The Washington Times - April 22, 2009, 12:04PM

   There has been no greater absurdity in the train wreck that is the Washington Nationals than the transformation of Elijah Dukes from feared thug to persecuted hero.
    Team president Stan Kasten likes to say the team gets the attendance it deserves. Well, it also gets the ironies and absurdities it deserves, and the Nationals are getting theirs with the criticism they are getting in their treatment of Dukes.
    This is the price you pay for having a guy like Dukes on the roster — a talented but still very troubled individual who will, sooner or later, burn you.
    The Dukes Little League controversy is just a singe, an amusing one. Odds are down the line, sooner or later, there will be a more damaging and less amusing Dukes story that will come back to haunt the Nationals.
     Let’s recap, for those who have forgotten St. Elijah’s past. He has been arrested at least three times for battery and once for assault. Two years ago, his wife filed a restraining order against him after she said he threatened to kill her. Dukes had to be asked to leave the school where she taught. And he has fathered at least five children with four different women.
    Just before spring training, Dukes faced the possibility of going to jail for failing to pay child support before his tab was paid minutes before the due deadline. He has been assigned a guard/advisor by the Nationals to make sure he stays out of trouble.
    It’s important to restate all this, for those, especially the Great Falls Little League parents who are now Elijah Dukes fans, who are becoming emotionally invested in this player.
     You will be disappointed.
     Dukes has been some sort of hero after the Nationals fined him $500 for showing up five minutes late for pre-game workouts on Saturday. He had been making an appearance at the Great Falls Little League opening day, and it made him late.
      The Nationals have received criticism for the fine, and according to the Washington Post, Little League parents in Great Falls are going to pay Dukes’ fine for him.
      Lost in all of this are these facts — this was not a team-sanctioned event. Dukes somehow set this up himself.
      Why? Because he was paid for it — $500. If it had been set up by the club — you know, community service — there would be no payment.
      Dukes did this because he needs every $500 check he can get his hands on. His financial obligations nearly landed him in jail before the start of the season. So this was not community service, or charity.
     As far as being late, this has become an issue because of Lastings Milledge, the Nationals outfielder who failed to show up on time for a meeting before the start of the season and then was not subsequently fined. He was later sent down to Class AAA Syracuse supposedly because of his play, but it was likely because of the entire package of Milledge problems.
     People see this as a double standard — that Milledge was not reportedly punished for being late and Dukes was.
     The problem is that being late has been a chronic problem for Dukes as well. Don’t assume that because his name has not shown up on a police report that all is well.
      Let us not forget that he failed to show up this winter for the uniform unveiling at the ESPN Zone (he and Milledge, who did come, were scheduled to appear), but had no problem showing up later that night for the party known as Fight Night here in town. That’s just one public instance.
      Just a warning — if you are emotionally investing yourselves in Elijah Dukes the player, you will regret it. Those Great Falls Little League parents will regret it, and so will the Washington Nationals…………….I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM today (Wednesday) from 5 to 7 p.m………..to learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com