A few days ago, Cork wrote his thoughts on Josh Lueke and the Deadspin article on Lueke’s checkered past. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. In the end, Cork suggests it is time for the Rays to cut the cord on Lueke, because not only is he a replaceable piece on the bottom of the Rays bullpen, but he has become an embarrassment to the organization.
When the Rays acquired Lueke, I wrote that seeing him in a Rays uniform would pose quite the dilemma. On one hand, his legal issues are scum-of-the-earth-type stuff that no one should support. No one outside of his own family or close friends should be rooting for the guy as a person.
But fans rarely root for the name on the front of the jersey. They root for the team name on the front. I wrote if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman believe Lueke’s skill set is the right tool for the job on the mound and the pitcher proves effective, I will cheer the outcome. No more, no less. If Lueke strikes out Big Papi with the bases loaded, he will hear my applause. Not because he is Josh Lueke, but because the Rays succeeded.
I still think that’s fair.
During the college football season, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was a suspect in a sexual assault. Before the prosecution could (rightly or wrongly) say there was not enough evidence, bulletin boards and blogs had found the woman’s name, posted her picture, and drug her reputation through the mud. The whole situation was a circus. There is no doubt it would have been worse had charges been pressed.
Fortunately, the woman Josh Lueke was with on that fateful night in May 2008 has not seen her name slandered about. She has lived in quiet anonymity since. Good for her. There are few, if any, shaming her, saying she deserved it, that she was a “slut”, a “cleat chaser”, or any other term that would knock a victim down a peg or two for daring to challenge an attacker.
Instead the focus of public ire is squarely on Lueke. There are blog posts, fake twitter accounts, and even websites solely dedicated to calling out Lueke’s past. If the public shaming of one man leads another man to think twice about doing something stupid in the company of a woman, then the shaming is worth it. We are sacrificing Lueke for the greater good of mankind.
However, I don’t think the Rays should cut ties with Lueke just because public opinion is piling against him. Yes, Lueke has been average at best this season, but cutting him for public relations reasons while the team battles the injury bug is not prudent. Yes, once everyone gets healthy, Lueke’s lack of talent might lead him back to Durham, but to do so before might mean a union grievance, especially if it appears the Rays cut Lueke because of something he did six years ago.
In May 2002, following a New York Times “rumor” that a Mets star might be gay, Mets catcher Mike Piazza held a press conference to declare that he was heterosexual. The press conference had nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with controlling public opinion.
Josh Lueke needs to do the same. Now. Today.
While there is a chance Lueke may be in contact with the victim and knows she would not want the issue brought back up in the public light, I doubt that is the case. Odds are, Lueke hasn’t talked about the case because he doesn’t have to, or he is taking the increasingly common but incredibly stupid “haters gonna hate” approach.
On February 26th of this year, Lueke tweeted:
“It’s funny when ppl say negative things trying to hurt you !! Low and behold it gives me more energy to succeed and make them even more bitter !! #jokesonthem”
Of the 10 replies to the tweet, 8 comments referenced “rape”. While the tweet may or may not have been about that situation, that is what the public inferred. That is what they will always infer and what they will always bring up. The perceived arrogance of the “haters gonna hate” mentality means people will to want to bring him down even more.
That is the rationale: People see Lueke’s income, his beautiful blond wife and her modeling career, and their big league lifestyle and feel Lueke needs to be taken down a peg or two. They think he needs to be humbled. That he needs to show remorse. That he needs to understand what he did and why it was wrong.
When I first wrote about Lueke back in 2011, I wrote how I hoped he would show remorse:
“I do hope Josh Lueke does something to win over the fanbase as people. It would be nice for him to help a battered women’s shelter or a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. Show us right off the bat that he is not a monster. Tampa sports fans have had our share of terrible people and law breakers either hail from here or play here. We are almost immune to players with baggage. Almost. But I would really like to see Lueke set himself apart from the Goodens, Strawberrys, Dukes, or Jerramy Stevens types.”
The blog Platoon Advantage echoed my thoughts two years later.
We are still waiting.
Whether he sticks with the Rays, goes back to Durham, or plays for an independent team in the middle of nowhere, Josh Lueke needs a press conference. He needs to own up to the incident and announce he is going to make amends. He needs to use his public stature and go beyond being a model citizen. He needs to be an exemplary citizen.
Similar to Mike Vick’s work with the Human Society, Lueke needs to show the world that he can treat women with respect. Pictures of him and wife holding hands are not enough. Everyone who gets married has those. Lueke needs to work with battered women shelters, abused kids, or any other victim’s advocacy group. His work needs to be seen and publicized.
(I’m not even going to comment on the arrogance behind a Major League Baseball player having a public funding site for his honeymoon. Someone in the front office really needs to talk to Lueke and his wife about their public image.)
Some will say a Lueke press conference and efforts to help women will be a publicity stunt. Some will say it is too late.
But for those who Lueke could help, there is no such thing as too late.
But Lueke has to pull his head out of the sand first.
While he will always be a monster to some, the time has come for Josh Lueke to at least try to be a hero to others.
Or the haters will always hate.