Since Boz Brought It Up...

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, September 12, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

I wasn't going to continue on about the Dukes incident from Wednesday's game. Plenty of others have already fanned the flames on the continuing saga of Elijah Dukes and his episode in New York Wednesday night.

Now The Washington Post's esteemed veteran columnist, Tom Boswell, has chimed in with his opinion, presumably since there are no more swim meets to write about.

First of all, what would Boz know about being toxic in the Nats clubhouse? This is only the second time this summer he's written about the Nats. The Natosphere's long-term criticism of the Post coverage (of lack thereof) for the Nationals is an exhausted subject, including in this space. But Boz takes the cake in today's column, offering conflicting views about who Dukes is, how he acts and how he reacts to events.

In one breath, Boz admits,

In a season of boredom and disappointment, Dukes has been, by far, the best reason to watch the Nats. In their search for core pieces of their future, youngsters Lastings Milledge, Jesús Flores and John Lannan have shown promise, but hardly greatness. Others, including Collin Balester, Emilio Bonifacio and Joel Hanrahan, are on the horizon. But besides Zimmerman, Dukes stands alone.

But then, as if Boz himself has his finger on the pulse of the clubhouse, decrees,
When he smiles, or connects with a fastball, electricity hits his team and you can see the vague outline of a future. But when he beats his chest after a walk-off walk, infuriating the pitcher, or glares at the home plate ump as his walk-off home run is still leaving the park, the Nationals' room grows darker.
Conflicting statements about Dukes are hardly new. Even his own teammates are divided on the issue. Chico Harlan, in his story about the Wednesday's game, offered quotes by Zimmerman, Milledge and Acta, and each had a different reaction to the unpleasantness. But what bothered me in Harlan's gamer was how he seemingly pitted Zim's comments against what Milledge said, and both comments were played down by Acta's statement. In the presentation, it's like Harlan was TRYING to create a rift.

The Post has been timid in it's coverage of Dukes, however, compared to his hometown paper, the St. Pete Times. While a profile of a troubled athlete is a legitimate story, is it necessary to append that article with a list of birthdays, mother's names, and gender of his children? Isn't that just the least bit inflammatory? And forget about the treatment Wednesday's dust-up got in the New York papers. Sensationalism at its finest. You'd think after reading some of these articles, Dukes was the second coming of Edi Amin, Hitler and Kublai Khan all rolled into one. At least the games story mentions the histrionics where it belonged, at the bottom of the article.

With the constant undertones of subliminal racism permeating the media coverage of Dukes, it's no wonder the kid has an over-reaching and potentially dangerous sense of "prove them wrong" mentality. It's obviously what drives him on a daily basis, makes him the ballplayer that he is, but ultimately could drive him from the game and society.

It's true Dukes brings this on himself. Ultimately, it's him and him alone that will -- or won't -- change the public's perception of him. Boz counsels Dukes in his closing paragraph,
The choice is clear. Soon, Dukes has to grow up. Not totally, but enough. Adults adapt. Elijah, you have to be the one to change, because the game, like the world, never will.
Seems like someone that uses redemption as motivation would only use the word "change" as more fuel to the fire. What Dukes did the other night was nothing to warrant investigation, suspension or public reprimand, even if it happened on a once-a-week basis. Dukes knew, when he was hit with a 3-2 change-up to load the bases, that it wasn't intentional. He took his base without incident and the game went on. If he has to change anything, he just has to get used to getting hit. Cause if you're gonna blow a kiss or thump your chest toward the opponent's dugout, you're gonna get knocked down.

Stay classy Elijah. Don't hear the word "change", think "adapt". Celebrate in the clubhouse. Don't let your emotion motivate your opponent. Let your immense talent do your chest-thumping and kiss blowing for you. Others went through worse. Live long enough to become a nuisance.

Stock Photos (c) C. Nichols 2008.