Josh Lueke

Josh Lueke is a rapist. How often does that bear repeating?

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Roy Hobbs said that some mistakes you never stop paying for. Maybe it should be that way. In terms of social stigma, at least, if not in terms of actual punishment. That’s what Rays’ reliever Josh Lueke — who plead down sexual assault charges to a false imprisonment with violence conviction — has learned over the years.

He has learned that no matter how long ago you paid the criminal price for your actions — in his case an extremely light 42 days in jail for what were undeniably odious and criminal actions which can only be logically defined as rape even if they were legally characterized as something less — people may still hold you socially accountable for many more years. This we have come to see with websites, with ballpark signs and with chants by fans whenever he comes into games. We have also seen it in the form of responses to those who would ask that we stop talking about Lueke’s history and instead marvel at how he has “persevered” through “adversity.”

Of late, a number of people have taken to pointing out on Twitter, each and every time Lueke comes into a game, that he is, indeed, a rapist. Of late a number of other people have responded that that first group of people should just drop it already and stop mentioning that fact. They do so less as a defense of Lueke’s tender sensibilities — as far as I’ve seen he ignores it and none of those who wish the matter would be dropped online are actually defending Lueke personally — than as an exclamation of the pointlessness of constantly mentioning it or, in some cases, as a matter of mental fatigue at having to discuss it all again.

It’s an interesting little debate, but one which Stacey Mae Fowles — a rape survivor — sees as not so little at all. Today she writes at Deadspin about why it’s necessary to remind baseball fans of Josh Lueke’s past:

Because most survivors never have the opportunity to name their attackers, I have to disagree with the suggestion that tweeting is a futile endeavor—naming Lueke is most certainly accompanied by its own sense of empowerment. My own fear may prevent me from calling out my attacker in a public forum, but at least I can remind the baseball community that we have failed victims every time Lueke comes up to pitch. The fact that others don’t see it as a meaningful action is entirely meaningless to me. You can volunteer and you can donate money, but the most significant acts when it comes to dismantling a culture that forgives rape is to name those who commit it and support those who endure it. The irritation this man faces each time the chorus of condemnation rises is wholly insignificant when held up against the plight of survivors, and it may be wise for those who dismiss the messages as a “waste of time” to think for a moment that rape victims might have different thoughts on what does and doesn’t constitute a waste of time.

Is it unfair to Lueke? Not in any way I can see. He is not subject to any more criminal sanctions nor, per our Constitution, should he be. But nor is he immune from criticism for his past. And more importantly, nor is society immune from reminders of how poorly we have dealt with rape as a crime, treated some rapists as something less than criminals and done grave disservices to rape victims as people suffering from trauma and often forced to endure more after the crime has already taken place.

I don’t beat the Lueke drum that often because there are plenty of people who do so who are more informed and in a better position to do it. But I don’t begrudge Stacey and anyone else who does.

Go read her post. Read it all before commenting. And think about it a bit before you do.

The deeper implications of the A.J. Ellis trade

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers heads to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on May 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The trade of a light-hitting backup catcher is normally about as inconsequential as it gets. The trade of A.J. Ellis by the Dodgers to the Phillies, however, is anything but that. Indeed, it may be the public manifestation of long-simmering, well, maybe “feud” is too strong a word, but a definite butting of heads between the team’s front office and its best player.

While almost all of the clubhouse drama in Los Angeles has surrounded a talented but aggravating corner outfielder currently toiling in the minors, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night that the Ellis trade could very well be seen as the front office’s shot across Clayton Kershaw‘s bow:

Kershaw’s preference of Ellis was the subject of a longstanding tug-of-war between Kershaw and the front office, which wanted Yasmani Grandal behind the plate as much as possible . . . Some players interpreted the trade as a message from the front office.

This isn’t Kershaw’s team. It’s not Corey Seager’s team or Adrian Gonzalez’s, either.

It’s Friedman’s.

The notion that Kershaw likes to pitch to Ellis is pretty well-known, but the idea that it was so strong a preference that it created a dispute as to whether he has final say over a roster spot is news, at least to people who aren’t around the Dodgers all the time. Hernandez is a good columnist and is particularly well-plugged in to the Dodgers after many years of being their beat writer for the Times. He wouldn’t throw the notion of there being something of a power struggle in this regard out there all willy-nilly in order to stir the pot or something. I don’t doubt for a second that something bigger than most of us have seen is going on here.

As for the trade itself: yeah, it’s pretty debatable as to whether it makes any kind of sense. Carlos Ruiz is likely an upgrade over Ellis, but it’s a pretty marginal upgrade when you consider how few plate appearances the Dodgers backup catcher will make for the rest of the year. It’s especially marginal if you assume, as Hernandez and others assume, likely with reason, that the loss of Ellis is going to harm morale. At least in the short term before they get to know Ruiz well (worth noting, though, that he comes pretty highly recommended from Kershaw-caliber aces for all the same reasons Ellis does). I can see a lot of reasons not to make that deal even for an extra hit or two a week that Ruiz may give you over Ellis.

All of which speaks to what we don’t know. What we don’t know about the mind of Andrew Friedman and whether or not there is something more going on here than is immediately apparent. About the relationship between him and Kershaw and, for that matter, him and the rest of the team that would cause him to make a deal that plays as poorly with his own players as this one does. It could be something about Ellis. It could be something about Friedman’s relationship with Kershaw. It could be something totally unrelated to any of that, such as offseason plans and the roster in 2017 (Ruiz has a team option for next year, Ellis is a pending free agent). Unless or until Friedman speaks or a reporter gets someone to shed more light on this, there will continue to be questions.

In the meantime, I’ll grant that there are certainly different rules which apply to superstars than mere mortals, but veto power over a trade and/or playing time for other players isn’t typically one of them. If, as Hernandez suggests, there was a sense that Kershaw and Friedman didn’t see eye-to-eye on that and it wasn’t otherwise being resolved, it makes Friedman’s move somewhat more understandable.

World Baseball Classic pools, venues announced

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 10:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of Venezuela gets a hit and drives in a run against Spain during the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on March 10, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Yesterday the folks who run the World Baseball Classic (i.e. the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission) announced the groupings and venues for next springs’s tournament. It breaks down thusly:

  • Pool A will play in Tokyo, featuring Australia, China, Cuba, and Japan;
  • Pool B will play in Seoul, featuring Chinese Taipei, Korea, the Netherlands, and either Brazil, Israel, Great Britain, or Pakistan (final participant to be determined at a qualifying tournament in New York next month);
  • Pool C will play in Miami, featuring Canada, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the United States;
  • Pool D will play in Guadalajara, featuring Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

A winner and a runner-up will advance from each pool following a round-robin competition. That will result in a second round robin made up of Pool A and B — which will be called Pool E, because it HAS to be complicated — and which will be played in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Pool C and D’s representatives will make up Pool F, who will play in San Diego at Petco Park.

The winner of Pool F will then take on the runner-up of Pool E in a semifinal at Dodger Stadium, while the winner of Pool E will face Pool F’s runner-up there as well. The winners of those matches will play in the WBC final, also at Dodger Stadium.

Got it? Good.

Now we wait. And listen to people tell us how much we should care about the World Baseball Classic between now and March.