Last Wednesday, The Rays traded Delmon Young to the Minnesota Twins leaving the Rays without an obvious choice to play right field in 2008.
Elijah Dukes could have potentially been the Rays opening-day right fielder…If only he could have kept out of trouble. After his latest incident, we have a sneaky suspicion that the Delmon Young trade scared Dukes in which we suspect a phone conversation with his agent went something like this…
Dukes Agent: (upon hearing about Delmon Young trade, calls Dukes)
Dukes: what up Dawg
Dukes Agent: The Rays just traded DY.
Dukes: That lucky shit. What else I gotta do to get outta that shit?
Dukes Agent: Are you sure Elijah?
Dukes: How many times I gotta tell ya. You are to address me as “Big Dawg”
Dukes Agent: sorry. Big Dawg…are you sure you want out of Tampa? You could be a starting major leaguer this season again.
Dukes: I’m gonna send that Andy Freedude a picture of my nine. I aint even bullshittin.
Dukes Agent: No. No Big Dawg. We have to be careful. We can’t do anything too big. We need you to just do something a little crazy. Not bat-shit crazy. More like, you-haven’t-gotten-any-good-weed-in-a-week crazy.
Dukes: What if I charge the mound and pummel the pitcher tonight?
Dukes Agent: No. Still too much.
Dukes: Aite. I got it. I’ll pretend like I’m gonna go all bat shit-crazy, but I won’t really. Maybe grab my crotch at the fans. They always throwin shit at me anyway. And then I will get in the umpires face and scare him real good.
Dukes Agent: Yeah. *seeing it in his head* Yeah! That’s perfect Elij…er…Big Dawg.
Dukes: It’s good as done.
Dukes Agent: Is there anything else you need while you are down there?
Dukes: Yeah dawg. I forgot my iPod that has all the Mozart and Schubert on it. And there is nobody down here that likes this wine that I brought with me. We should get some 2000 Chateau Margeaux. And I really miss our late night talks over a game of chess. Maybe you could come down this weekend.
Dukes Agent: You got it. Just remember. Don’t do anything too crazy. We just want the Rays to trade you, but we don’t want other teams to get scared.
Dukes: You know me Dawg.
On Thursday, the dark horse candidate to replace Young, and may be the most talented potential right fielder reminded everybody that he is still Elijah Dukes. In his first game back after short break back in the States, Dukes made an obscene gesture to the fans in the Dominican Winter League, got into a heated argument with an umpire after being ejected, had to be restrained by several teammates that sensed that Dukes was about to do something crazy and generally reminded everybody that he has no desire to play for the Rays ever again….
(Dukes) objected to a strike call in his first at-bat. He was hit by a pitch in his next at-bat, flung his bat to the ground and on his way to first made a suggestive gesture to the crowd, which had been jeering him. He also had words with the catcher when he shook his head after taking a pitch.
Dukes, 23, reacted emotionally and angrily to a third-strike call, going chest-to-chest with an umpire after he was ejected in the ninth inning. He had to be restrained by several teammates at different times.”It got a little ugly,” said Jesus Campos, baseball operations vice president of the host Gigantes team. “If it wasn’t for (teammate) Andy Tracy holding him back, things could have gotten a lot worse. … It definitely wasn’t a safe situation for the umpire because (Dukes, 6-2, 250) is a big guy.”
We have been unable to confirm but we have heard that the “suggestive gesture” was Dukes grabbing his crotch towards the crowd.
The Rays will spend the rest of the off-season looking for a player to play right field. That player could come via free agency or more likely through a trade. In addition, there are several in-house candidates that may be able to fill the void, but they all come with large question marks whether it be Rocco Baldelli (health concerns), Jonny Gomes (defensive concerns, prone to deep slumps at plate) or Justin Ruggiano (minor league numbers suggest mediocre major leaguer at best).
And then there is our own mischievous little badger, Elijah Dukes.
From a purely baseball point-of-view, Dukes is the best solution in right field. Before off-field problems set in, ending his season, Dukes proved that he is a major league talent. Despite only hitting .190, Dukes hit 10 home runs and posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 44 to 33 in only 52 games.
Bugs & Cranks has been chronicling the “Redemption of Elijah Dukes” all off-season and his success and behavior in the Dominican Winter League indicated that Dukes was starting to get back to just being a baseball player and he was doing that very well. In doing so, Dukes may have been inching his way back into favor with the Rays.
Recent comments by Andrew Friedman seemed to back this notion.
“Elijah continues to make great strides,” said Andrew Friedman, Devil Rays executive vice president of baseball operation. “We’re still at the point in the process where it would be premature to elaborate much more, but we feel like he is at the stage where it’s appropriate for him to go out and play some in the Winter League and take it from there.”
With the Rays trading Young and with no obvious in-house replacement, Dukes could have potentially been the Rays opening-day right fielder…If only he could have kept out of trouble.
Rays Trade Delmon Young And Two Others To The Twins For Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett And A Minor Leaguer [Rays Index]
Elijah Dukes Blends Right Into Dominican Baseball [Deadspin]
Dukes Erupts Yet Again [TampaBay.com]
The Redemption of Elijah Dukes – First YouTubes [Bugs & Cranks]
Dukes to Play in Winter League [Devil Rays]