The Devil Rays have suspended Elijah Dukes indefinitely.
Major-league talent with major personality issues. In the Baseball America story, he says he was misquoted in Friday's USA Today when he complained about conditions in Durham and having to shower in "sewer water."
He's tried to backtrack before. Last year, he turned down a belated invitation to the Southern League All-Star Game because he was picked as a replacement. I was on vacation after that and another reporter quoted him saying he turned it down and giving his reasons why. When I got back, he said he was misquoted and wasn't speaking to the media any more that season (thus denying himself the best chance of refuting the earlier story). Too bad the story was true.
This spring, about 20 minutes after I arrived in St. Pete, Delmon Young and I were talking and Delmon was talking about the media troubles he had that spring with a Montgomery TV station. Dukes walked by on his way to the shower.
His first words to me concerned all media: "I hate all of you m----- f-----s." My first words to him: "Hi, Eli. How you doing?"
A day or two after that, he started ranting in the clubhouse when he saw me about the stories saying Delmon's troubles last year were because they were roommates. Too bad I never wrote about them being roommates. I didn't care who they roomed with.
Later that week, Dukes was gone for a few days. One of the players said Dukes was out because he had a root canal ... "four of them," the player said. FOUR? I've never had a root canal -- knock on wood -- but I've heard enough that I sincerely felt bad for the guy. (And would for anyone with four root canals.)
The day Dukes returned, I was walking by his locker and didn't have a notepad up or anything because I predicted he wouldn't talk about it. Me: "Hey, Eli. Hope you're feeling better." I have trouble describing the look he gave me. It was one of pure disgust that I had even spoken to him.
He's good at baseball and good with children, but he's also a powderkeg who makes everyone around him uneasy. Maybe this will cause him to get his act together, but that's been said many, many times before.