It’s not major trouble by his standards — he’d have to be accused of robbing a moving train or sedition or something in order for this to really register on the Elijah Dukes scale — but the former Ray and Nat was arrested again, this time for failing to pay court-ordered child support payments. Like, a lot of them.
My point of bringing this up is not to pile on Dukes. God knows the poor sod has had enough of that. But to remind us that, as the offseason gets underway, we’re soon going to be reintroduced to baseball’s version of magical thinking. The fantasy tales that are the lifeblood of the hot stove season. From the very minor — hey, did you hear that Joe Shlabotnik is in the best shape of his life? — to the desperate — Why, yes, Johnny Elbow is on the comeback trail! — to the downright sad — Did you hear that Joe Outfielder has finally faced down his demons and turned his life around? — the winter is the time when everyone seems to check their skepticism at the door and allows themselves to believe that things can change.
And sometimes they do change. But for every Josh Hamilton story, there are ten Elijah Dukes stories. Of young men with great talent either throwing it away or having it taken away from them due to injury or circumstance. And never coming back.
Elijah Dukes is never going to play Major League Baseball again. Most of us never figured he would, and we certainly won’t miss him. But there are others we will miss if they don’t return. And, as we read that feature story about long workouts in the dead of winter or long months in rehab of one sort or another, we’ll trick ourselves into thinking that they will overcome those odds and will come back. But, sadly, most of the time they won’t.
Baseball is a tough game. There is always someone waiting to take an open job. There aren’t many real opportunities for comebacks. Certainly not for a good-but-not-great nutcase like Elijah Dukes. But not for a more pleasant brand of outcast either.
Last summer we posted about Rafael Palmeiro coming out of retirement to play for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters. The reason: to play a game with his boy Patrick. In that game the elder Palmeiro went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk, and a run scored. His son, who is now 26, went 2-for-4 with a grand slam.
Did that serve as an audition for Patrick? Possibly, as Jon Meloi of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles just signed him to a minor league deal.
As Meloi notes, it’s certainly just an organizational depth move, as Patrick is no prospect. And it’s actually likely something of a coincidence that it’s the Orioles who signed him, as Palmeiro doesn’t have any real contacts with the Orioles baseball operations people, all of whom are different folks now than back in his day.
This may not be the last of the Palmeiros, by the way. Peter Gammons tweeted this morning that Patrick’s younger brother, Preston, is a first baseman at North Carolina State who could be drafted this june. Gammons says he has a swing “remarkably similar to dad.”
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.