Now, Ellis has gone from a team that might be the most flamboyant in baseball -- the Los Angeles Dodgers' latest trend is to carry around a bubble machine everywhere they go so they can celebrate big moments with a "foam party" in the dugout -- to a team, the St. Louis Cardinals, widely considered to espouse the heartland values of the city where it plays.
That storyline got a lot of play in the National League Championship Series last October. Ellis, a native of South Dakota, said the teams' cultural differences are real.
"It's not better or worse, just a different clubhouse," Ellis said. "They have some bigger personalities over there. That works on that team. This is what works, so far, on this team."
The Dodgers were intent on getting younger and more athletic and made scant effort to re-sign Ellis, 37, who then signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals. He has split time with young second baseman Kolten Wong, who is now on the disabled list because of an injured shoulder. Ellis is batting .197 in 143 plate appearances.
The Dodgers would have felt the loss of Ellis more, particularly in the field, if not for the emergence of Dee Gordon, a converted shortstop who was considered a longshot to win the second-base job when spring training began. Gordon leads the majors in stolen bases (40) and triples (nine) and is batting .286 with 44 runs scored while playing above-average defense.
"He works really hard and I'm happy for him," Ellis said. "I think second base is a good spot for him. It'll take a little pressure off in terms of defense and he can go out and be the dynamic guy he is on offense, steal bases and go out and score runs. That's a credit to him. He's so athletic. His speed is just unbelievable and he can change a game. He's one of the special guys we have in our league."
Ellis said he was treated well as a Dodger and he has no hard feelings about the way his two-year tenure with the team ended. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was particularly close with Ellis, calling him a "character guy," this week. Some people have wondered if the loss of Ellis, Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto -- hard workers who played with some edge -- might have a detrimental impact on the Dodgers' clubhouse. There has been less talk of that lately now that the Dodgers have won 14 of their last 20 games and trimmed 7 1/2 games from the San Francisco Giants' NL West lead.
"There are enough veterans over there. They should be able to police themselves," Ellis said.