Elijah Dukes spent Saturday afternoon signing autographs for Little Leaguers. Naturally, that led to him being benched, a crushing defeat for the Nationals, and a teammate with a broken ankle.
Dukes was benched for Saturday's game with the Marlins for being five minutes late for pregame stretching, part of manager Manny Acta's zero tolerance policy for tardiness. The fact that Dukes was late because he was at a community outreach Little League function apparently didn't matter.
"We are going to change the culture here, regardless of how well a guy is playing," Acta said. "It was a bizarre situation, because he was doing something that we encourage our players to do. He was out in the community doing something for some Little League program and he just showed up late for work.
"He was very remorseful about it. He felt bad, but we have to lay down the law. Regardless of who is out there, we are still losing ballgames. We have to change the culture somehow."
The result? Duke's replacement in the outfield, Roger Bernadina, broke his ankle while catching a ball on the warning track in the eighth. The Nationals choked away a five-run lead as Jeremy Hermida hit a two-run homer to tie the game in the ninth and a three-run homer to win it in the 11th. Dukes even got into the game after Bernadina went down, and went 0-for-2. Your Nationals are now 1-10.
Also, I saw State of Play last night, and two reporters in the Washington Post newsroom were wearing Orioles caps.
On the plus side, Washington just dropped $45 million on Ryan Zimmerman.