The Elijah Dukes vs. Manny Acta story seems to have blown over a bit now. No more pressing, breathless questions about what could have gone wrong, about how we all “expected this” from Dukes, how this was “bound to happen”, given his history, how he would “blow up” any minute and absolutely destroy the clubhouse atmosphere Manny had striven to build this last year and a half.
The demise has not occurred. Just like it did not occur last year. Remember the panic over Dmitri Young? Remember how he was to de a catastrophe-in-the-waiting? How the Nationals took such a huge risk just having him around, and how his “fluky” batting average would slide right back into the low .200s and he would tear the team apart with his overt terribleness? It didn’t happen with Comeback Player of the Year Young, and it won’t happen with Star-in-the-Making Dukes.
Since that little incident in Pittsburgh, Dukes has four hits and four RBI in three games (five hits, taking into account tonight’s current game in Seattle, along with that lead-producing run). He’s slowly climbing through the .200s in batting average, no longer wallowing in that sub-.100 wasteland he sloughed through earlier this year. It’s a full-fledged turnaround in progress, a becoming of the player the Nationals trusted he could be when they took him off Tampa’s unwilling hands.
He can thank Manny.
Yes, he can thank our Master, the Master of all things ‘tism, who looked past a little dugout blowup and post-game handshake snub to keep the up-and-coming Dukes in the lineup, saying only “He’s our right fielder.” A simple statement, but one full of the same never-give-up, accentuate-the-positive attitude we’ve come to love from ChairManny. A more bloated-ego-having and problematic-rage-possessing manager might have seen such insubordinance as worthy of a benching or release recommendation. The Master sees through such nonsense, and further looks to the potential of the offending party. He will not give up on his players, and he emphasized as much with the early struggles (everyone seems to have them, don’t they?) of Luis Ayala. “I’ll never give up on him”, Manny said at the time. Apparently the same extends to Dukes and whoever else might not offer his hand for a jaunty slap in a victory-celebrating line.
Also, how about this Lasting Milledge guy? Another outfield turnaround in progress? How about yes. There he is with 11 hits in his last ten games, putting that average well above the .230-ish many a naysaer thought he might stay at all year. A few more weeks like these might put an end to the preening of Mets’ fans everywhere over that “steal” of a trade for Ryan Church (batting average already slipping a bit, along with the rest of the Mets franchise).
It all goes back to the Master, he the ever-positive leader who brings out the best in all his players, even those who are prophesized to tear apart his team.