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Monday, December 03, 2007

Here comes the spin...

It is Washington afterall. As you might have guessed, the Nationals official release on Dukes leaves a lot out:

The Washington Nationals today acquired 23 year-old outfielder Elijah Dukes from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor-league left-handed pitcher Glenn Gibson. Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.

Dukes went 35-for-184 (.190) with three doubles, two triples, 10 home runs, 21 RBI in 52 games in 2007 as a true rookie with the Devil Rays. Dukes displayed advanced plate discipline as a rookie, as he averaged 3.9 pitches per plate appearance en route to earning 33 walks. Although he has pro experience at all three outfield slots, 37 of Dukes’ 38 starts with the Devil Rays came in center field.

The 6-foot-2, 220 lbs. Dukes—widely regarded as one of the best athletes in baseball—joined Kansas City slugger Alex Gordon (23) as one of just two American League true rookies to hit 10 or more home runs in 2007.

Originally Tampa Bay’s third-round selection in the 2002 First-Year Draft, Dukes was rated as high as the Devil Rays’ No. 5 prospect, according to Baseball America, entering the 2006 campaign. He entered 2007 ranked by the same publication as the top athlete in Tampa Bay’s system.

In four minor-league seasons, Dukes posted a .370 on-base percentage and averaged nearly 23 stolen bases per year. In Dukes’ Triple-A debut with Durham in 2006, in little more than half a season, he hit .293 with 30 extra-base hits, 10 home runs, 50 RBI and a .401 on-base percentage. Upon being drafted out of Hillsborough (FL) High, Dukes was named the nation’s best two-sport athlete by USA Today.

There were a few statements made regarding Dukes' troubled past:

Stan Kasten:

"The decision to acquire Elijah Dukes was not a simple one. From a purely baseball perspective, all our evaluators agree he has the talent to be a quality major leaguer. From a franchise standpoint, we want to make sure Elijah is determined to be a quality contributor off-the-field as well.

“Let me emphasize that though Elijah’s history may be very different from other players on our team, he will very definitely be held to the same high standards. We believe the Nationals clubhouse, manager, organization, and fans [get real Stan, not a chance] give Elijah Dukes his best chance to succeed and grow.”

Jim Bowden:
“Elijah has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order impact bat who is capable of playing all three outfield positions. We spent many months investigating, researching and studying all the issues on and off the field regarding this transaction [but I was stubborn and got my way.] This decision, however, is more than an educated gamble. The support of our manager, coaches, front office and active players were a major factor in this decision. Our organization is determined to help Elijah turn his life around off the field and continue his development as a player [Yea, we're that naive and cheap].”

Manny Acta:

“I’m looking forward to working with Elijah [looking forward to it? really, Manny, cause it's going to distract your attention from the capable gifted athletes that deserve it]. I recently saw him play in Winter Ball and am convinced he can be a solid addition to our ballclub [Good thing I missed the game where he almost beat up the umpire]. He has assured me he will come to Spring Training ready to play. I’ve already talked to some of my players and know they share my enthusiasm about welcoming him to Washington. He could be real difference-maker.”

Elijah Dukes:
“I am excited about getting a fresh start with an up-and-coming franchise like the Washington Nationals. It’s an important move for my career and gives me the chance to prove myself both on and off-the-field. I appreciate this opportunity and am looking forward to meeting the fans of Washington, DC as we move into a brand new ballpark.”

Too bad the fans don't seem to share the same thoughts.


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