As animated gifs of people shooting whales or dolphins are hard to come by, we'll use a semi-regular wholphin to announce the curious news of Elijah Dukes receiving his unconditional release from the Washington Nationals.
The talented right fielder with a history of off-field problems was a shoe-in for the starting job in Capitol City this year. The temptation to label Dukes as "troubled" is easy and lazy, Dukes kept his nose clean for the better part of two years. Some truant legal fees and an odd incident involving a Little League appearance aside, Dukes played good baseball in between nagging injuries.
Nats manager Jim Riggleman swears up and down this was "strictly a baseball decision", though most of people around baseball lay in wait for the other shoe to drop. If Dukes was cut free for strictly baseball reasons, consider the decision "a very bad one" and move on.
Dukes has value as a cost-controlled outfielder with power and patience. Though his 2009 wasn't what the Nationals hoped out of the 25 year old, he projects well above average at worst at the plate and right around league average in the field. One would think a team like that Nats, fed up with the Dukes sideshow or convinced they can match his production somewhere else, would explore trade possibilities to shore up one of their many, many, many holes. Luckily for the fans of the Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, and Schadenfreudes, the Nationals simply let him walk. For nothing.
The one upside to this move &mdash aside from some lucky club acquiring a very talented and potentially motivated ball player &mdash is the increased reps Adam Dunn might see in the outfield! Oh, the fun we'll have!