(AP Photo. Unconditionally released by the Nationals on Wednesday, Elijah Dukes isn't laughing now.)
Hours later, and we're still trying to process the Elijah Dukes news. Over at Nats Insider, Mark Zuckerman captures the debate around the decision quite nicely, which is helpful. At this hour, the fishy decision to release Dukes, which was defended to a man by Rizzo, Kasten, and Riggleman as strictly a baseball decision, still seems to be holding up as that. Sort of. Despite what Jim Bowden said (and Stan Kasten smacked down).Despite Mike Rizzo's vague hints about an improved aura or something in the clubhouse:
"The things that happened in the clubhouse are clubhouse matters. We are not going to go into any details on what happened behind closed doors. We have a more cohesive, united group. I think the chemistry will continue to be great. We think we are going to be a better ballclub moving forward."
(Mike Rizzo, via Bill Ladson/All Nats All the Time, 3/17/2010)
So it's a chemistry thing? But what does Elijah Dukes have to say about all of this? The Associated Press went straight to the source and got a few comments from Dukes outside a Florida hotel on Wednesday afternoon:
"I don't know what to say. It felt a little funny. I guess I wasn't expecting it. ... That's part of baseball. No big deal, no hard feelings. Just part of the game."
"Nothing happened. If something had happened, I'd know about it."
"All I've been doing is my job."
(Elijah Dukes, via Associated Press, 3/17/2010)
So there you have it. Dukes seems just as surprised as everybody else by the decision, denies any on-or-off-field incident. He just works here. Or, worked here.
So we move on, and start getting used to the idea of a rotating cast of Willie Harris, Mike Morse, and Justin Maxwell in right. I have a hard time believing the Washington Nationals will be better off in the short- or long-term with this move. Still have a hard time believing this was mostly a baseball decision.
Godspeed, Elijah Dukes. Hope you land on your feet and figure it out somewhere.