Dodgers make statement with Ethier deal
LA's new ownership delivers big with first personnel move
LOS ANGELES -- An announcement will be made on Tuesday, Andre Ethier said with the clock 15 minutes away from striking midnight after Monday's game.The message already had been delivered, via multiple tweets, as the Angels were requiring a minute shy of four hours to dispatch Ethier and the Dodgers, 3-2, behind another sensational performance by Mike Trout and a game-deciding single by Albert Pujols. The Dodgers, underscoring part-owner Magic Johnson's bold declarations, are in it to win it -- now and for years to come. By committing to Ethier, the run-producing right fielder, a reported five years and $85 million with the possibility of reaching $100 million with a vested sixth year, the new ownership group is backing its vow that money will not be an obstacle on the path to excellence. "I've been instructed that I'm not to comment until tomorrow," Ethier said, emerging from a long shower with a wide, $100 million smile. "There's an announcement tomorrow." Ethier has "Showtime" etched over his locker, in deference to new part owner Johnson, and a 2012 Kings Stanley Cup champions T-shirt hanging in his locker. "I hope we have a run like that," Ethier said, referring to the first championship secured by the NHL franchise operating a few miles away at the Staples Center earlier that evening. With Ethier joining Matt Kemp ($160 million, eight years) in the fold, the Dodgers have two vital components in place for long-running success in the National League West. Clayton Kershaw is the third, and he won't have to beg for his millions. Few tandems in the game are as productive as Kemp and Ethier. There exists a possibility that a third major star will be available this winter to possibly join them: Josh Hamilton, centerpiece of the Rangers' dynamic offense. Hamilton can be a free agent if Texas doesn't lock him up. The prospect of these three weapons in the heart of the order -- Hamilton, Kemp and Ethier, left, right, left -- is enough to make Dodgers fans swoon. How much cash Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter and his people -- including club president and CEO Stan Kasten and Johnson, the face and voice of the franchise -- plan to lay out is anyone's guess. But when the rivals down Interstate 5, owner Arte Moreno's Angels, are showing Pujols $240 million and C.J. Wilson $77.5 million, it's not unreasonable to speculate that the Dodgers won't be shy about getting competitive with some serious overtures toward prime-time talent. Pujols has hit hundreds of balls harder than his game-winning hit in Monday's opener of a three-game Interleague series, breaking his bat in dropping the RBI single into left field to deliver Trout, who'd walked and stolen his second base of the night and 15th of the season. That was of no consolation to Kenley Jansen, who endured just the second loss of his career in his 105th career appearance. "It was a perfect pitch," Jansen said, "a cutter where I wanted it. It was a tough pitch to hit. He broke his bat and it fell in. That's how this game is. "You have to have a short memory. You can't let one game, one pitch, drive you crazy. You just come back out and get it done next time. That's the beauty of this game. You get to come back tomorrow." Jansen's numbers this season are almost as outrageous as those of Ernesto Frieri, who closed it out in the bottom of the ninth. Jansen is 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA, striking out 46 in 29 2/3 innings. Frieri, with his deceptive delivery and late movement on his fastball, has yielded two hits and no runs in 17 1/3 innings since arriving from San Diego in unheralded fashion. Big Ernie has notched 33 strikeouts, almost two per inning. Frieri can make it interesting -- and he did in this one, with a walk and hit batsman. But Dee Gordon, who doubled, singled and walked, scoring a run, lifted a fly ball to Trout in left to end it. It was fitting that Trout, moving over from center to accommodate Peter Bourjos' late-game defense, secured the last out. He was the No. 1 star with a tremendous home run to left and a two-out, tying RBI single to right two innings later, in the sixth, before scoring the winning run. "I haven't seen a whole lot, but I saw plenty tonight," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said when asked about Trout, hitting .354 with a .565 slugging and .412 on-base marks while scoring 35 runs in his 40 games. "He's got speed you don't teach," Mattingly continued. "He hits a ball almost in that second deck. He's a guy who can change a game." In his New York Yankees prime in the 1980s, Mattingly followed in the Yankees lineup a guy with those kinds of gifts: Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. Mattingly said he couldn't comment on "any contract stuff," but he'll obviously be delighted with Tuesday's announcement. The night he learned he had become a very wealthy man at 30, Ethier had a forgettable performance. After collecting his National League high 53rd RBI with an out in a wild bottom of the first, giving Chris Capuano a 2-0 lead, Ethier struck out in his final three plate appearances. The beauty of the game, as young closer Jansen stressed, is that there's another one coming right up. For the Dodgers, carrying the Major Leagues' best record (39-23) while carrying on without Kemp, there's a whole lot to feel good about these days.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.