The Wife & I just got done watching "Thank You For Smoking" on the DVD machine.
Now it's my turn to spin, or more to the point, The Devil Rays turn to spin things. Picture Kid Friedman & Ole' Boy Hunsicker trying to figure out a way to do damage control on this one. You may recognize the gentleman in the picture, as his photo also adorns this lovely website.
Elijah Dukes, or more to the point, the Saga of Elijah Dukes, is bar none the story that attracts me most to this baseball season, especially with the Cardinals fighting for a high draft pick next year...
I first became aware of Elijah Dukes from reading this post 18 months ago. It was love at first sight. Here is a baseball story I can sink my teeth into. Now, most baseball players, at least the ones we get to here about daily, knew they were headed in this direction from the time they could think. Their parents arranged every possible advantage for them (proper instruction, proper spring / fall league, proper exposure, etc) & these guys tunnel-visioned their way to the wonderful career they know hold. Baseball, as a learned discipline, is not to be trifles with. Ask Michael Jordan. Well, Dukes was set to play football at NC State, when his hometown ballclub drafted him in the 3rd round & offered him 500K to sign as a raw toolsy outfielder.
You know the rest.
Do you think Robert Plant has any concept of middle-class adult reality? Dude was in Led Zeppelin when he was 18. How can you possibly expect him to behave in a "rational" way when his rationality was formed by Jimmy Page & Pamela Des Barres? People need to remember that we accept the reality with which we're presented (thanks, Cristof). Elijah Dukes's reality is this:
Grows up in Tampa with crack-head mother & homicidal father.
Shows promise as a athelete at an early age, which always brings out the most noble of intentions in the people that he's surrounded by. Remember "Hoop Dreams"? "Pimps" show up, spewing bullshit & promising the world, cause not only does this kid play baseball, he plays football, too, which means a hell of a lot more in the state of Florida than where you live.
So, surronded by phony yes men & given carte blanche to do whatever he wants to do, Elijah decides to NOT go the easy route, which would be college football which is set up to coddle and protect sociopaths. He decides to play baseball, where the spread of information is not nearly as controlled & he gets some up-front cash just for signing. Hell, if he makes the bigs, he gets to go back home! Can any of us really relate to that sort of reality? I certainly can't. I have no idea how I would see the world if that's how the world were presented to me.
Would I threaten violence to those who diagree with me or just rub me the wrong way? Maybe.
Baseball has a long line of jerks, for sure, & I hear Dukes get compared to Albert Belle alot, especially recently. The similarity that rings out the most to me is that they are both loners. Read this & tell me that Elijah Dukes sounds like he's just hangin' with the guys, lookin' for slumpbusters & poundin' back the beer.. What did he say when confronted with this latest allegation? "I've got to go finish my video game."? Seems apt. The problem with the Belle comparison is that Belle seems more like a true sociopath; he's clearly an intelligent guy who's decided that he's living in a paranoid world. I don't know that I can make the same case for Elijah Dukes. He's 23.
There was a blurb in "Moneyball" concerning Scott Hatteberg's selectivity at the plate; about how that's just how he hits. He doesn't make a conscious effort of it, that's just how he sees hitting. Dukes is the same way & that's the kicker to this whole story. No one taught him that, it was all just there, Jimmy Chipwood style. Like Tom Hulce in "Amadeus", Dukes is a novice at everything in life except what happens between the lines, where the structure of the game limits the static of everyday life & reduces reality to simple guideline & at this, he's a master. He seems to have been born to play the game & that's it. He can't perform mundane tasks, like form a meaningful relationship with anyone or even finishing a video game. But his skills show him to possibly be a baseball genius & as a baseball Salieri, that's what I want to see. I want to see a better Carlos Beltran who may actually kill the opposing pitcher during the game. Wow. True human tragedy. That's what Elijah Dukes was bred to become. This guy has the stuff of legend written all over him, so I hope the Devil Rays call Bobby Bowden, so they can learn every possible way to coddle this guy, because there is a huge pot of something at the end of this rainbow.
The wife said today that her co-worker is taking her to the Sox - Rays game tomorrow night. I'm going. Hell, the Ego is pitching!
She also asked me this.
"Is that scary guy you really like going to be playing?"
God I hope so....