DENVER, CO - Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers grounds out in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
You can list the things that have gone right for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season in just a few seconds.
- Reggie Jackson hasn't tried to kill the Queen of England during a game at Dodger Stadium, which is something that I saw in a documentary once.
There you go. There's the list of everything that's gone right for the Dodgers this year. And then there's the list of everything that's gone wrong for the Dodgers.
- Everything else. Yes, everything. That too. Everything.
Actually, that might be a little harsh. Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw could win the MVP and Cy Young, respectively. But that speaks to how bad the season has been. The team that could have the MVP and Cy Young on the same roster hasn't contended all season. That might be a baseball first. There are nightmare seasons, and then there's what the Dodgers are going through. It started with hopes of contention, and it's ending in a morass of financial nonsense, injuries, and bizarre management.
Ask Ethier if he should still be playing on a right knee that will require off-season surgery, and he says, "If you're expecting me to do what I've done in the past, no, there's no possible way I can do that right now. You can say tough it out and give it your best shot, but it's not going to happen.
... That's just the way it is — I keep getting put in the lineup, so what am I supposed to do?
To which manager Don Mattingly responded:
"I got kind of blindsided by that (column),'' Mattingly said. "To me, the way I read it was that Dre has been telling us he couldn't play and we said play anyway. That definitely isn't the case. For me, that is taking a shot at my integrity. Not just mine, but the organization, the training staff and Ned."
Well, say. That seems to be a pretty substantial communication gap. One of the team's most popular players isn't hitting well, and he's suggesting it's because he has a bum knee. He'd love some time off, but manager Don Mattingly keeps shoving him back out there. And Mattingly, along with his general manager, responded to that accusation with, "Wait, what?"
This story is a fungus-covered cherry on the rancid mutton sundae that is the Dodgers' season. There a couple of things to take into account, though:
- Simers seems like the type of writer who brings a roll of toilet paper to parties and hangs around the punch bowl, waiting for you to leave so he can make a metaphor. Sort of seems like his modus operandi. He's not shy about calling out Dodger players or Dodger management on anything, whether it's criticism that's justified or slightly ludicrous. And if a writer with that particular style gets Andre Ethier talking for a half-hour, there would probably be a way to pick out and frame a couple of choice quotes to make for a rather exciting article.
- Ethier is a bit of a drama-school vet himself. Earlier this season, he seemed a touch jealous about Chad Billingsley's three-year contract extension, intimating that the Dodgers could non-tender him after the season was up, and that his time in Los Angeles might be at an end.
So it could be nothing, or it could be a dissatisfied player expressing extreme dissatisfaction. Six of one, a half-dozen of the other, right? Ethier met with Mattingly and GM Ned Colletti on Sunday. The chances that they all cleared the air, and that everything turned out to be some awkward, "Three's Company"-like misunderstanding: about 5%. The smart odds are on everyone involved still feeling ticked off, disgruntled, and unhappy.
Ethier is a free agent after 2012. Even without the drama, it would have been smart for the Dodgers to explore trade options. With the drama, the Dodgers almost have to trade him. But he'll be a 30-year-old pending free agent coming off knee surgery, obviously dissatisfied with his current organization, and fresh off his worst season in the majors. You'll forgive the rest of the teams in Major League Baseball for not lining up outside of Ned Colletti's door with wheelbarrows filled with top prospects, clamoring to overpay for Andre Ethier. There will be a ton of interest, for sure, but the return isn't going to be the stuff of blockbusters.
So the Dodgers are in a tougher spot than they were just a few days ago. That was pretty hard to do, considering what they've already gone though this season. Two years ago, the Dodgers were on their way to their second straight division title and NLCS appearance. Now? It's a slightly different feel around the franchise. The Ethier situation came as a bit of a surprise ... except, it's hardly surprising at all, considering how badly the Dodgers' season has gone already.