Elijah Dukes, he of the life-threatening anger management issues, has been relatively harmless since he joined the Washington Nationals unless you’re an opposing pitcher. His .323 average and two home runs in nine games have been a bright spot in another dim year-to-come for D.C. baseball.
(Sorry; hugging is a fineable offense)
However, Dukes can’t seem to get any recognition of his newfound focus on the field. First, he was told that he would have to come off the bench to make room for the immortal Austin Kearns. Once Lastings Milledge found his way back to the minors (to again keep room for the immortal Austin F. Kearns), he finally got to play more.
Now he’s back in the dead dawg house, though, for showing up five minutes late on game day yesterday. He was benched, fined, threatened with demotion, and generally demeaned for setting a poor tone for the new and improved lousy Nationals. So where was the malcontent? He was signing autographs for Little Leaguers.
Coach Manny Acta understood the situation but insisted that “we have to change the culture somehow.” Maybe it could start with not taking the city of Washington, D.C., for a financial bath and lawsuits for the new stadium. Or perhaps it could start with a general manager that doesn’t steal from Dominican children and can draft and trade effectively.
Or, to stay in Manny’s realm of influence, maybe he could bench Austin bleedin’ Kearns and show that merit has something to do with playing time. Again, that only applies if a cultural change is intended to produce winning teams.