Individuals who don’t follow the Los Angeles Dodgers might not realize that they finished the 2011 season at 82-79. Considering all the problems the franchise faced, it wasn’t that bad. After all, the New York Mets once won the pennant with an identical record (1973).
Andre Ethier missed almost one-half of the season. He played injured almost all of it. A healthy Ethier would have made quite a difference. especially since the Dodgers finished only three and one-half games behind the second place San Francisco Giants.
There is a little-known award sanctioned by MLB called the “MLB Clutch Performer of the Year Award.” It is presented to the players fans vote as the player who performs best when the game is on the line.Ethier won it in 2009.
He led the majors with six game-winning hits, including four home runs, which tied the record for game-winning home runs. The Boston Red Sox’ Jimmy Foxx did it in 1940 and Roy Sievers of the Washington Senators tied it in 1957.
Ethier explained his mindset to Ken Gurnic of mlb.com after his home run beat the Colorado Rockies on June 29, 2009.
“It’s just about having fun and enjoying the moment. In a situation like that, it’s just about emotion and excitement. You can see the energy going into the situation and one swing can end the game. I’ve just been trying to learn to balance that energy.”
Ethier batted only .272 that season, but he hit 31 home runs and drove in 106 runs while slugging .508.
From his rookie season in 2006 through 2010, he batted .291/.363/.491, averaging 23 home runs and 87 RBIs over a 162-game season.
Late this past August, Ethier and the Dodgers clarified a statement he had made to columnist T.J.Simers. A chronic knee injury had a major impact on Ethier’s swung, cutting into his effectiveness as a hitter.
“They know,” Ethier said Saturday. “But they’ve told me, ‘Grin and bear it.’”
Manager Don Mattingly responded.
“I’d rather lose my job and us not win than put a guy out there that has a chance of hurting himself and doing something that would affect his career in a long-term way in any shape or form, especially if he says, ‘Hey, I can’t go,’” Mattingly said.
Ethier backed down
“It’s always been my choice to keep playing and keep going, They’ve never said, ‘We don’t think you can or you can’t play.’ It’s always been they’ve said, ‘Hey, you’ve obviously put up with this and it’s at your discretion.’”
In September, Ethier had arthroscopic knee surgery. Drew Silver of MSBC sports reported that a full recovery was expected.
The Dodgers should improve in 2012 merely by having Ethier for a full season. With him and Matt Kemp, they have two of the better outfielders in baseball.