Redemption And Punishment
This will probably be the last thing I write about Josh Lueke for a while, but after receiving a few compelling emails about the subject and having some conversations with people who don’t follow the team or know anything about his situation, I thought it would be worth having a discussion about. Please, keep the comments civil – I know this is a sensitive topic for a lot of folks.
The details surrounding the incident that Lueke was involved with are awful. Here is the original story from his arrest, and then coverage of his no-contest plea. Regardless of what legal terminology is used, it’s pretty obvious that Lueke did something to a girl that should never happen. We weren’t there, and there’s no way any of us can know exactly what happened that night, but there is little doubt that Lueke’s actions that night were despicable, to say the least. There is no justifying what happened, even without knowing all the details.
So, now, the Mariners have a pitcher in the organization that did something awful. A lot of people, when they find out about what happened, want the Mariners to get rid of him, as they don’t want to be faced with the situation of having to root for a guy who has this kind of history. When we did the poll last week on whether you would root for Lueke as a Mariner, 24 percent of those responding said that they would not. For them, his crime outweighs any help he could offer to the team by pitching well. This is a totally understandable point of view.
However, there’s another level that goes beyond not rooting for the kid, and that’s the belief that the Mariners (and presumably, every other Major League organization) should not be willing to employ him. And that’s a position that I don’t think I can get behind. Lueke spent 42 days in jail due to his actions, and has satisfied the legal punishment laid out by the laws of the land. There are no pending charges against him. He has not gotten in any trouble since the incident occurred. By most accounts, he’s remorseful for what happened, and has gone along with all of the requirements set out by the organization since he was acquired, including mandatory counseling.
The argument that the Mariners should cut ties with Lueke is essentially based on a “one strike and you’re out” policy that offers no chance for redemption. Should a 19-year-olds mistake prevent him from pursuing his chosen career after his legally required debt to society has been paid? I don’t think so. As much as it makes my skin crawl when I think about how I would feel if the victim had been my daughter, I also have to consider how I might feel if Lueke was my son.
I’m sure my (eventual) children will not be perfect, and they’ll make some pretty big mistakes. I hope that, when they do, forgiveness and redemption are offered to them, and that they have a chance to make things right. In no way do I want to minimize what Lueke did, but at the same time, I believe that he should be afforded the opportunity to make a living, just like any other person in America who was not in the public spotlight. I can’t support the notion that one night of horrible decision making should be enough to justify the end of Lueke’s career.
He has paid for his crime, and he will continue to in the days to come. It will follow him around for the rest of his life, and deservedly so. But, I don’t believe that punishment should go so far as to nullify a chance at redemption. Lueke deserves another shot to do better. He’s going to have to live on the thinnest of ice, where any future screw-ups will likely spell the end of his career, but he should get the chance to do so.
I will feel certainly feel conflicted every time he puts on a Mariner uniform. My feelings, however, should not negate his right to pitch in the big leagues.