10/14/09 11:25 PM ET
Analyzing Ethier not an easy task
LA outfielder brings varied dimensions to diamond
By David Ely / MLB.com
Just when you think you have the Dodgers outfielder figured out, he shifts gears and shows you a different side. Suddenly, everything you thought you had figured out about him is muddled by this new persona.
There's the Ethier that's quiet and reserved -- someone who goes about his business with tunnel vision and doesn't let much get in the way of his ability to concentrate.
This Ethier can be seen stretching before the Dodgers' team workout on Wednesday -- the day before the National League Championship Series begins at Dodger Stadium on Thursday at 5:07 p.m. PT on TBS.
He stands in the front with about a four- or five-foot buffer between him and his teammates. Some of the other players are grouped in clusters, and they chat amongst themselves during warmups.
But not Ethier.
"He doesn't say much," Joe Torre said. "He's fairly quiet. He doesn't say a whole lot in that clubhouse. He goes about his business very serious-minded."
When this Ethier speaks with reporters, his answers can oftentimes be short or unsubstantial.
Do you remember what the atmosphere was like and the feeling was like heading into Game 1 of the NLCS last year?
"No, I don't."
This Ethier seems to treat interviews as intellectual battles -- and he's determined not to lose the upper hand.
Then there's the Ethier on the field: fiery and intense.
This is the Ethier the fans get to see. The Ethier that hit 31 home runs and drove in 106 runs this season; the one that went 6-for-12 with two home runs in the NL Division Series.
The Ethier that wears every at-bat on his sleeve.
"He's very passionate," Torre said. "They've had shots of him in the dugout when he comes in not very happy -- whether it's a helmet or a bat."
Sometimes the passion can be used as fuel for his success.
"He'll look to do some damage," general manager Ned Colletti said. "He swings with mean intention."
But sometimes it can hinder his performance. The frustration grows inside of Ethier, and he'll take out his aggression on one of those bats or helmets Torre talked about.
"He's a perfectionist -- and I think all of us are. He just wants to do so well," Casey Blake said. "And he wants to get the job done so much for his team, and I think sometimes the frustration gets the best of him."
So you think you know Ethier. He's a quiet, intense guy who just wants to go about his business.
But then suddenly Blake says that "once the game's over, he's fun to joke with -- he'll give it back to you with the best of them."
And sure enough, a switch went off and that Ethier makes an appearance while being peppered by a group of reporters on Wednesday.
On whether he believes in himself:
"No, I just roll the dice every day," Ethier said. "Hopefully I can get it done. If not, hey, chalk it up, show up tomorrow and do it again."
It seems like you play with a lot of intensity on the field. Has that always been the case or something that's grown throughout your career?
"Umm, I don't think that I play intensely," he said. "I just play [like] who I am, what I am."
Would you say you're an intense guy?
"No, I'm very relaxed off the field," Ethier said. So I don't know. Maybe it's like a trance I'm in when I'm out there playing or something."
Would you say you're a perfectionist?
"No, because when I do go home and do finger painting at home, I usually I do it outside the lines and stuff -- and I really don't care," he said.
It's confusing to digest it all, and it makes you scratch your head.
But what can you say? Ethier is a complex guy.
David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.