Daily Dodger in review: Andre Ethier could be at the crossroads of his career
ANDRE ETHIER, 28, outfielder
Final 2010 stats: .292 batting average, 23 home runs, 82 RBI, .364 on-base percentage, .493 slugging percentage in 517 at-bats.
Contract status: signed for next season at $9.25 million.
The good: Until he fractured his pinky on May 15, he was the best hitter in baseball. So good, it was stupid. Through his first 33 games, he was threatening for a triple crown -- hitting .392, with 11 home runs and 38 RBI. Although overall his stats were all down from a year ago, he still ended up with very respectable numbers.
The bad: Rushed back too quickly from his fracture, he never could completely get back into his groove. In the 106 games following his return, he hit .260 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI. The dramatic, game-winning moments vanished.
What’s next: The Dodgers are counting on big comeback years from Ethier and Matt Kemp, who are about their only real source of returning power. He’s no longer a young kid on the come. Ethier turns 29 at the start of next season, so it’s now-or-never time.
The take: No one this side of Andre’s mommy thought he could actually sustain his blistering start. But the Dodgers are hopeful it’s a closer indicator to his true level than the so-so way he finished the season.
If the Dodgers are to return as contenders, they will likely need an Ethier who is knocking at superstardom’s door. He is in his prime now, and truthfully, with the departure of Manny Ramirez, this could be his clubhouse now. It might need to be his clubhouse. He may not have the natural personality to be a team leader, but he could inherit a leadership role simply by being the team’s best player.
Ethier has admittedly always been at his best when he’s played with a slight chip on his shoulder, so it will be interesting to see how he returns next spring.
-- Steve Dilbeck