Big League Stew - MLB

Just when you thought your 1-10 Washington Nationals couldn't grow any more absurd comes some news that goes beyond the ridiculous and into the territory of the just plain laughable.

On Saturday, Washington outfielder Elijah Dukes was benched, fined $500 and threatened with a demotion to the minor leagues after he showed up to the park a mere five minutes after the team's usual reporting time.

OK, so rules are rules, but sometimes there are exceptions that should be made and Dukes' excuse would seem to qualify him for one — he was doing charity work for the Nats at a local Little League. 

Here's Manny Acta's explanation for the punishment, via the WaPo's Nationals Journal:

"He was late for work, he broke a team rule, and we are going to change the culture here — regardless of how well a guy is playing," Acta said. "And it was a bizarre situation, because he was doing something that we encourage our players to do: He was out in the community doing something for some Little League program and just showed up late to work. He was very remorseful about it. He felt bad, but we have to lay the law on whoever."

Really, there are no words. Dukes has been one of the only Washington players to get off to a good start — he's hitting .323 with two homers and six RBI in nine games — and he's been trying to get his life back on track after not being a very good person in the past.  While the team's other wunderkind Lastings Milledge has been testing the organization's patience, it has been Dukes and a few others who have displayed proof that the team might have hope for some sort of future.

But then Acta, who's likely to be the first manager canned this season, goes out and tries upsetting the cart over a tardy due to something positive on Dukes' record? Incredible.

Really, though, it should come as no surprise since it involves a Nationals franchise that has bumbled its way through the entire spring.

I mean, first there was the draft pick who falsified his age, which led to a bonus-skimming controversy that caused Jim Bowden to resign his position as general manager.

Then there were moments like the Nats' team president going on Philadelphia radio to invite Phillies fans down to Washington to fill the stadium, the introduction of weird ballpark statues that were not only historically incorrect, but panned by the Washington Post (though I like them) and — my favorite — Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman taking the field on Friday night while wearing jerseys that read "NATINALS".

No wonder their potential top draft pick might want $50 million to join them.

(Or that the Post's beat writer previously sent up a few rescue flares.)

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