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The Electric Dukes

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You can’t take your eyes off Elijah Dukes when he is on the field for the Washington Nationals.

He can impact a game at any moment in so many different ways, from hitting to fielding to baserunning to just standing at the plate with his remarkable eye for the strike zone. He has shown he is a very talented player in the time he has been healthy with Washington, batting .271 with eight home runs, 29 RBI and 35 runs scored in 60 games. Since coming back from the disabled list a week ago, Dukes is hitting 333 with two home runs.

Against Philadelphia Monday afternoon, he was hit by two pitches and maintained his composure, and then wound up scoring after being out an infield hit.

“Our lineup is so much better when he is in it, because he is a legitimate threat,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “He can do so many things. He can beat out an infield hit. He can walk. When he got hit by that pitch, it was a 3-2 count, so he already had a good at bat. And defensively, he does a good job with his athleticism and his arm strength. We hope he continues to do his thing on the field and keep his life in order.

“He has a very good knowledge of the game,” Acta said. “He has a lot of saavy when it comes down to playing the game. He is very baseball-smart.”

It’s clear he has great baseball instincts when he is on the field. It’s his other instincts that still remain a concern, on display recently when he pounded his chest after drawing a bases-loaded walk for a win, a move that only made him more enemies around the league, and this is a guy who needs friends. His anger management issues that resulted in a laundry list of frightening problems in the past on and off the field have not surfaced yet. But there are still concerns within the organization about his volatility and future in the game.

And, despite showing his talent on the field, he remains untradeable, based on conversations with several general managers. No one would take a chance on him still. I have my doubts that he will be a Washington National next season. But, for those who cannot seem to grasp the concept of opinion writing, let me explain this — those doubts are my opinion based on observations and conversations. It is not my desire. I hope Elijah Dukes succeeds. It is likely that the anger he has to battle to control is an expression of depression, and he is probably in some pretty severe pain deep down inside. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone and would hope that he can find some peace.

I also hope he succeeds because he has innocent people depending on him — five children from four different women. The opportunities those children have may rise or fall based on the financial future of Elijah Dukes, so I hope he has a long and lucrative baseball career.

- Thom Loverro

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