Sarah's Take: Ethier a special player

Sarah's Take: Ethier a special player

Andre Ethier has helped the Dodgers since they obtained him in December 2005. Before this season, I think many Dodgers fans expected Ethier to be the Dodgers' fourth outfielder. I hoped against logical reason that Ethier would be a starting outfielder this season.

When the Dodgers traded Milton Bradley, I hoped they would get some player who would amount to something sooner or later. Since Bradley thought his anger was bigger than the Dodgers were, I didn't expect anyone to give much to the Dodgers for him. I wouldn't have been surprised if the Dodgers had to make Bradley an non-tendered free agent.

To my surprise, the A's gave the Dodgers Ethier for Bradley. Although Ethier wasn't happy about his advancement within the A's organization and asked to be traded, a player with a natural left-handed swing is difficult to find. Ethier is one of these. Yes, I have seen other players who make me go, "Wow!" Ethier doesn't.

Since Ethier has been a Dodger, he has been one of my favorite players to watch. I know the Dodgers organization neither drafted nor developed him, but he is a young Dodger. He has good baseball skills.

On May 2, 2006, Ethier made his Major League debut in his native Arizona.

His patience at the plate impressed me. Unlike most rookies, Ethier understood the importance of getting a walk. Of course, sometimes he has swung at bad pitches, making me think, "Why did he do that?" Every Major Leaguer has made me scratch my head occasionally. Over his two-year Major League career, spanning over 300 games, he has a .362 on-base percentage, which is outstanding.

Throughout the 2006 season, Ethier led the Dodgers in batting average.

Without his contributions to the Dodgers, it is probable that they wouldn't have gone to the playoffs in 2006. Though Ethier had hit above .300 every month before September, he had only 49 at-bats in September. Grady Little claimed Ethier had emotional exhaustion.

Although I don't usually second-guess the manager, I didn't believe Ethier was emotionally tired. He went to college, and anyone who has lived through finals knows how to handle stress. I didn't think he was immature. I feel this story hurt his chances of winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He probably wouldn't, but I don't know that.

After the season ended, the news came out that Ethier's shoulder was jammed on a diving play in August. His sore shoulder prevented him from generating enough bat speed to hit for a high average. Though he could play, the Dodgers chose to play newcomer Marlon Anderson in left field. I feel this shook Ethier's confidence.

Every Dodgers fan knew and wanted the Dodgers to attempt to solve their weaknesses during the offseason between 2006 and 2007. General manager Ned Colletti and Little felt the Dodgers had a lack of outfield depth. Since J.D. Drew decided to find another place to play, Colletti started signing outfielders. The combination of shortstop Rafael Furcal and outfielder Kenny Lofton worked well to jump-start the offense, so Colletti wanted to sign a similar to but younger player than Lofton. He gave Juan Pierre a long contract. Colletti wanted to have a replacement for Drew, so he signed Luis Gonzalez.

Of course, I believed Ethier would be the Dodgers' third outfielder. Although I knew Matt Kemp would be a great player, I thought he probably would need another year in the Minor Leagues. I wasn't happy that the Dodgers obtained two more outfielders because I felt the Dodgers had enough outfielders.

Although the Dodgers are playing a lot of young players, I think the Dodgers rely on experienced players too much sometimes. Getting Pierre was OK, and Pierre's great speed has helped the Dodgers. The Dodgers didn't need Gonzalez. Though Gonzalez gave them a power threat in their lineup, the Dodgers didn't benefit much from having him. The Dodgers misjudged the development of Kemp. He was clearly ready for the Major Leagues at the beginning of the 2007 season.

When the Dodgers left Florida, they realized they didn't have a right-handed hitter coming off the bench. They had an outfield that was made up of left-handed hitters. Though I thought it would be nice to have a right-handed outfielder, I thought they didn't care about it.

However, they did care. They kept Kemp instead of James Loney. Since the Dodgers couldn't let the 22-year-old rot on the bench, Ethier didn't play as much as he wanted or deserved. As the season proceeded, he got more playing time and did well. However, every time Ethier played, it seemed Gonzalez complained that he was not playing. In 124 games, Ethier hit .284 with 13 home runs. Arguably, he was the best defensive Dodgers outfielder.

Going into this year's Spring Training, Ethier was determined to earn himself an everyday outfield job. He had the best Spring Training of any Dodger and led the Major Leagues in home runs with six. His excellent play displaced Pierre.

Ethier has continued playing brilliantly. No matter where he plays, Ethier has made fantastic defensive plays. Offensively, he has been solid. Since manager Joe Torre appears to appreciate what Ethier can contribute to the team, he has played almost every day.

Since I saw Ethier for the first time during Spring Training 2006, I have liked him. Yes, Kemp's awesome natural baseball abilities make him a more talented outfielder, but I would take Ethier's steady play any day. I didn't think the previous regime appreciated Ethier's abilities, but this one does.

I see Andre Ethier playing for the Dodgers a long time.

Sarah D. Morris is the editor of Sarah's Dodger Place. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.