Josh Leuke — one of the pitchers acquired by the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal — faced rape and sodomy charges in California last summer. He later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with
violence. Lueke was sentenced to 40 days in prison but was released immediately thereafter for time served.
That’s bad. Also bad: not everyone on the Mariners seemed to realize this at the time of the trade. The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker:
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said he was “not aware” beforehand
that a Class AA pitcher obtained in the Cliff Lee deal pleaded no
contest last year to a charge of false imprisonment with violence
against a woman.
“I was not aware of that before we acquired him,” Armstrong said.
“And it is going to be addressed.”
Team CEO Howard Lincoln didn’t know either. General Manager Jack Zduriencik said he did know about it, but on Friday mistakenly said that Leuke had been “cleared,” which is not true, meaning that Jack Z either didn’t really know everything or else he was trying to gloss it over. Either way, he said he asked the Rangers if they thought Lueke was anything to be concerned about moving forward and was satisfied with their answer.
Still, how you don’t bring higher ups into the loop on this kind of thing beforehand is a mystery to me. It’s just as much a mystery to me why — regardless of Zduriencik’s responsibility to keep his bosses informed — they didn’t know it independently. Google Lueke and the case turns up pretty prominently (there are even pics of him in prison scrubs out there for crying out loud). Look at his stats from last year and you see that he pitched only four games. Even if you didn’t know about the criminal charges, don’t you look at that and ask if the guy had Tommy John surgery or something?
Geoff Baker is going to town on this. And rightfully so, in my mind. As he notes today, the Mariners have been out front in the community supporting groups and initiatives aimed at putting a stop to violence against women. This has led to a zero-tolerance policy on the part of the team which has in turn led to players being sent out of town on a rail before. Now the team trades for a guy who pleaded guilty to a charge which involved violence against a woman.
Reasonable people can disagree how much Lueke should be punished within his profession for his criminal transgressions. Reasonable people can’t disagree, however, that the Mariners either didn’t do their homework or simply didn’t care about Lueke’s background when they made the deal. My guess is that Zduriencik is in some hot water with his
bosses over all of this, and as I sit here right now, I think it’s pretty justified.