Sarah's Take: Signing Ethier a necessary deal

Sarah's Take: Signing Ethier a necessary deal

Sarah's Take: Signing Ethier a necessary deal
Andre Ethier signed a five-year $85 million contract extension this week with the Los Angeles Dodgers. There is a vesting option for a sixth year.

Ethier could have become a free agent at the end of this season, and he probably would have been one of the most sought-after free agents. However, the new ownership group couldn't let Ethier leave L.A.

Ever since Ethier came to the Dodgers in December 2005, he has been a fan favorite. He came to the Dodgers from the Oakland A's for Milton Bradley. It was the first move made by Ned Colletti, the club's new general manager.

If Ethier didn't suffer an undisclosed shoulder injury in September 2006, he might have won the National League Rookie of the Year award, but he finished fifth in the voting. He had the highest batting average on the Dodgers that season and played a vital role in the Dodgers earning the National League Wild Card berth.

Not trusting Ethier's offensive abilities before the 2007 season, Colletti acquired two free agent outfielders, and this cut into Ethier's playing time. However, during the season Ethier's persistently good play forced manager Grady Little to play him over the aging Luis Gonzalez.

During Spring Training of 2008, Ethier impressed new manager Joe Torre and earned an everyday outfield job, beating out Juan Pierre. He has not lost his job since. His picturesque left-handed swing has produced many runs and helped the Dodgers to win two consecutive NL West titles.

In 2009, Ethier had his finest offensive performance, earning the first Silver Slugger award of his career. During that year, Ethier seemed to deliver every time the Dodgers needed a crucial hit in late innings. He had seven walk-off hits, a Major League record, and earned the nickname "Mr. Clutch." This endeared him to Dodger fans everywhere and enabled him to place sixth in the National League MVP voting.

Early in the 2010 season, Ethier appeared to be the best offensive player in the National League. Until a freak accident during batting practice where Ethier broke his pinky finger, he led the National League in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. Even though he went on the disabled list, the broken pinky sapped his power. He slumped for the rest of the season, but Ethier was chosen by the fans to start the All-Star Game.

Another good beginning in the 2011 campaign earned him another All-Star selection. He had a 30-game hitting streak to begin the season. During the campaign, Ethier injured his knee and attempted to continue playing on the painful knee. This took away his power. When the Dodgers had no opportunity to make the playoffs, Ethier elected to have his knee cleaned out and get ready for this season.

Although Ethier lives in Arizona during the off-season, he is constantly giving back to the community of Los Angeles. Frequently, he feeds the homeless and visits juvenile cancer patients. A strong family man, Ethier along with Matt Kemp has become the face of the Dodgers organization.

From the minute that spring training games began, it was clear that Ethier's knee had healed and his power returned. In the past, he has had difficulty hitting left-handed pitchers, but this season he has experienced success with a .281 batting average against them.

Ethier has blasted 10 home runs and he leads the National League in RBIs. On Tuesday, the same day as he signed the contract extension, he drove in the tying run against the Angels, a key to the Dodgers victory. That RBI was the 500th in his career.

Signing Ethier was necessary for the new ownership to signal that a new era in Dodger baseball has begun. Under the previous ownership, the Dodgers spent only what they needed to attract fans to the stadium. Getting Ethier signed before he tested the free agent market was critical because many other teams would have been interested in the steady performer, driving up the price. Barring injury, Ethier will be a great investment for the Dodgers.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.