman or Johnson or Dunn...or Guzman or Flores or Dmitri Young it wouldn't have been an issue. Because it was Dukes it became one.

This is another example of why "zero-tolerance" policies are just stupid. The analogy I can come up with is the high school student who is being suspended for taking her birth control pill at lunch because she forgot to take it in the morning. There's a "zero-tolerance" policy on drug use, so, ergo, she must be expelled.

Its the same with Dukes. It doesn't matter that he spent the morning at a Great Falls Little League event, high fiving every kid - and their wealthy, potential Natinals ticket buying parents - all that matters is that he was five minutes late. Therefore, he must be fined.

Why not refer it to a "kangaroo court" or somesuch, so it can be handled internally and not be made an issue. There's no way this is a "losing the clubhouse" issue, this is just thickheadedness from the organziation. Let the players handle it internally, and be done with it.

The tone deafness of the organization is just amazing. Did they think there wouldn't be negative PR?

An Briosca Mor said...

"And I guess this is a good time to note that a grand total of four Nats came to the January fan fest for season ticket holders and posed for pics with fans: two guys eager to make the team (Mock and Terrell Young), one guy who had just signed a new contract (Willie Harris) . . . and Elijah Dukes."

Well, them and Ryan Zimmerman, who posed for photos that day but wouldn't sign because of his endorsement contract.

"Sometimes you need to go "easier" on guys who have been a complete mess; a zero-tolerance approach can kill whatever gains you've made along the way."

I really don't think you want to be negotiating out which excuses are acceptable and which aren't in the moments before a game. More important things are at hand then. If applied fairly across the board, a zero tolerance policy is ideal for such situations. Mete out the penalty, and move on. Where did the oh-so-rigid "three strikes and you're out" rule originate anyway? Baseball.

Steven said...

My apologies to the moms of Great Falls. Clearly, this never would have happened in Falls Church ;-)

Steven said...

James--appreciate your support.

Just in fairness to me, though, my position has always been that Dukes has a lot of problems and that there's more than enough fair criticism to be directed his way. I just object to the one-sided way it's usually covered.

When you say he's been arrested twice and don't note that those arrests happened at age 13 and 14, I think that's an unfair omission. When you put a sidebar in the St. Pete Times called "ten years of trouble" that includes incidents where Dukes was the VICTIM of crime, that's misleading.

I just want the coverage of Elijah to be accurate. I don't think he's a victim--I just don't think the media should invent stuff. Just tell us the truth, which is plenty embarrassing for Dukes.

Steve Shoup said...

Ok you guys can postulate all you want that Zimmerman, Johnson, Dunn ect. wouldn't have been punished but you can't know that for sure b/c guess what they haven't been late. Zimmerman has been here since sept. 2005 how many times has he been late? Zero. Dukes has now been late twice in two years. There is a system in place and Dukes needs to face the consequence of his actions. Also given Dukes past I think you do need to make sure you hold him accountable and not let him slide. When I help a friend move and have to take a day off of work I make the decsion that thats more important to me than work but that doesn't mean I should be rewarded at my job for doing a good deed.

Five minutes late might not seem like a big deal at our jobs but not many of us are getting mid-six figure salaries for only 6 months of work. Now i'm not complaining about players being paid or anything like that but my point is there are plenty of months of the year that Dukes can do all the charity appearences he wants without affecting his team.

Also while I commend Dukes for taking the event seriously and making it a special occasion for hundreds of kids and their families, he did get paid for the event. And I don't care whether he was paid $5 or $5000, he was compensated so that needs to be taken into account. Dukes was probably made aware of the responsiblities and yes like Manny said if its a team sponsored event, the team would have told Dukes he didn't have enough time to do the event.

I don't think there is anything wrong with the fine or suspension. I think its very nice for the parents to pay Dukes fine since he was punished for what he did for them. I don't blame the Nats for this at all. I think they did the right thing and I commend them for it.

phil dunton said...

Nice to see that no good deed goes unpunished in the Dukes case. Actually, by the Great Falls LL parents pony up the fine, it makes Nats management look like the fools that they are. Kasten and Rizzo and Acta are idiots.

James Bjork said...

Fair enough on the source of your persistent Dukes defense, but I could swear your initial posts about him implicated racial motivations in how Dukes is handled by the press and pundits, both professional and amateur.

I think a more forceful concurrence to your take on the little league flap is in this clip of Wilbon and Kornheiser riffing on the Nats with SCATHING indictments of how the team is run.