From the best team in baseball to dropping 15-of-20 games as they headed into last week’s All Star break, the Dodgers have been on a wild ride of late. Yett, conventional wisdom pointed to the impending returns of Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp as the duo that would right the ship.
In just four games since leaving the disabled list behind last Friday, Ethier has seen his season average rise six points (from .291 to .297), along with increases in his on-base and slugging percentages. However, in baseball, personal and team stats don’t always move forward in parallel. Thus in the same span, the Dodgers have won a single game, changing their half-game lead over the hated Giants into a two-game deficit entering play tonight.
Still, with 71 games left in LA’s 162-game regular season, there’s no reason to panic. Time is still on their side and reinforcements may be on the way before the trade deadline at the end of the month.
One player who won’t be joining the Dodgers roster though is Kings defenseman Matt Greene.
“I didn’t know he was still in there until I came back in,” said Ethier, laughing about Greene’s extended stay in the dugout when the Kings brought the Stanley Cup to Dodger Stadium last month. “As I went to run out there (for the second inning), I was like, ‘Who’s the new guy?’ I didn’t recognize him when I saw him sitting there. I thought maybe we had called somebody up. It was pretty funny!”
A more realistic option the Dodgers have taken a look at a few times this year has been a guy they selected in in the 14th round of the 2005 MLB Draft, Scott Van Slyke.
“He’s a good player,” proclaimed Ethier, when asked about the husky outfield prospect. “I think if he can get consistent at bats and more time, he’ll be a guy who can help this team a lot. In the meantime, he’s come up and filled a spot, exactly what we needed – a guy who adds a little thump, adds a middle of the order presence when guys aren’t in the line-up. Like I said, once he gets his time where he can play consistently, I think he’s going to be a guy who can contribute a lot.”
Van Slyke’s popularity among Dodger fans has been steadily growing, perhaps even exceeding the stock of Jerry Sands – once thought to be the left fielder of the future. When Sands had his number changed from 47 to 23 – a highly sought after number in the Dodgers organization, given its ties to guys like Eric Karros and Kurt Gibson – many saw it as a stamp of approval for the opening day roster. So, was Ethier surprised he didn’t stick?
“Yeah, you are. But, at the same time, it’s a tough thing to crack. You go every year and you’re just trying to figure out a way to get on that roster, but he’s still young and he’s still trying to earn his stripes. We had a lot of veteran guys who were coming in too. So, if you’re hitting neck-and-neck with those guys, the vets win out sometimes. You have to beat ‘em. I think it’s a thing where it’s a good learning process though and it’s only going to make him hungrier and stronger when he gets back up.”
Prospects aside, what does Ethier see as the biggest needs of the club heading in to what should be a busy two weeks of trade activity around the league?
“Just consistency,” he claimed was the most pressing area of concern. “Guys staying healthy and going out there and playing our game - we’ve shown what we can do when we’re all in the line-up. So, being healthy is a big part of it. But, going together as a team is important too. Obviously, we’ve had some tough roads and nobody’s abandoned each other or turned on each other. So, as long as we keep that attitude and play our game, we’ll be fine.”
Support for the guys in the locker room. It’s one of the key components LA’s hockey players claim helped them achieve success this season as well. During a rough first half and while steamrolling their way through the playoffs, players never turned on each other inside the Kings locker room.
“That’s the easiest thing to do during the season,” shared Ethier. “When you’re with a group that works so closely over the years, it’s easy to turn on each other. You get sick and tired of each other when you’re (together) for six months. So, it’s something where you can’t turn on each other. When things get tough, you just have to pull for each other even more than when things are going well. That’s something you have to remind yourself of and make sure you’re always available when teammates are struggling.”
It’s all part of the process explained Ethier. To win as a team, you have to work as a team. But, you also have to be committed to the process – something his recent rehab assignment to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga seems to have brought to the forefront of his thought process.
“It’s tough and you forget,” Ethier began, when talking about the experience of playing two games alongside young baseball hopefuls. “It’s been a long time since I had been down at (that) level and playing in (that) type of environment. You quickly forget the struggles and the long days you put into getting where you’re at now.”
Seeing the Stanley Cup at Dodger Stadium may have also brought some extra motivation.
“I’ve never seen it up close,” said Ethier, as he recalled being in awe of the legendary trophy. “I like hockey, I don’t follow it too much – but, I like it and enjoy it. I’ve always known the lore of the Stanley Cup too. So, it was great to see something so special up close, with all of it’s history. Hopefully the Kings have started off something special here in LA, where the rest of the teams – the Dodgers, Lakers and Clippers – can get in on the act and win some championships for themselves.”
Upon hearing the statement LA manager Don Mattingly made last summer on MayorsManor – claiming 2012 would be the Year of the Kings and Dodgers - Ethier was quick to retort… “I’ll have to make sure I do my part on the second half of that so we fulfill the rest of his prediction!”
There’s just over two months left in the regular season. Recent history suggests that’s more than enough time for the Dodgers to pull things together and follow in the Kings’ footsteps once the playoffs roll around.
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For your convenience, we’ve linked several other Dodger related interviews that have appeared on MayorsManor down below. Also, one final note – we’ve recently added a new ‘social sharing’ section at the end of each article. If you don’t mind, please take a quick second to like this post, tweet it, add it to reddit – whatever it is you do to share with your network. Thanks!
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