A Decade of Dre: Andre Ethier, Still Here. Still Good.
Monday evening was a special Dodger game for me. The 9-3 Dodger victory on a very fun Blogger Night would have been a treat in itself, but what will make me remember that beautiful evening at Dodger Stadium forever was Andre Ethier‘s three-run homerun in the bottom of the fifth inning. Up stepped Ethier, my favorite current Dodger. As you know, my all-time favorite Dodger is Mike Scioscia, but during the last decade Number 16 has been my Number 1.
They said he was done. Old. In decline. On the verge of being traded. I never wavered in my support for long-tenured Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier. There were so many memories he had created with my beloved team, and for that I would always stay faithful. There was the 30-game hitting streak, the clutch hitting and walk-off homeruns, the All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award, 31 homeruns during an epic 2009 season, seven consecutive seasons of 30-or more doubles, the underrated defense and versatility in the outfield and of course his fiery spirit.
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They say it’s only for his looks. All I can say to this is I could care less if you look like Ronald Belisario or Andre Ethier. Impress me with your baseball skills and help my team to go all the way.
Ethier’s homerun the other night cemented his place in my heart. The stats may say his peak has come and gone, but his tenth season as a Dodger has brought the best out of Dre. His 2015 performance so far has been vintage Dre circa 2009.
Underrated defense hasn’t phased me or Andre. Stretched out catches over the stands, flexibility between all three outfield positions and a great read of the ball has made Andre Ethier valuable to this 2015 Dodger team who has seen injuries to outfielders Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke and Yasiel Puig. He was going to the bench this year until Puig’s hammy issues surfaced and CC’s oblique was obliterated. Ethier has played in 56 of the Dodgers 60 games played so far.
Trading Dre was never the decision I wanted to accept. He very well could still be traded this season, and I cannot begin to predict what Andre Friedman has up his sleeves especially after the last trade which sent another one of my favorites, Juan Uribe, packing. Yet Andre Ethier’s contract extension was the first order of business for the new ownership group, and I did not think that they would get rid of Dre when everyone is fully aware of Carl Crawford’s inability to remain healthy for an entire season. If they had traded Ethier, the Dodgers would have Chris Heisey starting in left field right now.
It was no coincidence that I sat in seat 16 on Opening Day 2012 at Dodger Stadium. Photo: Stacie Wheeler
That’s not to say that they didn’t try to trade Dre. Yet here we are after ten amazing seasons, and Captain Clutch is having a resurgent year to my delight. His disappointing seasons prior to 2015 could very well been because he was dogged down by injury and Don Mattingly‘s unwillingness to play him regularly. The spat with Mattingly aside, Dre has been nothing short of a team player even when he was sitting on the bench.
Andre (Dre) Ethier’s 10th season as a Dodger has been a vintage love letter to the Captain Clutch of old.
When I spoke with Ethier this Spring in Arizona, he seemed healthy and raring to go. He was one of the players who was taking extra batting practice in the mornings at Camelback Ranch, and he was ready to embark on his tenth season in Blue even though that kid named Joc in the next cage had all the eyes and cameras on him.
Joc Pederson and Andre Ethier may be at exact opposite points in their career, yet they have worked well with each other both in the outfield and in the lineup to help their shared team succeed. The veteran and the rookie have been so fun to watch. Joc can still learn a thing or two from Ethier, and Andre still has that young zest for the game in which I fell in love with.
Ethier already has twice has many homeruns (8) as he did last season (4), and it’s June. He’s hitting a solid .287/.369/.506 with 8 homeruns, 6 doubles, 3 (!) triples, 26 RBI, 20 walks and only 29 strikeouts in 187 plate appearances. Ethier is batting less against left-handers, but even in the small sample size this season (23 at bats), he has fared well (.261 with 6 hits). He’s hitting .275 with runners in scoring position, he’s fifth in the league in slugging and OPS, and he’s tied for tenth in homeruns. Ethier is also 3rd (and just behind Joc) in wRC+ (142) amongst N.L. outfielders. That’s pretty good when you’re 33-years old and not a whippersnapper like Bryce Harper, Joc Pederson or Giancarlo Stanton.
Andre Ethier may not hit 30 homeruns this season (I’m going to say he hits 20), but that’s okay. Not many baseball players make a historic impact on a team for ten seasons let alone stick with the same team for that long. My respect for Ethier has endured even during the darkest times when he barely got an at bat off the bench. I maintained that his defense was better than the stats may reflect, and that his arm is still a commodity in the outfield (Ethier has 64 career OF assists as a Dodger). While many Dodgers have come and gone over the past ten seasons, Ethier is still here and still good.