Now Wednesday was an interesting little day, no?
Yet oddly, the one guy who came out of the brouhaha looking the best was Andre Ethier.
That would be the often volatile Ethier, the player who’s been known to smash helmets after strikeouts, snap at reporters, flip the bird to photographers and just generally be handicapped by his own emotions.
Not Wednesday, though. Not this year, really.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly called out his team for lack of mental toughness before Wednesday’s game, and specifically Ethier, whom he benched against a right-handed starter.
Asked about the benching, Mattingly said he wanted to field a lineup “that’s going to fight and compete the whole day.”
Mattingly’s one mistake Wednesday was he addressed Ethier individually with reporters before the game without first letting his concerns be known directly to the outfielder.
Yet after the game, when presented with Mattingly’s comments, Ethier responded just as you would hope. Even-keeled, disagreeing with his manager’s assessment and mostly disappointed Mattingly had not shared his thoughts personally before discussing them with the media.
“If he has something like that to point out, I’m going to take a look at it and address it,” Ethier said.
Pretty much an ideal response.
Naturally, Ethier hardly agreed he did not compete hard and fight every day.
“I take offense to that,” he said. “I work hard. Whether I’m going good or going bad, I work just as hard, both sides. Obviously, when things are going bad, I’m trying even harder to figure out how to make things go right.”
Mattingly has never questioned Ethier’s work ethic. His concern seems more of his having a competitive spirit at the plate, at grinding out each at-bat, at a refusal to give in to any pitcher or pitch.
When he’s on, Ethier has the prettiest swing on the team. But when he misses, it can look almost lazy, as if he mentally checked out. Part of it is simply body language, though part could be Mattingly’s apparent suspicion Ethier is batting with less than an edge.
Yet Ethier (.264, four homers, 15 RBI, .405 slugging) is hardly the only Dodger struggling or sometimes seeming to be less than totally focused.
Matt Kemp (.270, two homers, 17 RBI, .356 slugging) is not only failing to hit for power, but sometimes takes a play off on the field and at-bat (he’s developed an annoying habit of keeping the bat in hand while running down the line after hitting the ball, which probably cost him a double Wednesday). Juan Uribe is hitting .229, Skip Schumaker .213 and Luis Cruz .096.
Yet Ethier was the only one singled out by Mattingly on Wednesday. Mattingly should have let the benching speak for itself, but since he did not, Ethier responded like the mature player you would hope to hear.