The fundamental flaw in the Dodgers’ dastardly dispersal of Matt Kemp should be obvious – how do you simply give him, and a $32 million check, to a division rival that you have to compete against 19 times a year, including on opening day?
Most Dodgers fans who aren’t already overwrought with the ovewroughtness of the whole thing know there’s a second part to that question: How many of those 19 games will Kemp actually be healthy enough to play in?
Six years after he became the Dodgers’ regular center fielder, he’d continue to misjudge fly balls as if they were Frisbees thrown at him from home plate.
Eight years after his call-up, he’d still get picked off first base for no apparent reason other than he was leaning the wrong way.
From this day forward, it’s a guarantee that he’ll forget that the simple duty he has at the plate with a runner on third and less than two out is not to over-swing on the first pitch and pop out to the third baseman.
Kemp’s gifted athletic ability could often erase some of those mistakes – and when that happened, it was MVP-quality work on his resume. But only for short windows at a time.
That gift has been eroded by years of major injuries, some of them caused by his fundamental lack of fundamentals.
You remember what put him on the shelf at the midway point of the 2013 season and took him nearly a full year to recover from, right? It was that injury in Washington that was described in an Associated Press account that usually refrains from such editorializing: “Kemp hurt his left ankle sliding into home plate on a force play, a needless injury that came from lack of hustle.”
More simply, it was a lack of knowing what he was supposed to do – stand up or slide? He pulled a Pedro Guerrero and tried both.
Even as Kemp finally reached the age of 30 last season, it’s not as if he was as reckless on the bases or in the field as Yasiel Puig, but instincts that should have been instilled years ago never kicked in. The learning curve never came around the bend.
Kemp, instead, would break and instead of bend.
It was the kind of stuff that drove former coach Larry Bowa to eat his cap after trying to break Kemp in with some tough love. Bowa came to figure out that he didn’t have the soft touch that Dodgers management wanted in handling the touch-n-go Kemp, so Bowa wasn’t included on Don Mattingly’s new coaching staff when he took over in 2011.
What never changed was Bowa’s assessment of Kemp: “He’s a five-tool player, but he’d bring you five tools on Monday and sometimes one tool on Tuesday. … He’s not a bad kid. It just looked like he had other things on his mind.
“I was trying to get him to see what he was doing or not doing. Some people call it ‘old school.’ I just call it playing baseball the right way.”
Right or wrong, the Hollywood lights also had Kemp blinded and blindsided. L.A. brought him fame and attention like no other Dodger perhaps since Steve Garvey – cover shots on Sports Illustrated, ESPN magazine or Forbes, along with GQ spreads that made is fashionable to adore him across many demographics. Then there was that whole Rihanna situation that led fans to believe she had become Kemp’s Kryptonite, and perpetuated his undeserved superhero status.
Look at it this way: If Magic Johnson had any kind of clout as a Dodgers part owner, why wouldn’t he, of all people, stopped talking about how the Lakers should lose the rest of their games and focused on telling these new Dodger matrix maniacs that losing Kemp would be a huge PR blunder, because here was that rare home-grown star who kept smiling in front of the cameras and hitting home runs to right-center field like no one else in the lineup?
Perhaps in a time when sports business supersedes fan loyalty, and pitching and defense are what win games instead of solo homers, someone must have showed Magic a recent FanGraphs chart where Kemp was No. 1 on the list — of the MLB’s worst fielding outfielders from 2013-14, with a UZR/150 number of minus-29. That’s not the chemistry equation they use at the Rawlings factory to dip gold gloves.
== Know what’ll be poetic? On Opening Day ’15 at Dodger Stadium, the Padres’ new No. 3 hitter Kemp reaches first base on some kind of fielder’s choice, jammed by a Clayton Kershaw fastball inside, somehow able to beat the throw on a double play when Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins take an extra second too long.
Before the next batter gets comfortable in the box, Kershaw sidearms the ball over to Adrian Gonzalez and picks Kemp off first.
And Kemp has to leave the game with a strained hamstring/locked up ankle/badly bruised ego.
Inning over. Doubts ended.
== And can we stop with the comparisons of this mirroring that dark time in Dodgers history when non-baseball business men in the post-O’Malley era banished 28-year-old five-time All-Star Mike Piazza and his contract whining to Miami in the middle of the 1998 season for some puka shells and a regional TV deal?
This one actually matches up quite nicely to the winter of 2010, when Toronto brilliantly sent 31-year-old All-Star Vernon Wells to the Angels. It’s just that the Angels gave up two in return with some value – Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera.
Then they took over Wells’ contract that called for some $50 million paid out over the two seasons that he didn’t do much of anything in Anaheim. They finally got the Yankees to take him off their hands, along with a $28 million payment in 2013.
All’s well that didn’t end well for Wells in that scenario. Kemp’s red-flagged, high-risk shelf life should be four years, tops, as a potential Dodger tormentor.
Even then, it’s not like it’s going to end with him trying to decide if he’ll have his L.A. cap or S.D. cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, right?
== Mark Cuban’s mission to get the NBA to realign has a lot of merit – especially if his Dallas team was sent to the Eastern Conference? Maybe the Lakers, whose four of their six wins so far are against the East, could go with ‘em?
== It’s been pointed out that any team that wins the NFC South with a sub-.500 record has no reason to be in the playoffs. Did you know that any team could win any division the NFL with a 0-10-6 record if the dice rolled right?
== We heard a local weather reporter use the phrase “peter out” as a way to describe how the recent Southern California rain was finally going to dissipate by the afternoon.
Ever wonder how that idiom originated?
At FreeDictionary.com, it gave nothing more than the expected definition, but it an example of how it could be used in a sentence based from a recent quote citation:
“He is in my eyes the best boxer in history, he will knock Peter out within four or five rounds.”
Those were the words of Emanual Stewart, the trainer for world heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, speaking before his guy was to take on challenger Samuel Peter in 2010.
Klitschko did win the fight, but in 10 rounds.
After Peter finally petered out.