Perhaps not surprisingly, Mariners’ management is taking heat for including Josh Lueke in the package of prospects they received along with Justin Smoak for Cliff Lee.

As I reported in this post two days ago , Lueke missed most of the 2009 season when he was charged with rape last Spring in Bakersfield, where he was then playing Class A+ ball.  After a lengthy jail stay, he pleaded no contest to a charge of false imprisonment with violence and was sentenced to 40 days in jail, which he had already served.

I had never heard of Josh Lueke when I first learned he was included in the Cliff Lee trade.  I looked at his minor league numbers and saw that he had missed almost all of the 2009 season, to what I initially assumed was an injury of some kind.  However, when I googled Lueke, the news stories out of Bakersfield about his arrest and plea deal came right up.

Apparently, the Mariners’ front office didn’t take the time to google Josh Lueke.  Again, I’m not surprised.  The player the M’s really wanted was Justin Smoak, and once they got him plus Blake Beavan, a former first round draft pick and a pitching prospect to replace Lee, the last two players thrown in (Lueke and Matt Lawson) were an after-thought.

Lueke is actually 25 this year, not 24 as I mistakenly stated in the original post.  However, he’s got great ratios (Ks/BBs, Ks/9 IP), and I’m sure that when the Rangers offered to throw Lueke into the deal (we now know why), the Mariners probably looked at his strike out numbers and decided he was a good bottom-of-the-deal, player-to-be-named-later candidate to round out the deal.

Ironically, the Mariners are a team which has taken a strong stand against violence towards women, so Lueke is the last player they would have wanted as a throw-in to sweeten the pot on the Cliff Lee trade.  Here’s a post from Mariners’ beat writer Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, which describes the issues in detail.

What’s really damning is that Mariners’ brass is quoted as saying they were aware of the charges against Lueke and thought that last year’s resolution of the case meant that Lueke had been “cleared”.  Since a more accurate picture was only a google search away, it makes the M’s look really sloppy and careless.

My opinion is that Lueke should be allowed to continue pitching professionally for somebody (although I would certainly understand it if the M’s decided to release him given their past stance on domestic violence).  He’s served his sentence and has a right to resume his career as a professional baseball player for someone.

That being said, Lueke’s conviction is a matter of public record, and he’s going to have to live with the consequences of the really bad decisions he made on the night in question.  It’s fair game for the public to discuss and for teams to decide whether a player convicted of that particular crime is someone they want in their organizations. After all, professional sports are nothing but a form of entertainment which owe their livelihood entirely to the public’s good graces.

If nothing else, the episode is a good example of the fundamental premise that if you are a young athlete (or any young man, for that matter), don’t act like a douche-bag.

It’s a fact of life that many young women are turned on by professional athletes and will make themselves available to provide for a ballplayer’s needs, so long as they are freely given the choice to do so.

The news reports suggest that the young woman in Lueke’s case might well have been agreeable to a little harmless sleeze, if Lueke and his roommate hadn’t gotten her so drunk she passed out.

No matter what she may or may not have been willing to do if given a reasonably informed choice, every woman has an absolute right to be given the opportunity to make that choice.

Lueke apparently didn’t give this young woman any such opportunity, and he has rightfully had hell to pay as a result. At age 24, he was certainly old enough to know better, no matter how much he had to drink that night.

I wonder if teams give their young players a stock speech about the fact that women don’t exist solely to serve a ballplayer’s needs, and that while many women will be only to happy to indulge a ballplayer’s fancy, some women will not and that such refusals must be respected.

In basketball and football, players generally go straight from college to the major leagues, where other players, the players’ association and players’ individual agents can give them lectures about the facts of life and proper conduct.  In baseball, however, minor leaguers start very young and are often largely on their own to make decisions about how they conduct themselves off the field.

Even then, baseball has no monopoly on loutish conduct.  Ben Rothlisberger’s recent episode and Kobe Bryant’s rape charge of a few years back are both examples.

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