Elijah Dukes Arrested on Warrant for Eating Bag of Marijuana
Remember Elijah Dukes? He was once a highly regarded prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Nationals who apparently washed out of professional baseball in 2010 because of his problems off the field and, perhaps, his conduct in the locker room.
The Rays drafted Dukes in the 3rd round of the 2002 Draft. In 2007 at age 23, he got 220 plate appearances for the Rays, and while he hit only .190, he also slugged ten home runs.
2007 was also eventful for Dukes off the playing field. In May, his wife sought a restraining order against him for threatening her life and their children. In June, it was reported that Dukes had impregnated a 17 year old foster child of one of his relatives and threw a bottle of Gatorade at the girl when she informed him of the pregnancy. Luckily for Dukes, the sex was consensual and the age of consent in Florida is below 18 years of age.
The Rays decided that Dukes needed a change of scenery and traded him to Nats for a Glenn Gibson, a minor league pitcher who never pitched higher than the A+ level. The Nats hired a former police officer as a “Special Assistant: Player Concerns” whose job was to tail Dukes and keep him out of trouble.
In 2008, at age 24, Dukes rewarded the Nats with a season in which he hit .264 with a terrific .864 OPS in 81 games. At that point he looked like a future star.
However, Dukes hit only .250 with a .729 OPS in 2009. Still, he was only 25 years old, and his future looked bright.
While Dukes had apparently stayed out of trouble off the field after being acquired by the Nationals, the team didn’t consider him a positive influence in the clubhouse. On March 17, 2010, in the middle of Spring Training, the Nationals gave Dukes his unconditional release.
While Nats’ General Manager Mike Rizzo said that the decision was performance-based (Dukes was 3 for 20 at the plate that Spring), Rizzo was also quoted as saying, “The clubhouse will be more united. We’ll have a better feel around the ballclub. We’ll gain just by that alone.” Rizzo also said the Nats would be a “more cohesive group” without Dukes.
Strangely, no other major league franchise would give Dukes another chance, in spite of his age and obvious ability as a hitter. He reportedly reached a deal to play in the Mexican League, but then backed out after not showing up for the reporting date.
In early July 2010, he signed with the Newark Bears of the Independent A Atlantic League. In 116 plate appearances over 28 games, Dukes hit .366 with a 1.007 OPS, but no major league organization was willing to give him another chance.
Dukes was arrested in November 2010 for failing to pay child support, and in March 2011, he was arrested again for assaulting a pregnant ex-girlfriend. That was the end of any future baseball career for Dukes.
In February 2012, Dukes was arrested for drug possession and destruction of evidence when he tried to eat a bag of marijuana after the cops pulled him over. He apparently failed to appear in court, because he was arrested yesterday on that warrant and also for driving on a suspended license.
In similar news, another of my all-time favorite clubhouse cancers, Milton Bradley, is facing the possibility of 13 years in prison for multiple alleged assaults against his estranged wife. In one incident in November 2012, he is accused of pushing his wife up against a wall and choking her after she allegedly requested that he stop smoking marijuana in front of their children. You can’t make this stuff up.
While Bradley got far more chances than Dukes got, and certainly far more than Bradley deserved in spite of his enormous batting talent, this blog is certainly the poorer for the end of Bradley’s professional baseball career in 2011. He always gave me plenty to write about each time a team that should have known better acquired him.