What better day than Thanksgiving to look back on Andre Ethier, who completed his 12th season with the Dodgers in 2017?
What went right
Ethier hit two home runs in 38 plate appearances. Both home runs came as a pinch hitter, which tied for the team lead in that role even though Ethier was only active for the final month of the season.
Ethier’s second home run gave him 162 in his career, tied with Shawn Green for the most by a left-hander in Los Angeles Dodgers franchise history.
His 51 career postseason games set a Dodgers franchise record, surpassing shortstop Bill Russell’s previous mark. Ethier started twice in October, and in his first start — Game 3 of the NLCS against the Cubs at Wrigley Field — he was 2-for-4 with a home run.
Ethier drove in the Dodgers’ only run of Game 7 of the World Series with an RBI single in the sixth inning in what might have been his final at-bat with the team.
Trivia: Ethier’s three career postseason pinch hits is tied for the most in Dodgers history. Can you name the other three players Ethier matched?
What went wrong
For a second straight season Ethier missed the first five months, this time dealing with a herniated disc in his back.
Ethier’s five-year contract was signed in May 2012, and was the first big transaction by the Guggenheim Partners ownership group, buying out what would have been five free agent seasons of a fan favorite in a time when the team needed to rebuild trust after getting dragged into the gutter by the literally bankrupt Frank McCourt.
In the end, the Dodgers paid $85 million for ages 31-35 of Ethier, who produced between 5.0 (Baseball-Reference) and 6.5 (FanGraphs) Wins Above Replacement during that span. That’s an average of between $13-17 million per win.
On the eve of the playoffs, Ethier provided one of the quotes of the year regarding the Dodgers’ postseason goals after winning 104 games:
“There are no banners hanging out there saying we’re NL West champions five years in a row. All the banners you see our there are World Series championships,” he said. “No one is going to remember in five years that we won 104 games if we don’t win the World Series.”
Stats: .235/.316/.441, 2 HR, 4 BB in 38 PA
Salary: $17.5 million
Game of the year
Ethier hit a game-tying pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning against the Phillies in Philadelphia on Sept. 21, helping the Dodgers to a comeback victory on the day before they clinched their fifth consecutive National League West divisional title.
The Dodgers declined Ethier’s club option that would have paid him $17.5 million in 2018, instead paying him a $2.5 million buyout. Ethier is a free agent.
Whether he returns or not, Ethier was one of the longest-tenured Dodgers ever, and ranks among the top 20 in franchise history in games played, plate appearances, hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in and walks. He posted a 122 OPS+ in his 12 seasons, made two All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove, and set an LA Dodgers record with seven walk-off home runs, including a major league record-tying four in 2009.
Ethier’s mark on Dodgers history is secure.