Dukes must have done something, exhibited some kind of anti-social behavior that pushed general manager Mike Rizzo over the edge.
Jim Bowden, a former Nats GM who now works for satellite radio as an analyst, appeared to have some insight in a tweet earlier today.
Bowden later deleted the tweet, which he annoyingly does routinely. Rizzo later asserted there was no such "singular incident," in another tweet, by Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore.
The reasoning the Nats are giving for Dukes' release has more to do with his ability to hit a curveball than Dukes' proclivity to hit, say, a person. But their evidence is, at best, inconclusive.
Dukes is 3-for-20 so far in spring training, which isn't good, but we have 2 1/2 weeks of games remaining.
He's still just 25 years old and a former third-round pick of the Rays. He has some power, some speed and, I think, a good arm. As recently as 2008, Dukes' major league OPS (in 81 games) was 27 percent higher than league average.
He had a minor-league option remaining, so the Nats could have sent him to Class AAA.
He should have had some kind of trade value. At least a "your Elijah Dukes for my Elijah Dukes" kinda thing.
• The starting right fielder, according to the depth chart at MLB.com, was to be Dukes. Willie Harris(notes) is the fourth outfielder, with Jason Maxwell, Mike Morse(notes) and Chris Duncan(notes) standing by.
Bill Ladson, who covers the Nats for MLB.com, paraphrased Rizzo in a tweet:
Rizzo said the league adjusted [to] E. Dukes, but Dukes did not adjust to the league. He had serious problems hitting breaking balls.
FanGraphs backs that up to an extent.
Further, Rizzo said he didn't use Dukes' minor-league option because "We felt that he's a major league player. We didn't feel it would help his development by sending him down."
So, Dukes is a major league player, just not for the Nationals. The Nationals?
Rizzo did admit that the team's clubhouse will be a more "cohesive and united group" — so Dukes was somehow divisive?
Another Nats reporter, Mark Zuckerman, talked to manager Jim Riggleman, who said Dukes just isn't good enough to be an everyday right fielder in the majors. Maybe he's the classic "4-A" player.
That all might be true, but it hasn't been proven yet; Dukes has 824 major-league at-bats with mixed success.
Riggleman also said Dukes is healthy, had been working hard and "those issues his personal life" seem to be behind him.
• And Rizzo, on the same subjects.
C'mon, Woodward and Bernstein. The story needs to find its Deep Throat and clear this up.
- Elijah Dukes
- Mike Rizzo