Sunday, March 16, 2008

An Ethier/Or Situation

You know Andre Ethier should be the Dodgers' starting left fielder. I know Andre Ethier should be the Dodgers' starting left fielder. But Andre Ethier is not going to be the Dodgers' starting left fielder. Here are some reasons why:

Spring training stats count for squat. Yes, Ethier leads the Dodgers in ST home runs while Juan Pierre is OPSing a lousy .480 (before today's game). But Esteban Loaiza leads the team in K's and Chan Ho Park has a 0.00 ERA. Think those trends are going to continue? Also, it's easier for a team to spin ST stats against young players ("He won't be able to sustain that pace during the regular season") and for veterans ("He's always been a slow starter").

This ain't fantasy league. The political fallout from relegating Pierre to 4th outfielder status would be significant. Even if Pierre didn't sulk—and who would blame him if he did?—the media could turn the issue into a daily clubhouse and front office distraction. Pierre could demand a trade, thereby lowering his own trade value. Which brings us to...

Money money money money money. The Dodgers owe Pierre $9 million a year for the next four years. Ned Colletti insists he acquired Pierre for his batting average, speed and work ethic—which Colletti wanted so much he was willing to violate his own policy of handing out shorter-term contracts. The front office's credibility is at stake, even beyond the parameters of this season.

This isn't to say that Ethier will never crack the starting lineup, but Joe Torre would need a concrete (i.e., face-saving) reason to make the move. Only three scenarios would work: (1) Pierre plays poorly for an extended stretch, (2) Pierre gets injured, or (3) Pierre gets traded.

Place your bets.

earlier: Speed vs. Power


Dodger Thoughts: Hot Spring Training Isn’t Reason for Ethier To Start