Elijah Dukes Released

Earlier today the Nationals announced that they have unconditionally released Elijah Dukes. Instantly speculation arouse as to whether the release was due to an another off-field incident, but the Nats told Ben Goessling that it was “strictly a baseball decision” and news of no such incident has emerged. Still you have to think that Dukes’s history of off-the-field issues played some part in the release. Eitherway it looks like the Nationals will go with some combination of Justin Maxwell, Mike Morse and Willie Harris in right. And, because of his defensive abilities, Harris probably does not represent much of a downgrade from Dukes, so the move will most likely not have much affect on the team’s outlook for 2010.

Dukes came over to Washington before the 2008 season and went gangbusters. He was worth nearly three wins in just over 300 PAs by hitting a 135 RC+ with good defense in right. But in 2009 everything fell apart: his walk numbers dipped (but were still good), his power fell off and his defense took a hit. As a result he played below replacement level.

At just 25, and with his minor league numbers and good 2008, it entirely possible that 2009 was just a hiccup and that Dukes could be on his way to a solid career as a Major League outfielder. So it is surprising that the Nationals, who are definitely not in win-it-now mode, do not take more of a chance on Dukes. Plus in spite of his poor 2009 and history of off-the-field problems Dukes would seem have at least some trade value, but Ben Goessling tweeted that Rizzo could not find any takers on for a potential Dukes trade.

The release is another twist in the career of a guy who has worlds of ability, and lately, at least, had seemed to be keeping himself out of trouble. Still he will most likely not be out of a job for long as his youth, cheapness and potential are just too much to be passed up all 29 other teams.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


30 Responses to “Elijah Dukes Released”

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  1. Andy says:

    Wouldn’t mind seeing the bucs pick him up. Plus, he seems to fit the Huntington mold.

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  2. PL says:

    If its truly a “baseball decision”, then this is the dumbest move of this offseason.

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  3. JayCee says:

    The Yanks need OF depth that can hit LHP. I’d like to see them pick him up.

    Dukes had options left- this is why many are suspicious of the motives here.

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    • wobatus says:

      The Yankees sign Dukes? No way.

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    • Steve says:

      He’d be a great fit, if he wasn’t, you know, crazy.

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      • JayCee says:

        Sheffield was probably bipolar. The Yanks can handle anything, really. Their RH OF “depth” is worse than many AAA clubs. It needs help.

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    • Rob in CT says:

      He’s probably more useful than Marcus Thames, but then you can’t really know he won’t have some crazy off-field incident. Is the potential bench upgrade worth that risk?

      Maybe it is… I’d err on the side of talent myself, but I can understand why the Yankees might not go that route.

      And one has to think that this was NOT “strictly a baseball decision” by the Natinals.

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      • JayCee says:

        They would only offer him a minor league deal and then see if he had his acto together.

        He’s far more valuable than Thames. Dukes can catch the ball and even run a bit. Thames is a DH-only, and a bad one at that.

        If Brett Gardner hitting left-handed is your starting bat against LHP, and Thames is your bench, then you need some help. Winn hits like a girl from the right side.

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  4. Don Coburleone says:

    Yeah there has to be something more to this. Dukes had a down year last year but the guy legitmately has one of the quickest swings in baseball. He reminds me of Gary Sheffield in that the force of their swings is something to behold…

    How about the White Sox taking a gamble on him? Potential Zero cost replacement for Jermaine Dye??? Or what about to the Angels as a 4th outfielder (you know there is no way in heII Abreu/Hunter/Rivera stay healthy all year).

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  5. PL says:

    He’s got a great walk rate with 30-30 potential, he’s more valuable than Willingham is right now, IMO.

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  6. Steve says:

    Teams are not in the business of giving away talented, young PRE-ARB players with options. They just aren’t.

    I am 99.9999% certain we don’t know the entire story. My guess is that he is just a royal pain in the a$$.

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  7. JR says:

    This is pretty much the perfect segue from the discussion to Washington’s organizational rank yesterday: mediocre stadium, mis-built roster, middling payroll, uncommitted fanbase, muddled management.

    If there was one thing that most commenters, and the tone of Dave Cameron’s article, agreed with it was: stockpile young talent. Delmon Young isn’t blazing in Minnesota, but even with a high talent roster, the Twins are hanging on. The Nationals? No young talent need apply.

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  8. Luke in MN says:

    No one would trade ANYTHING

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  9. Luke in MN says:

    Doh, sorry about that. Comment should be: No one would trade ANYTHING for Dukes? Seems odd.

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  10. At this point, good riddance. The only reason Dukes has any support is fantasy baseball.

    And sucking last season ended that.

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  11. Neil says:

    They may not have released him because of an off-field incident per se, but there have been whispers and hints for over a year from players, reporters and organization guys that Dukes is a negative presence in the locker room. Remember, nobody else wanted Dukes when Jim Bowden acquired him. Rizzo seems to put a lot of stock in character and cohesion on his roster, and probably would never have brought in a guy with those kinds of questions in the first place if he had been calling the shots.

    Either way, I wish Elijah nothing but the best. He’s been exciting to watch while on the field the last two years, and I still hope he goes on to a hall of fame career when he lands (and hopefully boost the value of the autographed ball I got from him).

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  12. Keith says:

    As a Nats fan, I’m both surprised and glad to see him go. When they had both Dukes and Milledge in the outfield it felt like two players who got to the big leagues through sheer raw talent, but didn’t seem to understand how to play the game. Dukes often seemed clueless in the field, stupid on the base paths and unable to hit in the clutch. And I assume he’s also poison in the clubhouse. This isn’t about talent, it’s about makeup.

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  13. Farid says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Dukes bats .275-25-100 somewhere in 2010 but also wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t have a job come July.

    I’ve seen (pretty much) every game he’s played since the trade to D.C. and the talent is obvious. But sometimes, he just doesn’t seem as if he’s watching the game he’s playing in.

    Oh, and how outside breaking stuff does him in ….

    Several players have already breathed a public sigh of relief that he’s gone. When someone as mild-mannered as Ryan Zimmerman or Justin Maxwell acknowledges clubhouse problems this spring that encircled Dukes, there must have been a real issue. And not that he “did” something but rather his presence simply created problems.

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    • Keith says:

      “…sometimes, he just doesn’t seem as if he’s watching the game he’s playing in.”

      Well said. That’s exactly what I was trying to get at.

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  14. -------- says:

    padres sign him to 3-year 2 million deal send him to AAA for a year, he bombs? cut him.

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  15. West says:

    He’s Milton Bradley, except he’s a worse person, and not as good of a player.

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    • West says:

      In 1996, Dukes’ father was convicted of second-degree murder. One year later, Dukes was arrested for the first time. Dukes has been arrested at least three times for battery, and once for assault.[7] According to court records, he fathered at least five children with four women between 2003 and 2006.[7]
      On May 23, 2007, it was reported that his wife filed a restraining order after he threatened to kill her.[8] On June 12, a 17-year-old foster child who was living in the care of a relative of Dukes accused him of impregnating her.[9] Police said the sex was apparently consensual.[9] When the girl confronted Dukes, he allegedly got angry and threw a bottle of Gatorade at her.[9]
      Dukes has received anger-management training.[7] When Dukes was traded to the Nationals, the team also hired an ex-police officer in the role of “Special Assistant: Player Concerns”. This person accompanies Dukes everywhere to ensure that he keeps himself free of trouble.[7]

      From Wiki, take it for what its worth.

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      • -------- says:

        I TAKE MY COMMENT ON PADRES BACK, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT.

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      • R M says:

        Well now you know it’s a product of how he was raised. You can’t really blame him for being screwed up…people should have to pass a test before being allowed to have children.

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      • confused says:

        None of these things make the decision to release him smart. There are guys all over sports who do similar things. They just don’t get caught because they have people covering they’re butts. Seems like they are trying to make an example out of him.

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  16. CodyG says:

    As a cardinals fan I would love the cubs to give this guy a starting roster spot.

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  17. Va Nat says:

    Dukes has talent, but he’s not a solid ballplayer. He runs the bases poorly despite his good speed, is a hot and cold fielder and isn’t consistent at the plate. Does he have the potential to be good? Yes. Is he that much better potentially that Maxwell, Bernadina, Burgess, etc.? Probably not, and those guys don’t bring the baggage that Dukes does.

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  18. Dwayne says:

    You really might wanna take a look that Baseball guide here.. its amazing :) http://www.SportMagics.com

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