Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Guess I'll Have to Think of a New Headline for my Passover Post

Elijah Dukes released. Quick reactions:
  • There really has to be something we don't know. Dukes is too talented, and despite years of warnings about what a bad guy he is, the other shoe just never dropped. People like Chico Harlan who have watched Dukes day in and day out insist that he's got some issues, but he's not a bad guy, and he hasn't been a problem for this team.
  • If there isn't something we don't know, I'm really worried that Mike Rizzo is going way, way, way overboard emphasizing 'clubhouse chemistry.' I hate to even validate the idea that getting rid of Dukes helps the chemistry, because we really don't have any reason to think Dukes was a problem in the clubhouse. People say he doesn't give everyone warm fuzzies, but is that the standard? Just following the rules and working hard isn't enough? Do you have to fit in really well with the Dunn-Willingham-Zimmerman clique? Is this a baseball team or a frat rush?
  • Who plays right field now? I guess it has to be Mike Morse. They could stick Willingham in right and start Maxwell or Harris in left, but I don't think that's where they're headed. Adam Kilgore dropped a Mike Morse-Jason Werth comp into a blog post recently, and I don't think he made that up himself. We'll see, but I would expect the Nationals to have substantially sub-replacement performance from the corner outfield if that's really the plan.
  • Dukes haters will say be clucking today, but any way you cut it, this is a talented player who didn't fulfill his promise. I won't call that a failure of the organization, but it's not a success. I often point to the Dennis Rodman example. I don't blame the Spurs for what happened there, but I give Phil Jackson a ton of credit for how well it worked out in Chicago. Truly great organizations can succeed in bringing out the best even in deeply flawed individuals. That didn't happen here. Who's fault is that? Dukes'. But just cuz Elijah failed doesn't mean the team succeeded. Quite the opposite.
  • Bottom line, the Nationals are a worse team and a step closer to a third straight 100-loss season than they were yesterday.
Update: Riggleman says it was 100% a baseball decision, that "Elijah was great," and they simply like their other options better. Sorry, I usually try to keep it clean and avoid name-calling, but they're either lying sacks of shit or stupid sacks of shit. We can speculate all day long on what might have happened, but the team is selling a totally implausible story.


Rob B said...

Couldn't we have gotten anything for him?
Gotta be more to this, like him being charged with something in the next few days.

Dave Nichols said...

absolutely stunning. this is not a "baseball decision", because all the in-house options are inferior.

Steven said...

If it's a baseball decision, it's the wrong decision. So the talk is of a platoon. That would suggest we're going to see a lot of Willie Harris, since he's the only left-handed hitter in that group. I guess Bernadina too, but to commit to him getting a big share of playing time seems a bridge too far.

Rob B said...

Is it possible that he could have been told that he would be optioned to AAA and he told them that he wouldn't play at that level?

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

As a Dukes supporter, I dislike the decision. However, except for this first season with the team, he was always in "wait 'till next year" mode. It appears that the NATS did not want to wait any more.

estuartj said...

I think we'll hear a lot more about his personal issues in the clubhouse now that he's gone. Give it a few days (It is ok to speak poorly of the dead, but not at the wake) and then we'll start to get the full story.

Rizzo tried to trade him, but no one is going to give up something when you can get it for nothing.

I personally prefer a Maxwell/Bernadina platoon in RF to Morse, Harris or any other likely option.

Good think Bryce Harper will be starting in Left Field this time next year :-)

Joel said...

I've read a few comments on various Nats blogs saying the front office felt he needed AB's in the offseason and that's why he went to the DSL, so when he left early that couldn't have been taken well.

I'm not saying that's a good enough justification by itself, but it could have been a factor.

estuartj said...

Just posted this at NFA;

Food for thought, 2009 uZR 150 & OPS for;

Dukes -9.6 / .729
Maxwell +37.1 / .793
Harris -9.2 / .757
Dye -24.5 / .793

Stats via

If you accept that

1. Dukes "potential" was not going to become performance (read "Dukes did not adjust to the league") and
2. To some extent he was an issue in the clubhouse

What did we really lose? I'm not saying J-Max is going to the our Right Fielder of the future, but I think it if not likely then highly probably that Maxwell will be a better RF in '10 than Dukes.

AlexMike said...

They could be lying, but not necessarily sacks of shit. Dukes may very well have violated a Nats-imposed behavior clause. The fact that they're not going public with that could actually be a decent move.

dale said...

I am surprised only about the firmness of the decision. Was Dukes going to progress to the next level or was he going to repeat last year's disappointing performance on the field? Rizzo seemed to think the latter. I was a Dukes' supporter all along but he reached his plateau with this club. Errors in concentration on the field are not going to be tolerated and Dukes exhibited tons of them last year. He was an intriguing prospect who did not progress in a linear way that could tip the scales in his favor. I am one who does not think that the Nats are a worse team for this decision.

Emmett said...

I was pulling hard for Dukes. But, look, he never delivered. I think it is very reasonable to release him if his presence detracts in any significant way from team cohesion. The "Potential" Dukes would be a far superior player than Harris, Maxwell, Morse, Bernadina, etc. But at some point, a team has to make a call on "Potential". The Dukes we've actually seen is not a significantly superior player to our other alternatives.

Even as a long time Dukes supporter, I was starting to find myself rationalizing my faith. I wish him well, but he never actually delivered on the field despite ample opportunity.

Wally said...

This is surprising, but not terribly disappointing to me. I think that not only hasn't Dukes continued to make progress, he has really regressed over the last 18 months in terms of power plus plate discipline. At this point in his career, I am not sure why we should expect him to reverse that. The power outage is the most disturbing. I am sure that he will get another chance somewhere, though, and I wish him well.

If Duncan shows even a modicum of improvement, I'll bet plan A is a RF platoon of Morse/Duncan with Bernadina filling in for each spot.

Rizzo seems to take roster construction very seriously, so it also feels like a bunch of trades are coming. I bet some of the pitching 'surplus' goes (some combo of Martin/Martis/Chico/Stammen).

RA said...

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."

Now if that is not obvious that Rizzo didn't want the guy around, I don't know what is.

That's always been the speculation and it proved true. The guy is big is on his chemistry.

Got a feeling that Dukes could be a Nelson Cruz/Carlos Pena type pickup for someone.

RA said...

For those that say Dukes has not produced, I suggest you take a look at his career numbers as projected over 162 games:

.242 avg 26 2B, 21 HR 83 RBI 87 BB

That's what the guy has produced as a disappointment. With those numbers at 26, I'd take my chances on him if I was a GM.

flippin said...

The Nats have been moving to a team composed of college players for a while now. I am surprised they held onto Dukes for as long as they have. I don't know if I would like to travel and work with ED for 7 months of the year; neither did the Nats and I don't blame them.

Joel said...

RA- I understand the point you're trying to make with those projected 162 games stats, but it's not like he wasn't given chances to put together a 162 game season. He had a fair amount of chances to prove he could be the player those number he projected, but he wasn't capable.

Will said...

Wait, 188 games is a fair shot?

If we based every player off their first season, then guys like Chase Utley, Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke wouldn't have careers.

Ok, if Dukes was a problem, then the Nationals should come out and say that. It helps no one to enthusiastically insist on numerous occasions that Dukes' behavior wasn't the issue.

And whether it was his behavior or not, this bullshit about him needing regular major league experience is nonsense. He's under club control and has another option left. I want the Nationals to put the best team on the field possible. I don't care if its a team of Dennis Rodman, Paul LoDuca, Ron Artest, Karl Rove and zombie John Wilkes Booth, as long as they win. Releasing Elijah Dukes with an option does not make the Nationals a better team. Send him to the minors for a season, and when the platoon of Maxwell and Bernadina implodes in the most horrific way four weeks into the season, promote Dukes. If he continues to struggle, then release him at the end of the season, and the Nats will be in the same spot, but with the assurance that they did everything they could.

If Dukes pulls a Carlos Pena, and everything connects with another team, I will be furious.

jdonels said...

Like I said on Twitter, I hope Elijah Dukes signs with the Mets, beats the Nats 18 times a year, and knocks up Mike Rizzo's daughter.

I think they could have "waited till next year" to give up on Dukes. No one expects them to be an All-Star right fielder short of winning the division this year!

Sam said...

estuartj: I like your thinking here, but some of the statistics you cited can't be used. Maxwell's sample size in the OF is way, way, way too small to even think about using UZR/150. If he is somewhere between a 0 and +5 fielder next year, I will be happy.

RA: Again, the sample size is too small. He's been in the Major Leagues for parts of three years and has only 970 plate appearances. He has never, not once, played a full year in either league. So, those might be his averages now, but they are not too reliable yet. Besides, it is entirely possible that, as most people have said, the league adjusted to him. If he can't hit a curve ball, it is not 2009 but 2008 that will be an aberration.

What I have heard is that Dukes was not listening to coaches, and he was becoming Ian Desmond's mentor. The organization did not like that, and they used "baseball reasons" as a scape goat for his release. Riggleman said today that Dukes is a Major League-caliber player, but he did not have a spot on this team. Really? The Nationals are not very good, and a 26-year old with tons of talent doesn't have a spot on the team? It's not hard to see through it.

Joel said...

Will- "Wait, 188 games is a fair shot?"

I personally would have given him this year, but to say "only 188 games" doesn't reflect the reality of the shot he was given... he was given two season and all he only managed to be on the field for 188 games.

Some of that was injury but some was performance as well... but like I said, I would have given him this year, and I was/am rooting for him.

Will said...

I don't think anyone is discrediting Jordan Zimmermann for being unable to pitch this year. It's equally ludicrous to criticize Dukes' inability to play 162 games in each of the past two seasons because of injuries.

The guy got 2 half seasons to impress. One time he did, one time he didn't, but somehow the management came to the conclusion that he wasn't worth another at bat.

Yet we're not stuck with Maxwell and Bernadina, whose upside is Elijah Dukes' 2009 season.

RA said...


Sample size with 970 at bats for a 25-year-old? Give me a break.

The projected numbers for Dukes are not some forecast based on age and ability. The numbers are what he has actually produced as a MLB player who was called up to the big leagues at age 21.

It happens over and over again. Guys get called up before they are ready to play. Expectations are too high based on raw talent. When sufficient progress is not made, he is given up on and considered to not be putting forth enough effort.

The player then gets shipped off and puts it together for another team.

Sammy Sosa was given up on by the Rangers and the White Sox because he couldn't hit a breaking ball.

Dukes doesn't hit for average. But he is productive. The numbers don't lie. He's just never been given 500 at bats to sink or swim. He's always either been injured or jerked out of the lineup.

Joel said...

@RA- if it was up to me he'd get at least anohter year, and I wrote that in my response to you.

My only point was that saying he's only had 188 games doesn't tell the whole story of what happend in this situation. the reality is that he had two whole seasons to make his mark, which was a prettty great opportunity for a guy who had already burned some bridges in the game.

But again, based on what we've been told (that it was strictly on-field reasons) I think he should have been given more time, and I hope he makes your Sosa comparison come true... except for the creepy skin dying part of course!

Steven said...

Can someone make the case taht Dukes is less valuable than the least valuable outfielder anywhere in the Nationals' entire minor league system? That was the choice.

RA said...

At this point, Rizzo obviously feels this is addition by subtraction even if he passes on 20 HR and 80 RBI and has a RF that an expansion team could do better than.

Unfortunately, Dukes was one of the only interesting things about this team this year from my point of view.

Ho hum, the life of an Nationals fan.