Daily Distractions: Will Matt Kemp’s MRI results determine the Dodgers’ future?

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp leaves the field with athletic trainer Nancy Pattersonon Wednesday night after straining his right hamstring in a 4-3 loss to the Angels (Associated Press)

Matt Kemp will have an MRI on his aching right hamstring today, which could be the biggest news the Dodgers receive all month.

Or not.

The Dodgers are averaging more than four runs a game the past week, despite benching Kemp once, then dropping him to fifth in the batting order, and watching him go 3 for 21 (.143) while he was in the lineup. The Dodgers were able to tread water for about a month while Kemp recuperated from his hamstring strains in May and June of last year. It wasn’t until mid-June that the Dodgers went into a tailspin — and that was with a lineup featuring Dee Gordon, Tony Gwynn Jr., Elian Herrera and Bobby Abreu among others on a nightly basis. With Hanley Ramirez due to return soon, there’s reason for optimism even if Kemp does need time on the DL.

He probably won’t need much time, if any.

“It’s not as bad as last year, but when you feel it grabbing you got to take it easy and make sure you take care of it cause it can get worse,” Kemp told colleague Clay Fowler after the Dodgers’ 4-3 loss to the Angels on Wednesday. “Probably about two years ago, I probably would have stayed in the game.”

Some more bullet points for a Canary Islands Day:

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Daily Distractions: On expiring contracts, Ryu, Ramirez and Robinson.

Matt Kemp Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly’s contract is up at the end of the year, but does it really matter? (Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News)

What do Don Mattingly, Charlie Manuel, Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenhire have in common?

Answer: Mr. Burns would disapprove of their sideburns.

We also would have accepted that each has a contract that expires at the end of the season, as do six other managers, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark. That’s one-third of the league.

Writes Stark:

It does reflect a change in what once passed for conventional thinking: We can’t hang our manager out there on the last year of his deal. The players will walk all over him.

That may have been the theory once upon a time. But nowadays, says Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, “I think it’s something from out of the past that doesn’t exist in the present anymore. It’s one of those old things that was widely accepted — and then a lot of smart people said, ‘Why?’”

Truth is, many fans haven’t wrapped their heads around this concept yet. The intellectually lazy belief is that a cold seat becomes warm, a warm seat becomes hot, and a hot seat becomes scorching if the manager’s contract is up at the end of the year.

The relationship between each manager and his team is different, but many of the same hypotheses about Mattingly’s job security are probably being applied to Leyland, whose team won the American League pennant a year ago and whose plaque in Cooperstown may have been minted already (hopefully with a cigarette in Leyland’s mouth and missing only the logo on his hat).

After all the Tigers are only 10-10, or one fewer loss than the Dodgers.

Some bullet points to tide you through a Sierra Leone independence day weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Clayton Kershaw’s changing repertoire; Chad Billingsley verdict coming soon.

Clayton KershawThe Dodgers are playing the Mets in New York tonight. Clayton Kershaw is pitching.

Before you breathe that every-five-days sigh of relief that comes with seeing number 22 on the mound, consider the changes to Kershaw’s repertoire since his masterful Opening Day performance.

That day, his curveball was working so well against the San Francisco Giants, he barely needed a fastball. Kershaw threw fastballs on 52.1 percent of his pitches, a ridiculously low percentage considering he threw 94 pitches over nine innings.

In every start since, Kershaw has thrown fewer curves as a percentage of his pitches — from 19.2 percent on Opening Day to 11.3, 9.9, and finally 7.6 percent last Wednesday against the Padres. Kershaw said he didn’t have any of his breaking pitches working well that night, when he allowed five runs (three earned) in 5 ⅓ innings.

Kershaw’s fastball has gotten slightly slower, too. It averaged 93 mph on Opening Day, then 92.3, 92.8 and 92.6 mph in his last three starts, sequentially.

Is his arm about to fall off? No. But as Kershaw relies more on his fastball and slider, the danger of arguably his most dangerous pitch, the curve, is reduced. Depending on how well his entire repertoire is keeping the Mets off-balance, he might not need it.

It’s something to keep an eye on tonight.

Some bullet points for a Tuesday morning:

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Daily Distractions: ’42′ in theaters today.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson in a Pasadena Junior College baseball uniform. (Photo used with permission, via Reddit)

With “42″ hitting theaters today, I decided to publish a Jackie Robinson-themed Daily Distractions today. These ought to tide us over as we wait to find out how much time Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke will miss.


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Jackie Robinson gets a weekend, not a day.

Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson Day in Los Angeles.

Monday is the actual 66th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947. It’s also Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball, when every player on every team will wear Robinson’s retired 42 on his back.

The list of local Robinson-related events this weekend is so long, the Dodgers issued a 1,338-word press release today to list them all. Here are the highlights:

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Daily Distractions: Dr. Frank Jobe recognized in Cooperstown; Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier help Cleveland.

Thomas Tull

“42″ producer Thomas Tull, right, with Cal Ripken. (baseballhall.org)

The National Baseball Hall of Fame won’t induct any new members this year, but its annual Awards Presentation will have a Dodgers theme.

On July 27 in Cooperstown, the Museum will pay tribute to Legendary Pictures founder and CEO Thomas Tull and his soon-to-be-released film “42”, which documents and pays homage to Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson. The film will be released nationwide on Friday, April 12, just in advance of baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day on April 15.

The Museum will also recognize former Dodgers team physician Frank Jobe for the development of Tommy John surgery, a now-common elbow ligament replacement procedure. John, the former Dodgers pitcher who won 288 games in his 26-year major league career, will join Dr. Jobe for the special recognition.

I attended a special screening of “42″ last week and it seemed to be well-received by both the media and the Dodgers players and execs in attendance. I’m guessing it won’t be seen as a flop three months after its release.

Some bullet points for a Friday morning:

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Daily Distractions: A bad spring training pic as the Dodgers get down to business.

Camelback Ranch Glendale

That photo won’t make the Bad Spring Training TwitPics hall of shame, but that’s only because I didn’t post it on Twitter. It was the sight greeting everyone at Camelback Ranch on the first day of spring training Tuesday morning.

Tuesday was an inherently eventful day, typically droll as spring training days go but more exciting than the last four and a half months of no baseball. I posted the blow-by-blow on my Twitter account, which you can follow here if you’re not doing so already. The question of what the Dodgers will do with their eight starting pitchers dominated the dialogue. You can read all about that here.

Today marks the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers. Manager Don Mattingly was in rare form, using humor to deflect questions about his expiring contract. Comparing himself to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of former Oakland manger Art Howe on a one-year contract with the Moneyball A’s, he told reporters at Camelback Ranch, “I’m built better than that guy.”

There’s no contest, really (see here and here). Onto some heavier material, because we can’t get much lighter …

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Daily Distractions: More Jackie Robinson, Scott Rolen, and a full album.

Jackie Robinsonbaseball cardColleague Brian Charles dug up the background story on Jackie Robinson’s “Google doodle” yesterday, and it’s an interesting one.

Turns out that Robinson, who was born 94 years ago yesterday, inspires the tech sector, too.

“By celebrating Jackie today, we’re hoping to spread his message of respecting each other as a human beings,” Mike Dutton, the artist who created the image, told Charles in an email Thursday. “Nobody else has changed the game quite as significantly — and with the same kind of poise and dignity in the face of adversity, no less — as Jackie Robinson.”

One more nugget from that story: John Singleton, the filmmaker and Pasadena City College graduate behind the forthcoming Robinson biopic “42″, has been approached by PCC about having an advanced screening of the movie in Pasadena.

Some casual links for a casual Friday:

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A three-headed salute.

Jackie Robinson statue

What has three heads, six blue stirrups and always smiles?

Find out for yourself on April 15, when the Dodgers give away a Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella statue to the first 40,000 fans at that night’s game against the San Diego Padres. April 15, always a big day at Dodger Stadium, marks the 66th anniversary of Robinson breaking MLB’s color barrier.

It’s also a 2-star game under the Dodgers’ new tiered pricing plan. There are no bobblehead giveaways on 2- or 1-star games this season, so this might be as close as it gets.