The Nationals Review Holiday Wish List

December 25, 2007

My blog-writing hero, that is to say, the guy who made me think “hey I should do something like that” is Steven Goldman, who writes an incredible column on the Yankees. If you love the Yankees or hate the Yankees, you should read his Pinstriped Bible and Blog, because he is one of the best baseball columnists I have ever read. Articulate, cynical, funny and painfully honest in his assessment of his team, he really shows what intelligent analysis is. Anyway, he wrote his holiday wish list for the Yankees, so I thought I’d copy him and do the same for the Nationals. Mine, however, will concentrate more on the Nats and less on other wishes (mostly)

1. Good physical health for everyone of course. But especially the young MLB ready players – Ryan Zimmerman, Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo Pena, Shawn Hill, and Tyler Clippard. All of whom are young enough to be good for a long time, and good enough to be useful for a long time

2. Good mental health for Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes. I am of the opinion that any bad thoughts in Milledge’s head are overblown and nothing to worry about. Dukes, on the other hand, I am not so confident.

3. The establishment of a solid duo of middle infielders by the end of the season. Belliard is not a long term option, maybe Guzman learned to hit and is the future. Maybe Lopez had a bad slump the last year and a half and can succeed again. Maybe there are answers in the farm system. But going into 2008, it is probably going to be another “let’s wait and see” season, hopefully that won’t last until 2009.

4. Continued growth in the bat of Jesus Flores. Whether it’s in AAA or with the big Nats, I don’t care. As long as he can hit better than the average catcher, I’ll be happy for the future.

5. 150+ games for Nick Johnson. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?

6. Also, 20 good starts from John Patterson. I’m no longer even considering him in any assessment of the team other than as an ancillary player. But if he was able to pitch again like he used to… I’d be happy.

7. Justin Maxwell, Christopher Marrero, Ross Detwiler, Michael Burgess, Josh Smoker, Colin Balester, and maybe even Matt Chico play enough time in the minors in 2008 to get the proper experience before being asked to do too much for the Nats.

8. And they all keep improving.

9. The farm system continues to grow and get better. Last year’s draft was great, but the upper level of the system is still pretty barren. Rather than worry about who’s coming up in 2008, it’s important to make sure that ’10, ’11 and ’12 will all bring good crops to the big leagues.

10. That Nationals Park be a truly great place to watch and play baseball. From convenience, to accessibility, to speedy bathroom lines.

11. At least one more Redskins win before baseball starts.

12. 3rd place in the NL East. It’s always possible.

13. Gary figures out what the hell is wrong with the Terps and fixes it.

14. Somebody – anybody – pitches 200 innings this season. Chico, Bergmann, Clippard, Redding – I don’t care who, just somebody would be nice. Last year there were only 4 teams that didn’t accomplish that: Washington, Seattle, Texas, and Philly. But Philly had Moyer go 199 1/3, Seattle had 3 guys who pitched 190 or more, so they were fine there. Only Texas compared to the Nats. This is how bad it was last season: Chico lead the team with 167 IP, Bacsik was second with 118 IP. Their top 2 guys had 285 IP which was dead last, with Texas 308 2/3 second to last, and the rest of the league significantly higher. St. Louis was next, with 377 IP. In other words Washington’s top starters combined for about 25% less IP then the worst of the other teams except for Texas. And who can blame those pitchers in Texas, that park is tiny! Sooooooooo, like I was saying, somebody pitch all year, please.


Maybe They Need to Sign a Catcher

December 19, 2007

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Major League Baseball may punish the 14 players who appear in the infamous Mitchell report for violations after the 2004 rule changes. And, of course, the biggest free agent the Nationals signed this offseason, Paul Lo Duca, is one of those suckers. Lo Duca has a variety of accusations against him, as well as handwritten notes that say everything short of “Dear Steroid Seller, Thanks for selling me the steroids that I am injecting as I write this in order to enhance my performance at playing baseball, XOXO Paul Lo Duca, the catcher currently on the Los Angeles Dodgers.” Despite the evidence against him, Lo Duca hasn’t actually tested positive for anything, so the first offense 50 game ban is unlikely. If I interpreted Olney correctly, the punishment will be according to what was punishment at the time. In 2004, the first offense was a suspension of 15 games not 50 games. Apparently what is going to happen is the league will call in these guys and have a little chat with them. This happened to a few players recently, before the Mitchell report came out, with various results. Jay Gibbons and Jose Guillen each got suspended 15 games for their involvement in the purchasing and use of HGH. Meanwhile Troy Glaus, Scott Schoeneweis, Rick Ankiel and Gary Matthews, Jr. were not punished. Apparently there was insufficient evidence to suspend them. With Lo Duca, the receipts and love letters seem to be enough to suspend him for something. If they do end up going through with this, I’d see at least the 15 game suspension that Gibbons and Guillen each got. But it could be more, perhaps even 30 games.

So, it’s possible that for the first month of the season, the Nationals are without their starting catcher. What if the suspension is 30 or even 50 games? This may give them the impetus they need to go out and sign another veteran catcher to a one year deal. This wouldn’t be a terrible idea, remember Jesus Flores is thought to be the future of the position in DC, but he had to be on the major league roster in 2007 because he was a rule 5 pick. Spending 2008 in the minors would probably be good for him to get his bat major league ready.

So then the question remains, who can be had, that can actually play for a month full time if needed? Or maybe as the platoon hitter against righties, were Flores has really struggled. Well here is the list from espn.com:

Sandy Alomar, Jr
Paul Bako
Rod Barajas
Kevin Cash
Mike DiFelice
Sal Fasano
Mike Lieberthal
Mike Matheny
Damien Miller
Doug Mirabelli
Josh Paul
Kelley Stinnet

So, first let’s eliminate anyone who really can’t hit. Alomar, Bako, Cash, DiFelice, Fasano, Stinnett, Paul, and Matheny all have career OPS marks under .700, or haven’t hit over that in at least 5 years. Bako actually hits lefty, but poorly enough that he isn’t an attractive platoon guy. The other sub-.700 guys are equally unimpressive against righties. That leaves Barajas, Mirabelli, Miller, and Lieberthal. Mirabelli hasn’t hit well in 2 seasons, and as a catcher, that may be enough of a trend to avoid him. Plus, if Wakefield pitches again, the Red Sox will overpay him anyway. Barajas has a career OBP of .288, and 21 of his 63 career HRs have been at the hitters paradise in Arlington, TX. So chances are he isn’t going to have enough power to swallow his terrible rates of getting on base. Neither can hit righties better than lefties, so they don’t help with the platoon.

That leaves Miller and Lieberthal. They are interesting cases. Both are good hitting catchers coming off one poor season. Lieberthal barely played, while Miller had just under 200 ABs. Lieberthal is more adversely affected facing righties, but he has hit so well that his numbers against them still just beat out Miller, who for his career barely notices which arm the pitcher uses. Lieberthal’s career splits are an impressive .274/.337/.446, while Miller’s is .262/.329/.411. Other than last year and 2001, Lieberthal has had an OPS over .750 every year since 1999. Miller’s done that once after 2002. Either one is a decent choice in a backup backstop role and can probably hold down the fort for a month or so if necessary. Miller is older, and Lieberthal is probably the better choice, but also most likely comes with a higher price tag. Hopefully, Major League Baseball makes their moves quickly enough that the Nationals know what moves they need to make before everyone is gone.


Mitchell Report and the Nats

December 13, 2007

So lots of people are named in the Mitchell report. Hooray for hearsay, I’m not that into this whole thing, but I figured people would be curious about the Nationals and big name former Nats on the list. So here we go, #1 on the list of Nationals players is Paul Lo Duca. Also included are Nook Logan and Jose Guillen. The Lo Duca one is very intriguing because it shows that the teams knew perfectly well about the steroid use as well. I’m leaving them unedited, without commentary (internally) so you don’t have to scour the PDF to read what it says about these guys. If it’s in italics, it’s the direct quote from the Mitchell Report. I got it here on espn.com.

Paul Lo Duca

Paul Lo Duca is a catcher who has played with three teams in Major League Baseball since 1998, the Los Angeles Dodgers (7 seasons), Florida Marlins (2 seasons), and New York Mets (2 seasons). He has appeared in four All-Star games.

Todd Hundley referred Lo Duca to Radomski when Lo Duca played for the Dodgers. Radomski estimated that he engaged in six or more transactions with Lo Duca. In some transactions, Radomski sent the performance enhancing substances by overnight mail to Lo Duca’s home or to the Dodgers clubhouse and Lo Duca sent Radomski a check a week or so later.

Radomski produced copies of three checks from Lo Duca, each in the amount of $3,200. All are included in the Appendix. Radomski said that each check was in payment for two kits of human growth hormone.

Lo Duca’s name, with an address and telephone number, is listed in the address book seized from Radomski’s residence by federal agents. During that search, federal agents also seized a note from Lo Duca to Radomski. It read:

Kirk,

Sorry! But for some reason they sent the check back to me. I haven’t been able to call you back because my phone is TOAST! I have a new # it is [Lo Duca’s phone number is listed here]. Please leave your # again because I lost all of my phonebook with the other phone.
Thanks
Paul

In 2002, Lo Duca was quoted by Sports Illustrated in an article responding to Ken Caminiti’s admission of steroid use. Lo Duca was reported to have said: “If you’re battling for a job, and the guy you’re battling with is using steroids, then maybe you say, ‘Hey, to compete, I need to use steroids because he’s using them . . . Don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone it. But it’s a very tough situation. It’s really all about survival for some guys.”

According to the notes of an internal discussion among Los Angeles Dodgers officials in October 2003 that were referred to above, it was reportedly said of Lo Duca during the meetings:

Steroids aren’t being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . Florida might have interest. . . . Got off the steroids . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives. . . . Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he play. Last year of contract, playing for 05.

On June 26, 2004, Lo Duca wrote a check to Radomski for $3,200. On July 30,
2004, the Dodgers traded Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota, and Juan Encarnacion to the Marlins. On August 7, 2004, Lo Duca issued another check to Radomski for $3,200. In January 2005, Lo Duca signed a three-year contract with the Marlins.

The handwritten note shown below on Dodger Stadium stationary from Lo Duca to Radomski was seized from Radomski’s house during a search by federal agents. Radomski said that this note was included with a check Lo Duca sent Radomski as payment for human growth hormone.

Makes the loudmouth leader sound a little two-faced at the least. Hey, now Elijah Dukes isn’t the only one on the team with experience with illegal substances.

On to the next guy, as of Wednesday Logan can be filed under “former” National, he was non-tendered. He gone.

Exavier “Nook” Logan

Nook Logan is an outfielder who has played in Major League Baseball since 2004 for the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals.

Rondell White, a Tigers teammate, referred Logan to Radomski. Radomski stated that he sold Logan one kit of human growth hormone just before federal agents searched Radomski’s house in December 2005. Radomski mailed the package to Logan, who paid by money order. Radomski recalled having between six and eight conversations with Logan about the use of performance enhancing substances. In the course of one of these conversations, Logan confirmed that he had received the shipment from Radomski. Radomski still had Logan’s phone number in his cell phone directory at the time of his final interview with me and provided me with the phone number.

In order to give Logan the opportunity to respond to these allegations, I asked him to meet with me; he declined.

I’m happy to say the Nook Logan is no longer a Washington National. Not because he was named in the Mitchell report, but because of the .265/.304/.345, numbers as shameful as any steroid allegations.

Jose Guillen

In an article on November 6, 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Seattle Mariners outfielder Jose Guillen purchased human growth hormone, testosterone, and other steroids through the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center in multiple transactions over a three year period between 2002 and 2004 and possibly also in 2005.

According to the article, Guillen placed his first order with the center on May 1,
2002, when he was playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He paid $2,180 by wire transfer for human growth hormone, testosterone cypionate, nandrolone, and syringes. On September 19, 2003, when he was playing for the Oakland Athletics, he used a credit card to purchase $2,083 worth of human growth hormone (Genotropin), testosterone propionate, stanozolol, and syringes, which were shipped to him at the Oakland Coliseum. In July 2004, when Guillen was playing for the Anaheim Angels, he “placed a $6,000 order for [human] growth hormone, testosterone propionate and syringes,” in addition to clomiphene and Novarel. The article also reported that records reflected two additional orders from Guillen for human growth hormone and syringes: in September 2003, when he was playing for Oakland and in June 2005, when he was playing for the Washington Nationals. The article said that it could not be verified from the records the reporters reviewed whether these orders had been sent to Guillen.

The Chronicle article suggested that at least some of Guillen’s purchases of human growth hormone were based on prescriptions that had been written by the same suspended dentist who reportedly wrote prescriptions for human growth hormone for Paul Byrd.

Neither I nor any member of my investigative staff had any prior knowledge of
any allegation about Guillen. The Commissioner’s Office met with Guillen to discuss the allegations. On December 6, 2007, the Commissioner’s Office announced a 15-day suspension of Guillen for violation of the joint drug program, to take effect at the start of the 2008 season. According to news reports, Michael Weiner, the general counsel of the Players Association, said that Guillen would appeal the suspension.

The whole thing isn’t all that exciting. People were named, but most of them were due to suspicion, really just hearsay. People were not named, and probably there are lots of them that should have been but didn’t get discovered. It doesn’t tell us all that much different. This is probably all I will say about this whole report, unless I need fuel to disparage Lo Duca at some point during the season. What I do hope comes from this report is change in policy, hopefully this will help reduce the number of performance enhancing drug users in the sport.


I guess I should probably talk about Lo Duca

December 11, 2007

Paul Lo Duca, or, Deluca as I have already heard several people call him, was signed by the Nats for a 1 year deal. I know there should be something to say about this. I mean, he’s probably gonna start most of the games, so it is big news, right? But I just can’t get amped up for this. It’s not a great signing, he played terribly last season, but it’s not terrible either. Last season aside, he doesn’t hit terribly for a catcher. Career splits of .288/.338/.414 have been approached or exceeded every other year since 2002. The off years have been pretty crappy, like last years .272/.311/.378. A batting average of .272 seems ok, on an island. But even Long Island, NY isn’t that isolated, and an OBP like that is not good even for a backstop, neither is the OPS of .689. On a great hitting team like the Mets, you’d expect to see a little better.

As a fielder, well he can certainly catch the ball, make nice with pitchers and he used to be known as a real solid player back there. But he had shoulder problems this season and had his worst year throwing out runners. His biggest asset may be that he is a loudmouth. That can be interpreted (sometimes correctly) as leadership. But as Baseball Prospectus said in 2006 about Lo Duca

“The erstwhile heart, soul, and solar plexus of the Dodgers, for whom sun coast scribes still nurse giant, unfulfilled man-crushes, turns out to be a run-of-the-mill ballplayer when it comes to doing the things like hitting, and fielding, only the main parts of a ballplayer’s job. Leadership doesn’t compensate for shortcomings in those departments, no matter how much willfully naive romantics would like to believe otherwise”

Yeah I agree with that. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Kevin Millar and his completely-inadequate-for-a-1B/DH/LF OPS. But people love him, because he’s got a goatee and he talks alot.

LoDucaThe other thing that people say about Pauly is that he is a really great situational hitter, a guy that knows what to do when. He did come in 4th in sacrifice flies last year, if you’re looking for something statistically to help make that case. But I have a feeling that there really isn’t much to show that, it’s just something old baseball people say when they can’t think of something else good to say about someone who isn’t great but isn’t terrible. He also NEVER strikes out, which makes it LOOK like he really can hit.

Unfortunately, Lo Duca’s notorious for being a first half player, and being really really bad in the second half. Evidence? First half career splits are .303/.354/.436 while second half is, you guessed it, much worse at .269/.318/.387. So here’s to Jesus Flores being ready to play by the end of the summer. Just saying, I warned you, when everyone jumps on the Lo Duca bandwagon in May, I’m not looking for a ride until he does it after July.

So all of these add up to me hating the Lo Duca deal, right? Nah. I don’t hate it. It’s only a one year deal, the Nationals do need a major league level player at the position, and he is better than most alternatives. There is the chance that he has one of his better years, which could be splits of .280/.350/.420, very decent for a catcher. So I’m not so much complaining about this one, just trying to look at it realistically.


Nationals and the Hall of Fame

December 10, 2007

I want to take a little break from the trade talks and free agent signings.

This year I was fortunate enough to take a trip to the Hall of Fame. No, I wasn’t one of the 70,000 that went to see Cal and Tony, I actually went up in October. It was a pretty incredible place, although if you aren’t a HUGE baseball fan, it’s quite a long trip to see a whole lot of jerseys and plaques. I know they are all about tradition in baseball, but it would be cool if you could try to hit a fastball from a digital Bob Gibson or throw a fastball at a CGI Mickey Mantle. You know, for the kids. Anyway, I found a couple of fun Washington-related things in the joint. A couple is pretty accurate, there just isn’t much presence there. But we’re new, and the Expos were Canadian so nobody noticed them anyway.

Even though we went to the gallery last, first up are the 2 most DC-related plaques that I saw. Obviously the best all-time DC player is in the Hall, the Big Train Walter Johnson.

WJ

What I can’t understand is why they didn’t edit Frank’s plaque to include “Manager of the Washington Nationals” but I’m not in charge.

FRobby

In the museum itself, there was a ceremonial bat given to George Wright. If you’ve never heard of him, you probably weren’t alive in 1867. It’s that wooden table-leg-looking piece behind those 2 ancient baseballs. The baseballs, by the way, predate the Civil War. The one on the left is from a game between 2 Philly clubs in 1860. The one on the right is from the Knickerbocker’s vs. the Gothams in NYC in 1854, the oldest existing ball from a scheduled game.

Nats Bat

And here is the associated plaque, if you’re so inclined to read up more on the bat/piece of furniture.

Nats Bat Plaque

And finally, there are lockers for each team. Here is the Nats locker… Nats Locker

Some things that aren’t DC related, but I found really cool

This is something that Ted Williams designed, and it is actually mentioned in the book Moneyball in reference to Giambi. Basically, it’s supposed to represent the hitting zone, and the numbers are what Williams thinks he would hit if every single pitch was put in that spot of the zone. So obviously, being a lefty, he felt he’d hit poorly if everything was low and inside. Apparently he was a good hitter.

Ted Williams’ Hitting Zone

This is a nice display, too. It is a baseball for each no hitter pitched, since World War II (if memory serves), signed by the pitcher, and presumably the ball is from that game. There’s been over 140 since WW2, and a total of 255 all time through 2007 (including shared no-nos). Baseballs for each of them, and Nolan Ryan has his own separate display to show his 7 no hitters. Also mentioned are his other 5 (I think) no hitters that were blown in the 9th.No Hitters

And finally… they have a display for each inductee that year. This was for a local guy who did pretty well playing baseball for a nearby club:

Cal’s HOF Display


Another Day Another Trade

December 4, 2007

Geez, yet another trade has been made by the Nats. For this one, they traded reliever Jonathan Albaladejo for starter Tyler Clippard.

Clippard, you may remember, came in this spring when many of the Yankees starters went down and pitched a great first game, 6 IP, 1 ER, 6 Ks, 3 BBs against the MClippardets. He started 6 games, and did well in the first 4, while giving up 6 ERs in his 5th start and 5 ERs in the 6th start. So his ERA jumped from 3.60 after 4 starts to 6.33 after 6. In the minor leagues, he has done pretty well, with a career ERA of 3.52. He hasn’t done great at the AAA level yet, but he’s only 22 right now. What’s most appealing about him are those peripherals. 3/1 K/BB ratio and a K/9 over 9. He has been able to strike guys out at every level, which is always nice to see. He could probably use a few months in AAA, but with the Nats, he’s probably already one of their better options, so look for him to start in April. If not, with an even decent AAA showing he’ll probably be up by the middle of the season.

Baseball America ranked Clippard as the Yankees #7 prospect last season, and had this to say about him:

Clippard has figured out how put hitters away at every level without “wow” stuff. He frequently pitches backward because he can throw his curveball and changeup, both slightly above-average pitches, for quality strikes. His long arms and lanky body add deception to his delivery

So he doesn’t have a blazing fastball either, but he does pitch well. And a great fastball is less necessary for a starter than a reliever, because a starter usually has the opportunity to use more pitches. Looking at the picture, I can see how that delivery may be a little tough to deal with.

As for Albaladejo, I actually really liked him. He barely sniffed the majors, but did very well there. However, in the minors, he’s been very good since converting from a starter to a reliever. His K/BB ratio is almost 4/1, but he doesn’t have a blazing fastball. Which means even though he has been an effective reliever, he may not be the closer type. But he was never ranked among the Nats top prospects, even when their farm system was empty.

How did they do with this trade?

Well, first of all, I think this trade is exactly what the Nats should be doing. They have a strong bullpen, and they basically traded away a bullpen prospect for a starting prospect. And they traded a 24 year old for a 22 year old, which is good. Not because they’re getting younger – 2 years is barely a blip on the teams radar. But in terms of prospects 2 years is a huge difference. I also think they got the better player. This trade wasn’t bad for the Yankees, Albaladejo will add to a weak bullpen, while Clippard probably isn’t better than a back-of-the-rotation starter in the AL. And the Yankees wouldn’t give him a chance to do that without injuries to their other guys. On the Nats, he has a chance to play, and his ceiling is a little higher in the NL. The Nats may end up with an effective middle-of-the-rotation guy. Good trade for both teams, but the Nats got the better end of the deal now, AND more upside.


I’m not thrilled with Dukes, but maybe it’s because I’m a Terp

December 3, 2007

So the story is the Nats have obtained Elijah Dukes. This isn’t terribly surprising, Capital Punishment has been reporting that the front office has been eyeing him for months. There, it has also been noted that he has had a few attitude problems, and they’ve basically given a “no thanks” to the idea. I tend to agree with that assessment. Here is the list of pros and cons I can see from this deal.

Pros

  • He’s hit at every level in the minors. In 2006 he hit .293/.401/.488 in AAA at the age of 22. His numbers in AA the year before were similar, except with much feDukeswer BB/AB and consequently, lower OBP. So his plate discipline has improved, while his AVG and SLG has been consistently high.
  • The go-to reference on prospects, Baseball America, said this about him in 2006: “He’s one of the strongest players in baseball and also has the ability to control the strike zone. He combines his above-average speed and an aggressive approach to shine on the basepaths and in the outfield. He also has a strong arm, adding to his right-field profile.
  • He has the potential to be a great RF, with power, speed and plate discipline. A young Bobby Abreu is the comparison that comes to mind. He is the classic 5 tool prospect and could be a really special player.

Cons

  • Attitude on the field. This probably shouldn’t be listed as just one con, it should be listed as several. But I’ll try to fit it all in here. The most recent incident was that Dukes was ejected in a Dominican Winter League game, went after the umpire, and had to be restrained. He was suspended at least 5 times in 2006. He’s been suspended for altercations with umpires, refusing to leave the dugout after being tossed, altercations with his own coaches and fighting with a teammate. There are others, but frankly I’m getting tired of researching his suspensions.
  • Legal problems/attitude off the field. According to wikipedia, he’s been arrested SIX times since 1998. SIX! He also allegedly called his ex-wife and left a voicemail threatening to MURDER HER AND HER KIDS. He supposedly impregnated a 17 year old foster child staying with his family in 2007 and then at some point threw a bottle of gatorade at her. He’s violated protection orders filed by his wife and has had to be threatened with jail time in order to pay. He has been charged with assault and with battery several times, as recently as 2006. He has been in trouble for driving under the influence of alcohol, and marijuana possession.
  • Intelligence. Not only was he a terrible enough person to threaten to kill his wife, he was dumb enough to LEAVE A VOICEMAIL SAYING IT.

When I first wrote this article, I said the trade (Dukes for a player to be named later) was no-talent for serious talent. Instead they traded away Glenn Gibson. Baseball America named him #8 on their list of top 10 Nats prospects. They said he’d be a back of the rotation starter, and he had a great K/BB ratio considering he has a fastball only in the high-80s. BA notes that he gets by on smarts rather than talent. I still think the Nats got the better end of the talent deal, but they didn’t give up garbage, which is a little annoying.

People can always change, get a better attitude, clean up their act, and become a better person. Dukes has serious potential to be a great player, he also has serious potential to go to prison. I know the Nationals believe that they can take good guys who have had rough lives and give them a second or a third chance to make things better. Dmitri Young is an example of someone who had attitude problems and is now considered a respected veteran that young players can and should look up to and learn from. Well, hopefully Dmitri has a thing or two to teach Dukes, because this kid is completely lost.

Personally, I have a hard time believing Dukes is going to live up to his potential. I give it at least a 50% chance of doing nothing but embarrassing a new organization that doesn’t need the kind of attention he will bring when he commits another crime or goes after another umpire/coach/player. I hope they are giving him a zero tolerance policy in terms of on-field actions, and they better give him one in terms of future crimes. Even if he cleans up his act, it’s not quite the same as when we were talking about Milledge last week. I said “Let’s be honest, if he’s a bastard but hits .350, Nats fans will figure out a way to like him.” Well, I think being a bastard is different than being a criminal. I have a tough time accepting someone who has done the things he has done.

On the flip side, if Dukes can clean up his act, an OF of Milledge, Dukes, and Pena would be killer. Young and talented, a great combo of power, speed, and defense. And that is obviously what Bowden is envisioning. But that is a best case scenario, and it is hard for me to see it coming true. And even if he does stay out of trouble, I think it will take serious effort on his part to change people’s minds about him. He will always be the guy that did the things he did, and just stopping acting out doesn’t change that. He’ll have to go out of his way, probably with a combination of charity work, admitting mistakes, apologizing and more charity work to distance himself even slightly from his past.

Oh yeah, a couple of more “pros” from this deal… if anyone was silly enough to think that Milledge was anything more than a cocky young man with a big mouth, this should show them that his issues are pretty minor. Also, the Nats have been publicly interested in Dukes since this summer, and back then, it looked like they had to trade a real prospect. Management’s patience gave Dukes more time to get into more trouble, both on and off the field, allowing the Nats to get him for almost nothing.


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