It's the old bait and switch, and we didn't even see it coming.
All spring training, the talk was about Juan Pierre versus Andre Ethier. The signing of Andruw Jones moved Pierre to left, and the discussion revolved around whether Pierre or Ethier merited the starting role in left field. In one corner, sat Pierre, along with a $45M five-year contract whose albatross status is less a matter of "if" and more a matter of "when". In the other corner sat Ethier, whose youth and apparent fit with the Dodger persona made many think he was another homegrown talent (we stole him from Oakland, trading headcase Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez).
Ethier then scorched through spring with a .340 batting average, 11 runs, 5 HR and 13 RBI. Much further down the list, Pierre limped through spring with a .204 average in more ABs, along with 6 runs, 0 HR of course, and 2 RBI. Case closed. What was a lively debate throughout March came to a close when Torre publicly named Andre the starting left fielder. Logic prevails. Catastrophe averted.
Fast forward to the beginning of May, and now Ethier is out of the starting lineup. And he's not moping, mind you; he's remaining positive, and correctly (and wisely) saying all the right things to the press, but he's still sitting. What gives?
Don't blame Matt Kemp, over in right field, who is tearing it up offensively with a .419 average over the last 10 games. His play merits the start.
No, cast your eyes on that big black hole in the lineup that sits prominently in center field, Andruw Jones. His defense has been passable, but even his March Toward Mendoza has seen setbacks of late as he has seen his batting average fall to a pathetic .158. Jones leads the team with 34 strikeouts, many of them on the down and away pitch that seemed to stymie Adrian Beltre during the nadirs in his Dodger tenure. And he just looks awful at the plate: unbalanced, undisciplined, and unhopeful that he'll get a hit of any sort.
There has been plenty of criticism hurled toward Jones (who admittedly is an awful big target), but with Andre starting to get unjustly ensconced on the pine, I think we need to take this up a notch. If Torre is adamant at staring Pierre, it should not come at the expense of Ethier. It should come at the expense of Jones.
Yes, I hate saying that. I hate having a noodle arm in center and watching opposing baserunners take a couple of extra bags on every hit. I hate watching Rafael Furcal position himself halfway to the warning track as the cutoff man. I hate watching slap hits at the plate, particularly those bunts that pop up in the air and reach the left fielder on the fly.
But I also hate watching a .158 batter trot out there game after game and kill rallies, hopefully with a single out but sometimes with worse (see last night's game). We can't hide Jones in the lineup (or anywhere, for that matter). It's time to give him a break, especially considering he's played in all but one game this year.
The tradeoff is between Pierre and Jones. And we at SoSG have created a helpful mnemonic, for those still catching up to the sleight of hand from the bait and switch, who remain fooled by the Pierre-Ethier tradeoff.
Focus on Pierre and Jones--or should we say, "Crock-Hit and Tubbs."
Cue the Jan Hammer theme song!