- Remember how cute it was when the 1962 Mets were dropping balls, missing bases and throwing away games? How they created poetry from their own futility?
Well, the Washington Nationals aren't cute or cuddly at all. They are a 3-13 disgrace, embodied by their clumsy center fielder and chief curmudgeon, Elijah Dukes.
Dukes cost his team three unearned runs and another game yesterday in the very first inning, losing Carlos Delgado's easy fly ball in the sun during an 8-2 giggler for the Mets. Afterward, an earnest Nationals public relations official suggested that Dukes speak with the media in the visitors' clubhouse, causing an ugly outburst from the outfielder in the presence of a few reporters.
"If they don't like it they can (expletive)," Dukes said. "Why should I talk with them if they don't know what the (expletive) happened?"
There seems to be a fair bit of this going around lately. A certain Chicago outfielder isn't real eager to talk about his problems, either.
There's a part of me that feels just a little bit sorry for these guys. Everybody knows that Dukes lost that fly ball in the sun, so why should a sensitive soul like Elijah Dukes have to say, "I lost that ball in the sun"?
On the other hand, very few players actually enjoy talking to the writers. The superstars can get away with it, just like they can get away with a lot of other stuff. But teams sort of have to draw the line with young players, because if you let them get away with stuff you'll lose the whole team fairly quickly.
Of course, the real problem isn't that Dukes won't talk. The real problem ... actually, there are two of them. The first is that he's miscast in center field, just as Gary Sheffield was (all those years ago) miscast at first shortstop and then third base. Dukes is a hitter and belongs in a more traditional hitter's position. The corner outfield for now, and eventually DH. The second problem is that he's got the emotional maturity of an adolescent. And I don't see an easy fix for that one.