The Wasted Talent of Elijah Dukes


There are some players that, despite having all the talent in the world, never seem to get themselves on track. Whether it is due to apathy, a bad attitude, or the unwillingness to admit that they need to do something different, these players never pan out or fulfill their potential. And then there are players like Elijah Dukes, who seems to have hit all three categories.

Dukes, essentially a train wreck in a baseball uniform, was at one point a fairly highly regarded prospect. Drafted by the Rays in the third round in 2002, Dukes displayed a solid combination of speed and power. As he rocketed through the Rays farm system from 2003 through 2006, Dukes hit 45 home runs while stealing 88 bases. Despite these accomplishments, his problems continued during this span, as he fathered five children with four different women and was arrested multiple times for battery.

His obvious talent caused Dukes to be considered one of the top prospects in baseball, as he was named the 79th best prospect prior to the 2007 by Baseball America. That spring, he broke camp with the Rays, and hit home runs in his first two games, including one in his very first at bat. From that point on, he struggled, and was hitting only .190/.318/.391 with 10 home runs and 2 stolen bases when he was thrown off of the team as his behavior issues again resurfaced. On May 2nd, he sent a picture of a gun to his wife, and left her a voice message threatening to kill her and their children. On June 12th, he was involved in a domestic dispute with a 17 year old girl who accused him of impregnating her.

After the season, Dukes joined Licey in the Dominican Winter League, and proceeded to be the exact same person. Quiet until November 29, Dukes erupted, having words with the catcher and umpire in his first at bat, making suggestive gestures to the crowd after being hit by a pitch, then being ejected after almost attacking an umpire. On December 3rd, Dukes was traded to the Nationals for Glenn Gibson, as the Rays were likely just happy to be rid of the headaches.

With the Nationals, he failed to live up to his promise, lasting two injury plagued years before being released in 2010. After appearing with the Newark Bears for that season, Dukes was arrested twice more, for failure to pay child support and assaulting his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, he had quit baseball to focus on being a professional rapper.

Now, Dukes finds himself arrested again, this time on a warrant due to his failure to appear in court on drug charges from 2012 and for driving with a suspended license. Even though he is only 28 years old, Dukes has not played in organized ball since that last season with Newark in the Can-Am League. He also brags about being arrested ‘dozens’ of times since 2001. Should he somehow manage to avoid jail time for this incident, it likely would not matter – any chance of Dukes being a productive major league player have probably long since dissipated.

Elijah Dukes, through his complete inability to keep himself out of trouble, wasted what could have been an excellent career. Now, he may best serve as a cautionary tale for other prospects with behavior issues, as a warning for what they could become.