There's no way to write the classic athlete redemption story about Elijah Dukes; there's no way to spin his story into sunshine and light. He has done a lot of bad things, every year he has played professional baseball. I'm not enough of an optimist to think that this year will be any different.

But here's the strange thing: Some small part of me still feels sorry for him. Not for what he's done—his mistakes are his and his alone—and not for his lost childhood—although it was almost unimaginably tragic, I don't believe you're bound by the sins of your father—but for how he's being treated today.

When I was at spring training, the Nationals kept saying how they treat Elijah like every other player. Well, that's a load of crap. I can go talk to Dmitri Young or Wily Mo Pena without a PR guy standing there, and as far as I know, none of the other players has to live with a minder or take counseling—a subject so sensitive, no one on the Nats will talk about exactly what it entails. All of these walls have gone up around Elijah Dukes in Washington. But I fear it won't take long for Elijah to start feeling like those walls are better at keeping him in than keeping the rest of us out.

You really want a guy to feel normal? Treat him like a normal guy.