Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Josh Lueke and Defending the Indefensible

          For years since I found out about the situation involving current Rays relief pitcher Josh Lueke, I’ve found it incredibly upsetting that someone who committed such an awful crime was still being allowed to pursue his dream of being a major league pitcher.  However, someone out there seems to view the situation in a very different light, and that would be Robbie Knopf from the Rays Colored Glasses blog (a Tampa Bay Rays blog in the Sports Illustrated network). 


For those of you unaware with the details of the Lueke sexual assault case, allow me to quote from a Bakersfield Now article from 2009 when Lueke pled guilty to false imprisonment.

“The woman told police she remembered vomiting into the toilet at the apartment. While doing so, the woman told police someone she could not identify was standing at her side masturbating on her.She said she passed out, and when she awoke at around 8:45 a.m., she told police she was lying on a couch with her pants down and other parts of her clothing were missing.A report from the Kern County Crime Lab states, "Josh Lueke matches this DNA" from the anal swab, tank top strap and hair of the alleged victim.

While there appear to be a lot of evidence that Lueke was indeed guilty of rape, the reluctance of the victim to testify in the case forced the State to plea bargain down to a false imprisonment charge, which Lueke pled guilty to. 

          Now onto this horseshit article penned by Mr. Knopf, which I’ll be Fire Joe Morganing…
“It’s controversial enough that a player with Lueke’s past made it onto a big league roster and while Lueke has stayed out of trouble since then, the controversy has only been amplified by how badly he has pitched.
          While I understand that Lueke’s lack of success has prevented him from maintaining a big league career, I don’t think that the controversy surrounding him has been effected by that one bit.  In my mind, regardless of whether he pitches as well as a prime Mariano Rivera, or as poorly as Kevin Gregg, the fact of the matter is that he is a rapist*.  Results on the field don’t impact my view of someone who committed a crime as horrific as what Lueke did.
“The Rays traded a player who was about to break out for a reliever who couldn’t get anyone out- and his criminal record only exacerbates the situation. But in reality, the situation is far better than it appears.
Nope.  This situation is still as bad as it looked when they made the ill conceived trade.  But I’m sure you’ll open my eyes with some facts to change my mind…
“You can hate Josh Lueke’s guts, but you have to appreciate the way he has persevered through the critical mistake he made and all the opportunities that have passed him by.
I “have to” now do I?  Again, I don’t have to appreciate anything that sexual criminals have done post-crime. 
Next, Mr. Knopf refers to this incident as a “mistake”.  There are a lot of incidents that I could dismiss as a mistake made by a young kid.  Rape, or other sexual assaults aren’t one of them.  He knew what he was doing when he was masturbating on a vomiting girl, and also knew what he was doing when his DNA wound up inside the girl’s vagina.  This wasn’t a mistake, this was a decision that he paid for with a 6 week jail sentence, but the girl will have to live with for the rest of her life.
Finally from that piece, he references “all the opportunities that have passed him by”.  Curious as to what those opportunities those were?  He was never sanctioned by Major League Baseball, nor by the Rangers (the organization he was with at the time).  Since this incident that he’s had two separate chances to pitch in the major leagues.  Professionally Mr. Lueke hasn’t missed any opportunities whatsoever.
“Since his arrest, Lueke has stayed out of trouble and has never been regarded as a problem in any clubhouse he has been in.
          This quote reminds me of the Chris Rock bit about the deadbeat father who brags about never going to prison.  You aren’t supposed to get into trouble, and no, he doesn’t get any sort of credit for not committing a second crime since his last stint behind bars.
          The second part of this is what really interests me.  How does this author have any idea how Lueke is regarded in the clubhouse?  Especially when dealing with a team as tight lipped as the Rays are, even if there was an incident in the clubhouse, they almost certainly would go out of their way to not publicize these problems.  If Lueke has changed his personality, and his clubhouse perception has changed, I’d have thought Mr. Knopf could’ve at least found one quote to back up this point. 
And even as his ERA has reached scary heights of late, he has continued to head to the mound and find a way around his struggles.
          Seriously?  I’m supposed to give Mr. Lueke credit for not quitting and continuing to pitch?  Give me a break.
“And not only does he has great stuff, but his results have actually been much better than they have appeared. In 2011 for the Mariners, Lueke’s ERA was 6.06 in 24 games, but it was 3.42 in his final 17 appearances and his FIP on the season was actually 3.32 as his strikeout to walk ratio was 29-13 in 32.2 innings pitched and he allowed only 2 home runs. Lueke did have an 18.90 ERA in the majors in 2012, but it was an exceedingly small sample size he actually struck out 2 in a perfect inning in his final appearance. And most impressive was Lueke’s Triple-A numbers. Lueke’s ERA may have been 5.59, but he managed a 9.4 K/9, a 2.3 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 67.2 IP on his way to an outstanding 3.01 FIP. The past couple years, Lueke really hasn’t been that bad at all and the major reason for his struggles has been terrible luck. At least on the baseball diamond, Lueke was always better than he appeared and this spring training he has continued to prove exactly that.
          There’s so much fail in this analysis I don’t even know where to start.   The only way that this author can find to compliment Lueke’s awful stat line the past couple years is to slice it up into smaller and smaller pieces. The 17 appearances he refers to in 2011 was a whopping 26 innings, hardly enough to make any sort of determination on his ability. 
          While he tries to pass off Lueke as being unlucky, he completely ignores the reason why Lueke’s FIP has been high is that he gives up a crap load of line drives, at least at the major league level.  When you give up rocket line drives, less will turn into outs.  This is either incredibly poor analysis, or wilful ignorance to make his point.  I’m siding with the latter.
          Nice to see that not only does the author of this poor piece have a terrible moral compass, but he also is very poor at statistical analysis as well.

“And as Lueke finds success for the first time at the major level, we’ll be captivated by his dominating arsenal, and justifiably or not, his past will be forgotten as Rays fans watch him help their team win games.

          Maybe Mr. Knopf will be captivated by his arsenal of pitches, and forget his past, but I for one certainly won’t.  I’ll never get out of my mind the crime that this reprehensible human being committed in a Bakersfield hotel room in 2008. 

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