When I was a high school senior, a new student arrived at Jefferson High School and ended up in my mixed chorus class.
I remember his name, but that’s not really important. He was clearly older than the rest of us; it turned out he was 20.
He kept pretty much to himself, but the stories and rumors around him were plentiful: He’d been in prison. He’d been in the service. He was an undercover cop. He was a school board spy. None of these tales had actually come from him, and no one was bothering to buddy up with him and find out what was true. The innuendo gave him a slightly dangerous air.
Well, it turned out he’d dropped out of school some years earlier and had come back to get a diploma. How did I know that?
I asked him.
Not to be nosy, but one day in class there was a break in the singing - the teacher had left the room momentarily - and of course, everyone started yakking with their friends. He was seated near me, and leaned over and asked if this happened very often, the teacher leaving the room unattended.
I said that no, it didn’t, and asked if he’d taken chorus before, since he never really seemed to sing much. He said that he’d taken it some years back when he was at Annandale High School, and had forgotten how boring it was. It turned out he had dropped out to work, but now felt he needed that piece of paper to get a better job.
As I recall, he dropped out again a few weeks later.
The point is, he was new, he seemed somewhat dangerous, so no one ever bothered to try and be his friend.
Which is pretty much what happened to Elijah Dukes with the Nationals.
Dukes came to town with a very dangerous reputation. Some older coaches in the Tampa Bay system were reportedly scared to be around him. One Nats’ executive - now departed - told friends that Elijah was “as likely to be in prison by the All-Star Break as on the All-Star team,” which was a little harsh, I think.
Like Rudolph, the other Nats never let Elijah join in any reindeer games.
Did it impact clubhouse cohesion? Sure. It had to. I mean, they didn’t hate him, but they weren’t inviting him over to the house on off days.
There was no “incident” that precipitated Dukes’ release. A simple conclusion was drawn that he wasn’t likely to improve, and also, perhaps, that physically, he might always have issues.
I’m sure they thought at the outset that Dukes would be a plus base-stealer, and a much bigger threat at the plate. I also think they thought he’d be a better defender than he turned out to be.
These things happen in this game.
There’s nothing sinister going on.