Thursday, April 09, 2009
Smooth As Glass
Between real work, the statue unveiling and heading down to Woodbridge, Virginia for yesterday's Media Day for The Potomac Nationals, there was no time to watch Game 3 of the 2009 Season for Our Washington Nationals. But while shuttling back and forth in the car listening to Charlie Slowes & Dave Jageler on WFED, not mentioning the fine effort Elijah Dukes performed starting in centerfield yesterday in South Florida would not be right.
More than once our radio broadcast team commented on how deftly Our Number 34 tracked many hit balls his way at cavernous Dolphin Stadium. At one point, I believe Dave (as it turns out it was Charlie after playing back the radio broadcast on mlb.com) said this about Dukes defensive play: "He's as smooth as glass out there." Later, when I was watching some of the game highlights on mlb.com, Dukes made a nice sliding stop and instant recovery on Dan Uggla's game breaking double to deep right centerfield in the 5th inning.
With the stroked ball already past Elijah, he used all his athletic ability to cut the ball off at the pass--the same god given athletic skills which Lastings Milledge also possesses. But here is the difference in the two. Once Dukes got to the rolling baseball he used his baseball instincts to slide his glove to the ball, while conducting a perfect pop-up slide to quickly get to his feet. Immediately, Elijah Dukes was firing the baseball back into the infield with his powerful arm.
Not only was Elijah smooth as glass, he performed as if he was sliding on ice and was able to stop on a dime.
That was a very nice play on Duke's behalf, probably lost on many due to the very fact it was the decisive turnaround moment in yesterday's third consecutive loss to begin 2009. In the past, others have told me their concern with Elijah Dukes playing centerfield has been the worry that his tightly wound body and muscles (physical makeup, not mental makeup here folks) may be a disadvantage to his long-term ability to man the middle of the outfield. And in fact, Nationals Farm Authority's Brian Oliver and I had the same discussion at Pftizner Stadium yesterday during The Potomac Nationals Workout.
The concern has merit, but its worth the worry to send Elijah Dukes out there every single day until he proves otherwise. Our Washington Nationals were apprehensive over his recurring knee issues in 2008, always placing Dukes in rightfield last season to protect his body--less physical strain. For 2009, Dukes looks healthy and rearing to go--chomping at the bit. Clearly, he's the best centerfielder we got. Only Austin Kearns can possibly be considered a better gloveman among the outfielders currently on Our 25-Man Roster.
When it comes to patrolling centerfield--Elijah Dukes Is Smooth As Glass. Pencil him out there every single day until he proves otherwise. Our Number 34 is the best choice we have right now to win.