Dear Mr. Dukes,

You don’t know me and I don’t know you. I don’t know what kind of person you are. I don’t know if you are funny or sweet, smart or dumb, a “nice guy” or just a plain asshole. I have no idea what kind of person you are, but unfortunately I know more about you than a baseball fan would normally find on the back of a baseball card.

I know that you have been arrested at least six times, including one as recently as this past January for marijuana possession. I know that you have five children with four different women, of which two were born eight days apart. I know that during your professional baseball career you have been suspended five times, three of those were by your own employers, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

You are only 22 and you have the world’s greatest job. You are a major league baseball player. I wish I could say that you are risking this blessing with all your emotional outbursts. I wish I could say that you risk ending up like Lawrence Phillips. Do you remember Lawrence Phillips, Mr. Dukes? I do…barely. He had all the talent in the world, but he kept running afoul of both the law and his various teams. He had all the talent in the world and teams kept giving him chances, hoping that they would be able to keep him under control and Phillips would finally realize his potential. But unfortunately for Phillips he wasn’t that great of a football player and teams finally gave up. Last I heard he was in jail or heading there. But I honestly don’t know, because nobody cares anymore.

I hope for your sake that you won’t be Lawrence Phillips. I hope you have too much talent. Maybe you will end up like Pacman Jones? No, that’s not fair, and besides the baseball union is too strong to ever let you be suspended for an entire season. More likely, you will be Milton Bradley or a player you may be more familiar with, Carl Everett, who is also from Tampa. Both players are extremely emotional which can be great when harnessed and used to inflict pain on a baseball, but every once in a while, that emotion gets them in trouble. How have things turned out for Bradley and Everett? Not bad. Both have been fortunate enough to have long baseball careers. They have earned a lot of money, but they could have earned a lot more. Nobody likes them, and all their teams eventually get tired of the antics and realize the talent just is not worth it. But they are talented and there is always another team waiting to give them a chance.

You were the one player I was looking forward to seeing on opening day this year. I had followed your career since the Rays drafted you. I don’t have children, but every time you got in trouble it felt like one of my kids getting in trouble. I was upset, but I still pulled for you. There were times I felt like giving up, but the talent was too great. The great athlete. The great Elijah Dukes. Just this past week I had been pondering the future of the Rays outfield and I found myself thinking for the first time that it would be OK to lose Rocco Baldelli in a trade. You had shown that you were more than capable of filling the void. Now my gut tells me the future center fielder is BJ Upton, whose career includes two games at the position.

So, Mr. Dukes, what kind of person are you? We know that you are an immensely talented baseball player. We also know you are emotional, and sometimes irrational. We know that sometimes you do stupid things. We know that you are losing the trust and respect of the fans, your team and teammates. And you may be losing money down the road.

But what kind of person are you? Do you care about any of this? Do you care about the fans? Do you care about your team and your teammates?

I love writing about the Devil Rays. I do this for fun. I am not a writer or a member of the media. But I hate having to write about stories like this. The Devil Rays are already a joke in the eyes of many and this latest incident just confirms that status and takes the fun out writing about the team. It’s going to be difficult to forgive you this time. I want to root for you as a baseball player. But I can’t do that if I can’t root for the person.

I do hope for your sake that you keep hitting home runs, and become a great baseball player, because if you don’t you will become Lawrence Phillips. Teams will eventually give up on you. And the fans? We will remember you…barely.

Cork Gaines (The Professor)
Rays Index


The Devil Rays organization takes these types of allegations very seriously, but at this point it remains a private matter between Elijah and his family. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide ongoing assistance to Elijah.



  1. Brad says:

    Interesting comparison to Carl Everret. Not only are both from Tampa, they both went to Hillsborough High School. It's interesting when you think of the amazing talent that Hillsborough has produced: Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield, and Carl Everett all went to Hillsborough. And interestingly all of them have had major personal issues that have precluded all of them from being as good as they could have been. Dwight is obvious. Gary, athough a possible hall of famer, may be one of the most ten most talented hitters ever, yet his stats don't show that. You already talked about Everett. Let's just hope that Dukes can learn from the mistakes of his predecessors. If he needs to he can look towards Chris Ray -- a fellow teammate of Hillsbrough -- who is doing really great things closing for the Orioles and keeping his name out of the media.

    Unofrtunately, I don't think Elijah will turn things around. It's only a matter of time until he is out of baseball.

  2. jvwalt says:

    'This is a private matter" is a disingenuous comment on the part of the Rays organization. As Roger Goodell would most likely tell you, a pro athlete is a very public figure. His actions reflect on the franchise and the sport. No team needs an Elijah Dukes or Pacman Jones or any of the old Jail Blazers to be the dominant subject of public discourse. Especially true of the Rays, still struggling to attract community support.

    The Rays should be proactive about this, and could do a number of things short of simply cutting Dukes. Sit him down until the case is cleared up; bring him in for a serious talk about how he is risking a 100-million-dollar future; ask the authorities to provide whatever information they legally can. Get out in front of this. At least make it very clear that, if the charges are true, the actions are completely unacceptable and anyone capable of such actions will be unwelcome in the organization.

    And since I brought up Roger Goodell, how about ol' Bud Selig? Shouldn't MLB take some sort of action to protect and enhance the image of the game?

  3. Anonymous says:

    He's probably gonna kill you, dawg

  4. Mark says:

    Why would the Rays or MLB take any action? Because of a story in a newspaper that contained solely one-sided accusations? I don't know if he did it or not. I do know that a story in a newspaper doesn't mean he did it.

    "We all learn to write in the second grade. Most of us move on to better things." -Bob Knight.

  5. Brad says:

    His former girlfriend has decided not to press charges so he will not be prosecuted. While I agree that both sides of a case need to be looked at carefully before one can come to any conclusion about guilt, that does not matter because MLB is not the court it is the employer of Dukes and all other MLBers.
    Dukes continually gets in trouble and his name gets propped up in the media for the wrong reasons. If anyone at a normal job did all of this they would have likely already been terminated. It is not that hard to not get in trouble with the law all the time. The occasional run-in can be excused, but that's not the case with Dukes. He is bringing a bad image to both the rays and MLB.
    Regardless of what his ex-girlfriend did, I am suspect of anyone who threatens to kill someone and then send them a picture of a gun. I mean are you serious? Elijah hit a teacher in high school. he has a strong history of violence. These things should not be taken lightly.

  6. Anonymous says:

    you are right we do not know for certain if he did or did not...but the reason the NFL suspended Pacman Jones before he was convicted in court was because Pacman's track record did not permit him the benefit of the doubt.

    Unfortunately, Elijah has a bad track record and does not necessarily deserve the benefit of the doubt. It's sad, but true.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dear Bobby Knight,

    We all learn to act like a 3-year old when we are 3 years old. Most of us move on to better behavior.

  8. TheNaturalMevs says:

    Good write up. He's got some pop and some talent, no doubt, but lets not stretch things too far. He is hitting .220 something on the season.

  9. Ritchie says:

    Dukes is surely a bad guy for threatening his wife but you're a square for writing such an awful, whiny letter.

  10. Mike J. says:

    a "square"? who says that?

    Prof. well said. season ticket holders hee and you pretty much summed up what we were all thinking.this is not the guy we want manning center.

    sad. but if he hit a homer to win a game tomorrow. we'd forgive him, but we wouldnt like it.


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