Originally written on The Platoon Advantage  |  Last updated 3/20/13
I want to read a redemption story about Josh Lueke.  I do. Most of my friends and colleagues would rather never hear or read his name again, and I get that, and honestly, I'd be more than okay with that. But a redemption story would be pretty cool.  I mean, a real one. Not this *********.  The thing is: what we know of the available evidence pretty strongly suggests that Josh Lueke raped another person. He served 42 days for "false imprisonment with violence," but if a person has been falsely imprisoned and the imprisoner's semen turns up on the other person's clothes and inside the other person's body, that's an awful lot like rape.  And that's not "a critical mistake," as someone named Robbie Knopf says it is in the first link above. That's a deliberate act that anyone, even a child (and at 23 at the time and having gone through high school and at least some college, Lueke was no child), would know intrinsically was very wrong. It's not something he has to (or gets to) "persevere" through, as Knopf says. It's something his victim can "persevere" (and hopefully has); it's something he has to live with, for the rest of his life; it's something for which he certainly could and probably should have spent considerably more time in jail; it's emphatically not a hardship he has to buck up and get through.    It gets worse, by the way, or has been worse. Check out this sympathetic profile from Mariners Spring Training two years ago: it's called "Lueke learning life lessons," but the lessons he has learned appear to be things like "don't read the newspaper," "keep a thick skin," "don't let all those questions about that rape you committed bother you." He actually says "[m]y mom has had it the hardest" (I wonder if his victim would agree). He says "[p]eople look at one incident and decide that's who you are." That word, "mistake," appears in this one twice. So that's pretty much the opposite of the redemption article I'd love to see. Mine starts with Lueke saying something (I mean, I don't want to put words in his mouth here) like: "Five years ago, I did a truly awful thing. It wasn't a mistake or a lapse in judgment; it was an intentional, very wrong thing. I went through the judicial system and served my time, but I know now that that doesn't simply wipe away an act like this. I know now that people define me based on this single incident because this is precisely the kind of single incident that defines a person, even five years later and probably, were I never to acknowledge it, for the rest of my life." I imagine it would ultimately end with an apology to the victim, and with anecdotes about his giving his money and time to appropriate charities. I imagine it would still be called something like "Josh Lueke learns life lessons," but that this one would be about, you know, lessons he's learned toward a better life, rather than toward ducking accountability and ignoring totally justified criticism. Somewhere tucked in the middle would be a phrase set apart by em dashes or commas, and that would be the only bit in the whole piece that had anything to do with baseball. "Lueke -- who has thrown 33 innings for the Rays this season with a 3.14 ERA and 37 strikeouts -- stopped in on Wednesday morning to drop off a box of supplies and perform some voluntary cleaning services at the local battered women's shelter."  That's it. I imagine you identify his profession and team somewhere in the intro, but that's all the baseball you get in my redemption article. Because maybe the worst thing about Knopf's post, and about Larue's 2011 article, and about much of the Steubenville coverage and any number of other things, is the maybe-only-partly-spoken suggestion (made explicit by this brilliant Onion clip) that there's something admirable or heroic about a dude simply livin' his life and playin' sports while a (probable) rapist. Lueke's incredibly lucky that he still gets to play baseball at this level, or anywhere, really. His perseverence in continuing to (attempt to) succeed at a meaningless boy's game despite having suffered the trauma of having once probably raped someone just should not ever, ever be an angle on this type of story. My imaginary redemption article is emphatically not about a professional athlete whose past is behind him now because he throws a baseball pretty hard or is a really good teammate; it's about a person who was given the incredible gift of not having to watch his unspeakably horrible past completely ruin his current and future life, and how that person has learned from that and become a vastly better person. Baseball gets a few words, because a person's occupation is typically mentioned in a story. It's not a baseball story at all, and making it a baseball story is never going to be a good (or even a not completely horrible) idea. Of course, that article's not going to exist until it's actually (well, at least mostly) true, and there's no evidence it is. In that case, let Lueke pitch, if he proves he's capable of it. If there's anything interesting about his game worth writing about, write that article. Analyze his fastball and change-up and ground-ball rate and all that. Just don't try to tell me, or suggest, or even remotely hint, that any of those stupid little baseball things mean he can finally put behind him that one time that he probably raped someone. His victim deserves more respect than that, as do we all.
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