Before today’s game ended, Andre Ethier, focal point of a day-long controversy, made an appearance in the on-deck circle. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a lengthy account that you need to read in full.
The situation is kind of a mess, really, but if I could apply Occam’s Razor to it, I think what we’d be left with is this …
If the goal, weeks and weeks ago, had been to get Ethier to as close to 100 percent health as possible before putting him back on the field, there wouldn’t be this confusion, and everyone would be healthier and happier.
It would be clear: Ethier would have the necessary treatment on his knee, including surgery, before returning to the field. For all the virtues of what a partially healthy Ethier provides, it’s hard for me to see how it doesn’t serve both Ethier’s and the Dodgers’ short-term and long-term needs to have made this the goal.
The Dodgers have gone through this dance before with other players, most notably this year – though with much less bitterness – with Jonathan Broxton. It’s a weird game of chicken where each party puts the burden on the other to determine when to sit an injured player, and all it does is kick the can down the road until the problem is worse. And the team isn’t much better in the interim.
Mythology aside, injured players, however gutty, generally aren’t as good as healthy backups. Ethier certainly hasn’t been. And whether the Dodgers were fighting for first place or fighting to stay out of last, a hobbled Ethier is not such a valuable asset.
We’re not talking about a hangnail here. We’re talking about an essential limb, and this is not a Monty Python movie: If you don’t have your arms and legs, you’re usually not going to be a very good baseball player. This is a sport of mechanics, of timing, and the smallest injury can knock you off your game, even if you feel like you can and should play.
If the injured baseball player doesn’t feel he can take himself out of action, because of love of the game, or arrogance, or denial, or fear of being labeled a sissy, then management needs to make the decision for him. You can’t rely on the Russell Martins and Broxtons and Ethiers to break “The Code” of manning up. There are a few exceptions to the rule (his name, I believe, is Kobe Bryant), but you need to have the rule.
Everyone’s wondering, “Is it really that bad?” If you have to ask, then the answer is yes.
Even Kirk Gibson sat out 44 of 45 innings in the 1988 World Series.