SoSG Alex Cora first noticed it on Photo Day:
My "Dodger Blues" award goes to Andre Ethier who would only stand so you took a picture of him and he wouldn't take a picture with any of the fans in our section. A little disappointing as I know there are a lot of people that like him.
Diamond Notes spoke with Ethier before tonight's game at AT&T Park, and the right fielder said he decided during the middle of last season that he would no longer take photos with fans. He confirmed his behavior at photo day and made no apologies.
"How awkward is that?" Ethier said of the event.
Ethier will make an exception for next week's Carne Asada Sunday event, but has otherwise informed the team's public relations department that he will not be photogenic with fans.
The reason? Ethier fears such photos could be used against him, especially on the Internet. He also read about a basketball player last year being extorted (he forgot who it was, but he probably meant Terrell Brandon). It sounds unlikely, but Ethier noted that in tough economic times, people can get desperate.
Ethier said he didn't think he was being paranoid. He wants to be cautious in the new information age.
"In the profession you’re in, it's more likely to happen to us than regular people." [...]
"I don't think it's necessary," Ethier said of photos with fans. "Donald Trump doesn't like the handshake. I'd rather give autographs.
"We're not in the business like actors that our face sells. It's our performance. It's your hot bat and your hot arm that keeps you on a team. I don't want my face out there. If it's the right time and place, I'll do it."
Although this anonymous blogger respects Ethier's desire for privacy, I wonder if his hard-line stance is more paranoid than practical in these online times. New Yorker pop-music critic Sasha Frere-Jones (stay with me here) put it best:
One way to understand social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace is to consider that younger digital natives are not necessarily being exhibitionists when they post photographs of themselves and share personal details there. Instead, these users are living a life in which consciousness is spread out evenly over two platforms: real life and the Web. Rather than feeling schizophrenic or somehow pathological, digital natives understand that these two realms divide the self much as speech and the written word divide language, a division that humans have lived with for a long time without going bonkers.
Ethier, 27, fits into the "digital native" demographic described by Jones, yet his desire for control over his image falls squarely into old-school insecurity. Yet, even those "regular people" without a $3.1 million contract (lamentably, most of us) would find it difficult to fault Ethier for trying to protect his young family.
The debatable issue here is what's realistic. Manny Ramirez, whose career earnings dwarf Ethier's, appeared to have no problem posing with fans. Is he fighting extortion or blackmail attempts? We may never know. Can a professional athlete never be too careful? Same answer.
Ethier clearly cares about his fans, as his blog and Carne Asada Sunday duties demonstrate. His efforts to control his image may be as effective as trying to drink soup with a fork, but he's right about one thing: As long as he continues to take advantage of opportunities on the field, the photo opportunities can wait.
photo by Alex Cora/SoSG