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)
ELIJAH DUKES WEBTOPIA…
- Dukes was not in the lineup last night.
- If you missed Deadspin’s take on Dukes, take the time to read the comments section. It will be worth your time, or it may make you cry.
- The Devil Rays have issued the standard politically correct statement that says absolutely nothing.
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.
- It doesn’t look as if anything will come of this most recent incident for Dukes as his wife will not file charges.
- Everybody has an opinion. Everybody.