Dodgers much-needed spark is already here

At first it was simply one of those things that make you say “huh.”

I first noticed it on Monday, September 4 as the Dodgers were taking batting practice before the first of three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers had just returned home from a dismal seven-game road trip that saw them lose three to those same Dbacks and three of four to the lowly San Diego Padres.

At the time, the Dodgers were in the midst of their current 1-15 slump which has seen their lead in the National League West plummet from 21 games to nine games in the course of those 16 games. And while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts repeatedly insists that there is no need to panic, many Dodger fans are already doing so.

After the first two groups of Dodger hitters completed their BP (the guys who would be in that day’s starting lineup), the so-called reserves began hitting, many of whom were recent September 1 call-ups. But one of them was not – 35-year-old / 12-year MLB veteran Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier who, as we all know, has missed most of the last two seasons for a series of freak injuries.

In their first round of BP at-bats, those in Ethier’s group were hitting the ball to all parts of the field as they were clearly getting loose … except one, that is – Andre Ethier. Almost immediately the 6′-2″ / 210-pound Phoenix, Arizona native began crushing the ball deep into both the Right and Left Field Pavilions at Dodger Stadium. At first the assembled group of LFP batting practice regulars, who show up early every day with hopes of catching a few BP home run balls, didn’t really pay much attention to who it was that was clearly dialed in … except one, that is – me.

I was in absolute awe at what I was witnessing. There he was, the man who had affectionately been given the nickname “Captain Clutch” for his amazing career-long ability to come up clutch in key situations, sending ball after ball into the vacant Right Field Pavilion, to straightaway centerfield, and into the sparsely occupied Left Field Pavilion. Granted, Dre wasn’t hitting every ball out, just most of them.

At first I didn’t mention this to anyone, but by Thursday I didn’t need to. Most of the batting practice regulars were becoming increasingly aware that it wasn’t Chris Taylor or Justin Turner or even Cody Bellinger who was winning batting practice every day, it was ‘the old guy,’ as many – including his teammates – often call Ethier.

By the time that Saturday rolled around, Ethier had appeared in only seven games, made exactly one start (on Tuesday, September 5 against the Dbacks) and had a grand total of five plate appearances (four ABs) during the homestand, in which he was 1-for-4 with a single and one RBI.

During this same time frame, recently acquired Dodgers outfielder Curtis Granderson started four games (three in left field and one in right) and went 1-for-16 (.063) with zero RBIs, three walks and two strikeouts. And even though it didn’t really matter, he also hit very few (if any) batting practice home runs during the homestand.

…and then came Saturday night.

In the fifth inning and with the Dodgers trailing the Rockies 5-3, Roberts had Ethier pinch-hit for starting pitcher Alex Wood. On the second pitch he saw, Ethier absolutely crushed an 86-mph change-up off of Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis that landed in the farthest reaches of the Rockies right field bullpen for a leadoff solo home run. The blast was estimated by Home Run Tracker at 420 feet – just as he had been doing in batting practice all week long.

Ethier’s monster pinch-hit home run against the Rockies on Saturday night was his first of the 2017 season and his first since his clutch home run in Game-1 of the 2016 NLCS.
(Video capture courtesy of SportsNet LA – Click on image to view video)

And then on Sunday afternoon in the series finale against the Rockies, Dave Roberts finally included Ethier in his starting lineup. All Ethier did was go 2-for-2 at the plate with two singles. He also made an absolutely outstanding diving catch in left field. But for reasons that only he knows, Roberts pulled Ethier in the bottom of the seventh inning for pinch-hitter Yasiel Puig. And while Puig is most certainly a very formidable pinch-hitter (although he popped out), Roberts replaced Ethier in left field with Granderson, who had started the game in right field (Puig replaced him in the top of the eighth). Granderson was 1-for-3 on the day with a single and a strikeout. He also stranded three runners on base.

If you think you know where this is going, you are probably right. In the simplest of terms, Curtis Granderson should not be in the Dodgers starting lineup, let alone playing in front of Andre Ethier. Both bat left-handed so there is no difference in that regard. There is, however, a huge difference in their clutchness.

Although an insanely small sample size, Ethier is 4-for-13 (.308) since being activated from the 60-day disabled list on September 1. In contrast, since being acquired from the New York Mets on August 19, Granderson is 8-for-70 (.114) with no doubles, no triples, four home runs and eight RBIs. It’s not a matter of feast or famine with Granderson, it’s a matter of feast or death. And while there is no disputing that the 36-year-old Blue Island, Illinois native is a great guy and a great clubhouse presence, he is a big reason why the Dodgers have lost 15 of 16 and are currently mired in a 10-game losing streak.

Even though Ethier was 2-for-2 at the plate on Sunday afternoon in only his third start since returning from the disabled list on September 1, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled him for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.
(Video capture courtesy of SportsNet LA)

But what is perhaps most troubling is that, regardless of how poorly Granderson is hitting (and he is hitting very poorly), Roberts has already said on several occasions that Granderson will be on the Dodgers playoff roster. He has made no such proclamation for the guy who is the longest tenured Dodger and who is clearly very locked in at the plate right now. In other words, the spark that the struggling Dodgers so desperately need right now is already in their clubhouse.

 

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7 Responses to “Dodgers much-needed spark is already here”

  1. SoCalBum says:

    SPOT ON! Thank you for writing what I have been thinking. Roberts and the FO should be embarrassed with the preferential treatment accorded to the under performing Granderson over Ethier. Ethier deserves to get a large majority of the starts remaining in the regular season and “win” a spot on the post season roster.

  2. CruzinBlue says:

    Cervenka just went deep! Great minds think alike. Dre is the senior veteran on the club, he is healthy, rested, and deserves a shot to help turn this club around. I have no idea why Curtis Granderson is receiving such preferential treatment with little to no production of late.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Not just of late. Granderson was slashing:
      .228 / .334 / .481 / .815 with the Mets prior to being traded to the Dodgers. This was a trade that never should have happened.

  3. oldbrooklynfan says:

    Why the Dodgers traded with the Mets for Granderson, is a mystery. I think if they knew Ethier would come back as well as he has, maybe that trade wouldn’t have happened.
    I hope changes will be made ASAP, because I fear, if the Dodgers don’t come out of this slump quickly, we might not have to worry about the postseason.

  4. Respect the Rivalry says:

    As soon as I saw this title I knew who it was about. You got it right on, Ron. It’s time for Doc to repeat what he said in ST, shortly before the foul ball changed everything. That being, “Dre, you’re my left fielder.”
    Joe, I don’t see why the FO wouldn’t expect The Old Guy to come back as well as he has. I sure did. That’s always the way he’s come back.
    If the Dodgers make it to the WS this year Dre will play a big part in getting there. As I’ve already predicted to some posters on Dodgers.com who were bad mouthing him, at least one WS victory will be directly attributed to The Old Guy (I’ve always used that term with respect, even to somebody barely more than half my age).
    If only he’d taken that pitch.

  5. Snider Fan says:

    Absolutely right. Granderson is this year’s Reddick. “He’s working hard.” “He’s having good at bats.” Bull. I think they traded for him because they wanted to ship Joc out and needed a backup centerfielder. They might as well have called up Verdugo.

    • Respect the Rivalry says:

      Problem there is Joc’s back, accomplished nothing, and seems to be getting the same preferential treatment, but not in CF.
      We have a great team with leadership suffering from Cranius Rectus. They need a big tractor with a strong chain to go to work really soon.

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