x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Andre Ethier is the Dodgers' new hit-maker

With ownership issues and thuggish fans giving them a black-eye, the Dodgers have certainly been singing the blues.

Andre Ethier’s hit streak has helped Dodgers fans forget the team’s ownership issues.
Andre Ethier’s hit streak has helped Dodgers fans forget the team’s ownership issues.

Not much has gone right for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first month or so of the 2011 season.

On opening day, a San Francisco Giants fan was nearly beaten to death in the Dodger Stadium car parking area and, weeks later, is still in a coma. His crime? Wearing the colours of a rival team.

Then there is the uncertainty about ownership, with warring former spouses Frank and Jamie McCourt battling for control, and Major League Baseball concerned enough to appoint a caretaker to oversee the day-to-day operations of the once-proud franchise.

On the field, however, there is beauty to behold. Andre Ethier, the outfielder, has hit safely in each of the team's first 29 games, putting him just two behind the club record, set by Willie Davis in 1969, and just over halfway to the MLB record set by Joe DiMaggio in 1941: a staggering 56 games.

Dodger Blue may have been tarnished by the greed of the McCourts and by thuggish fans, but Ethier has restored some dignity to the club, and also given fans a reason to watch a wounded team.

It is highly unlikely that Ethier can topple DiMaggio from the record books. DiMaggio's streak, which captivated the country, is believed by many to be the hardest record in the game to break.

The closest anyone has come in seven decades was in 1978, when Pete Rose hit in a National League record 44 in a row. Even then, he was just over three-quarters of the way to DiMaggio's record.

But it would be a significant enough achievement to reach 30 consecutive games, or 32, and have the distinction of surpassing Davis and becoming the franchise's standard-bearer.

"I hear about this organisation from all the old-timers, the ones that are around all the time," Ethier told ESPN.com. "You hear all about this franchise and where it has been, and what it means to LA and what it should mean to LA.

"There is a pride in that. I see myself as a Dodger and a person who takes pride in being one. You see those old videos on the board every night. It sort of shows what it means to be an LA Dodger and be a fan of the LA Dodgers."

And this year, more than any other in recent memory, the Dodgers could use some good news to distract them from all the negativity that has enveloped the franchise.

Day after day, night after night, with stunning consistency, Ethier is doing his best to do that.

The week in the MLB

Teams of the week

•Cleveland Indians. They keep winning while everyone else waits for them to fade. They have reeled off another six victories to reach 19-8, the best record in baseball.

•Atlanta Braves. The Braves went 4-2 and reached the .500 mark after a rocky first month.

Players of the week

•Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins. Liriano, below, tossed the first no-hitter of the 2011 season on Tuesday, beating the White Sox 1-0. Liriano walked six and struck out just two while tossing a career-high 123 pitches.

•Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays. Zobrist had 13 RBI in six days, including an astounding eight RBI in one game against Minnesota. With two RBI in the other half of a day-night double-header, Zobrist finished with 10 RBI in one day.

Dud of the week

•Frank McCourt, Los Angeles Dodgers. He continues to express shock and outrage over Major League Baseball appointing a steward to run the Dodgers, despite the fact that he has run up hundreds of millions of dollars of debt and needed a loan to make payroll.

Series of the week

•Colorado at San Francisco, Fri-Sun. The Rockies are setting the pace in the NL West and the Giants, the defending champions, are struggling. But this is a good match-up, the second series between the two already this season.

•Philadelphia at Florida, Mon-Wed. The Phillies’ starting pitching is every bit as good as expected, but Florida, led by Josh Johnson, are almost as impressive, which is why the Marlins are hot on Phils’ heels.