Los Angeles Dodgers: With Andre Ethier Out, Is There Any Room for Hope?

Jeff Spiegel@jeffspiegelContributor IIJune 27, 2012

It's June 27 and the Dodgers are tied for first place in the National League West.

Unfortunately for Dodgers fans, it's amazing how much perspective can impact the interpretation of that statement.

To begin the season, that statement would have seemed crazy. Then again, three weeks ago as the Dodgers clung to the best record in baseball, that statement may have seemed equally absurd.

And yet, here we are. The Kemp-less and (soon-to-be) Ethier-less Dodgers have dropped eight of their last nine games, scoring one or fewer runs in six of the eight losses.

Oh, and they haven't scored since the sixth inning Sunday night.

While there is plenty of blame to go around, I think "blame" might be the wrong word to use. It seems unfair to be angry at players like Elian Herrera, Tony Gwynn Jr., Bobby Abreu and A.J. Ellis—guys whose performance far outgrew their expectations.

While Herrera, the 10-year minor league veteran who had yet to be invited to spring training, had a .305 average on June 17 that seemed to be a mirage. Since then, Herrera is just two for 31 from the plate, including a current stretch of 18 straight at bats without reaching base.

For Gwynn Jr. and Abreu the story is similar. Gwynn has just seven hits since June 10 and Abreu is two for his last 26.

Then there is Ellis. After garnering all-star consideration throughout the beginning of the season, even Ellis has tapered off a bit. While his on-base percentage remains among the best in the league at .417 (4th in MLB), his batting average has dipped to a pedestrian .290 during the team's recent slump.

When I wrote an article at the end of May entitled, "Everybody's Favorite Minor League Lineup" the premise was for it to be a joke. While the team did, in fact, contain a number of minor leaguers and players most fans had never heard of, the expectation was that things wouldn't last long.

Well here we are a month later, and that same minor league lineup is still taking the field every day. Unfortunately, instead of things getting better, it appears things will only be getting worse after learning of Andre Ethier's injury, which some believe could land him on the disabled list.

With all this said, it brings Dodgers fans to a simple question: what now?

Is there hope for the future? Can the Dodgers withstand the continued onslaught of injuries (that a number of teams are going through) and come out still in the thick of the playoff hunt?

While the numbers and names in front of us seem to suggest otherwise, there is hope in Chavez Ravine.

For starters, the Dodgers still have the most wins in the national league (tied with the Giants), and if it came down to the wild card spots, they'd have a 2.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves for the final playoff spot.

With Matt Kemp and Mark Ellis both expected back right around the all-star break, the Dodgers will have to make due with this lineup for just 11 games against the Mets, Reds and Diamondbacks.

Come the second half of the season, however, there won't be any excuses. If the Dodgers can get healthy with Kemp and Ethier back in the middle of the lineup, it will be up to the players on the field to determine whether the 2012 Dodgers go down as a disappointing collapse or a surprising contender.