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Matt Kemp, Page 2

2013 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview

Offseason moves
12 months ago, I wrote on this very blog that I hoped for a .500 season from a undermanned Dodgers team. Frank McCourt was either going to own the team for the forseeable future, or there would be a long, protracted ownership transition. Without an expedited sale, his awful stewardship of the Boys in Blue would continue into 2014. I looked at what manager Don Mattingly was working with and decided that with a tight budget, All-Stars that needed extending and a limited prospect pool, LA wouldn’t be shooting for October games. Rather, I thought that contending for a Wild Card spot late into August would be as eventful as the team got.
Instead, the Dodgers were sold for $2 billion dollars in April, and in late August completed the most expensive trade in US professional sports history. This wasn’t just a 180 degree turn—Dodgers fans everywhere got inverted into the 4th dimension, flipped backwards and deposited into China. That’s the type of turn we’re talking about.
Even though the offseason began in November, the LA offseason actually started with that very trade. With half the 2012 Boston Red Sox now in Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers couldn’t gel quick enough to secure a postseason spot, unable to shed that new trade smell and get everyone comfortable enough. Thus, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, OF Carl Crawford and SP Josh Beckett are essentially new additions, playing just their second month in a Dodgers uniforms.
For the Yankees West, this wasn’t quite big enough. After all, the Guggenheim Partners purchased the team for $2 billion. What’s another $200 million? They could spend that in a weekend.
Which they did.…

To see how “a potential juggernaut” can go wrong, the 2013 Dodgers must look to the 2013 Lakers

This offseason was one of the most anticipated in Los Angeles franchise history. The entire industry looked to So Cal as the front office made massive moves that changed the complexion of the league. Though there were minor transactions in the form of tasty appetizers, the main course was yet another superstar player joining the team. Though it seemed for the past year that any person who had paid attention to the sport knew that he was eventually going to end up in the City of Angels, the fanfare was just as pronounced.
The payroll skyrocketed to another dimensions, forgoing any potential consequence of a soon dramatically changing luxury tax, the harshest penalties of which are reserved for those who repeatedly go over the set salary line. Of course, none of this mattered with brand new television contracts guaranteeing the team literally billions of dollars over the next twenty years. The organization spent and spent, with each new acquisition leading to an e-mail or text from my dad saying “And we got that guy too?”. These new offseason personnel additions–not one, not two, but several–aren’t without their questions. Concerns regarding how close or far these players are from the ends of their careers, their game-time potency and most importantly, how well each guy will catalyze with a team full of highly compensated stars are key to a successful season. As much as throwing money on the situation can help, there’s no telling how well these men will play together and how they’ll deal with the massive expectations set in front of them.
As if those weren’t high-profile problems enough, the squad is led by young coach will be tested with the hardest task of his career: having to soothe the egos of players making $10, $15 and $20+ millions of dollars annually, while figuring out a rotation that is certain not to make everyone happy.  Expectations are higher than they’ve ever been in Los Angeles, where an appearance in the championship round is merely a prerequisite, not a goal. The only measure of this team–in how much it cost to assemble the prospects and future considerations it took to do so–is hoisting high that gold trophy at season’s end. In Southern California, it’s not just championship or bust–it’s championship or “who are you?”. There is no alternative.
I was just talking about the Los Angeles Lakers.
I was just talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers.
For a fan base stretching from Lancaster to Long Beach, imaging a season gone horribly wrong shouldn’t be much further away than a drive on the 5 freeway.… Read more...

Criticizing the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers is Easy…But Maybe Not Right

“Pitching and defense. Defense and pitching. Either way, with both going this well simultaneously, 3-0 is exactly where the Giants are supposed to be.”–Mike Bauman,

“And, especially, one win from popularizing a way to win baseball games that most people thought had gone out of style in, like, 1992: Throw the ball. … Catch the ball. Pitching. … And defense.”–Jayson Stark,

“The best defense in all of baseball made all of these very good, very young pitchers look even better…Given everything they just accomplished, and the path they took to get there, we should rank the 2012 Giants right there among the four greatest playoff stories of the past 40 years.”–Jonah Keri,

The pundits couldn’t be any more correct. This past October, the San Francisco Giants won their second title in three years with the best pitching staff top to bottom in the Majors and a spectacular fielding defense. In a time when the Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and Red Sox spend $100 million on a hitting lineup alone, the Gigantes surrounded their all-world hitter and 2012 NL MVP in Buster Posey with understated trade bait and shrewd scrap-heap pick-ups. GM Brian Sabean built a team similar to the Dodgers squads dominated the 70s and 80s, with each of their athletic solar systems built around the gravitational pull of a titanic pitching staff and defense.

In October, the Dodgers watched helplessly as the Giants won their fourth pennant and second title in a span of time where neither of those accolades were accomplished in Chavez Ravine. To add insult to injury, San Francisco did all of this by playing Dodgers baseball
Is the Giants’ 2012 run the new paradigm of the greatest game? Build an unbelievable, indomitable staff and bullpen with an air-tight defense behind it? Then employ just one elite hitter and let the rest of the offense sort itself out down the line? The Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria and the best defense in baseball certainly would support that notion. So would the World Champion 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, who had a near-retirement Lance Berkman as a cheap, understated signing, 28 year-old would-be star in David Freese turned NLCS and WS MVP and youngsters Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso playing over 300 games combined.

This new era of team-building is in many ways a throwback to the “purity of baseball”: a more placid offense with an enhanced focus on throwing and catching. There’s perhaps the perception that because the Giants focus so much on pitching and defense rather than the flash of a crushing offense, that their payroll reflects such a modest set of demands. It’s as if the focus on such basic, spartan tenants of the game absolves San Francisco of spending exorbitant amounts of money like any other major market team. 

Quite the opposite: the Giants were seventh in payroll last year, with three players making over $16 million dollars. However, they all were pitchers (Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain) and eight of their ten highest-compensated players were hurlers. The Giants payroll weight shifted towards the very manner in which they won two titles, but it certainly wasn’t cheap. The core of these two teams were built around homegrown prospects, including Posey, Lincecum, Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo, further romanticizing a team without extravagantly expensive hitters. How is it that San Francisco didn’t have a chorus of skeptics denouncing their high-spenRead more...

State of Chavez Ravine: 2012 LA Dodgers Preview

Oh boy. Here it is. Strap in and put on your positive thinking caps Mambinites. I hate to do it, but we’re about to take a ride to Negativetown, the air conditioners are broken and we only have a Lou Diamond Phillips spoken word CD in the car. Sorry everybody.

Always the best part of Dodger baseball…but especially in 2012

Never before have I been so apathetic about a Dodger season. We’re on the precipice of a major change in the organization, but this transition time has paralyzed the team, and locked them into a holding pattern until a new owner is decided upon. The most exciting part of the season might be that we get another year of the ever-immaculate play-calling of the legendary Vin Scully.

And thus, the half-hearted Dodgers squad you see before you. This offseason, Ned Colletti filled the team with stopgap solutions full of retreads, scrap heap finds and cheap veterans. Quite frankly, there’s not a lot that inspires you outside of the reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp.  Let’s take a closer look at the team through its various components:… Read more...

Our Best and Brightest – Thoughts on Ryan Braun’s positive PED test

“I would never do it because if I took steroids, I would hit 60 or 70 home runs.” – Ryan Braun
Ryan Braun hit .332, with a .994 OPS. He had 187 hits, 77 of which were for extra bases. His 33 homers, 111 RBI and 109 runs scored were amongst the majors’ best. As if that weren’t enough, he stole 33 bases and was the best player on one of the best teams this year. His charisma, leadership and enthusiasm for the game made him one of baseball’s most popular young players. Personally, he is one of my favorite major leaguers, with his cartoonishly gigantic windmill swing and the teeth-grinding effort he gives on every single play. He didn’t hit 60 home runs this year, but if you watched this guy for a single week’s worth of games, you’d think he was capable of it. He was that good.
Today, ESPN revealed that Ryan Braun had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. The investigation was triggered by a spike in testoterone, which automatically led into further examinations of Ryan’s pee pee. After the lab had run a gamut of tests, they found that Braun had a large deal of synthetic testoterone in his body, which obviously would not appear there by any organic means. With any positive PED test, Major League Baseball administers a mandatory 50 game suspension for first time offenders. The only reason why the sports news headlines do not read “Braun suspended for 50 games” yet is that the punishment and jurisdiction of the commissioner’s office isn’t official yet; Braun and his representatives have appealed the PED test result. No player has yet successfully won such an appeal.
“… The best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth.” – Braun, on Alex Rodriguez’s steroid useRead more...

Expecting the Expected: Matt Kemp’s Extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers

Matt Kemp signing a $160 million dollar, 8-year deal during the 2011 offseason was my worst nightmare. Coming off the heels of a gargantuan MVP-caliber campaign, my presumption was that Kemp (who I have for years lovingly referred to as Matty Franchise) and his agent Dave Stewart would push for a proportionally gargantuan long-term contract extension. Beyond the fact that he now stands a mere 365 days away from hitting the free agent market, I knew that such a deal would be well-deserved; in what baseball universe does a 27 year-old, 5-tool free agent not come out of a hot stove winter without a 6 figure contract? I predicted that a pact like this was in the works – I just would have guessed it would be with any team besides the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This agreement would be the 7th largest deal in the history of Major League Baseball. It would be the highest ever for a center fielder and the second highest ever for a black athlete, slightly under CC Sabathia’s $161 million dollar deal with the New York Yankees. Upon hearing the news yesterday, a strange sensation came over me. For so long I have preached and howled about how the Los Angeles Dodgers operate like they’re the Kansas City Dodgers or the Chavez Ravine Indians. I’ve railed against Frank McCourt for not being able to give the Blue Crew the small edges they’ve lacked, the absence of those edges most likely costing them a pennant and maybe even more. No one questions whether or not the Yankees are going to lose Robinson Cano when he becomes a free agent in two years. There was no sense of trepidation for whether or not the Red Sox were going to retain the services of Jon Lester. Justin Verlander will be in Detroit as long as they want him. For the last two years, the only newsworthy items I’ve heard the Dodgers involved in were either on the wavelength of Mark Ellis, Jon Garland or Casey Blake, or were smattered with the words “proceeding” or “injunction.” In fact, the only positive news that I’ve gotten over the past year was about a sale. A sale! Someone sold something, and that was the best news we’ve had in over two years.

It was absolutely strange to see the Dodgers acting like the team I’ve always known they should have been. Expecting the expected is a foreign feeling. They made a deal that should have been a given. I am not at all concerned about the Yankees keeping Robinson Cano for as long as they want him. This happened in Los Angeles yesterday. We were the National League Yankees.

Matthew Ryan Kemp deserves this deal. He has earned this money with his drive, talent and hunger. He rightly has merited the commitment from the Dodgers that he has mirrored on the field and in the clubhouse. The numbers should speak for themselves; in the previous 4 seasons, Kemp has averaged 28 homers, 97 RBI, 98 runs scored, 32 stolen bases and an .847 OPS. He has played (for the most part) world class defense in center field. In an era where medical breakthroughs keep athletes stronger than their bones and joints can bear, Kemp has managed to keep his body tuned and intact. He has averaged 159 games since 2008, and has missed none the past 2 seasons. He nearly had a 40 home run, 40 steal season last year, falling one stray fly ball short. He is one of the best all-around players in the game. Maybe even the best. But that’s an argument for another time.

What these numbers don’t reflect is Kemp’s work ethic and acceptance of leadership. His 2010 season was picked apart by critic and fan alike. The sad part is, in a world wh… Read more...

Matt Kemp for MVP – Because Peter Gammons Says So

I don’t want to be a impartial. I don’t want to be objective. I don’t think anyone would ever say I’m capable of having any of those qualities as a human, let alone as a writer. I am a complete homer. I love the Lakers and I love the Dodgers. So my saying that I think that Clayton Kershaw deserves the Cy Young should come as a surprise to no one, and much to my delight, has come with little disagreement.

In the same vein, my invisible National League MVP vote would go to Matt Kemp. My reasons are pretty cut and dry – he ranks in the top three in average, hits, runs scored, RBI, homers, steals, slugging, OPS, total bases, extra base hits, intentional walks and wins over replacement player. He’s carried the dead weight of a Dodgers corpse stricken with the rigor mortis of Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro and Casey Blake to a respectable record. He’s the lone force to be reckoned with in a feeble Dodgers’ lineup, and has somehow connected with enough pitches to force that impressive resume of offensive statistics. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols are all having great seasons with playoff-caliber teams. But they have help. Take Kemp away from that Dodgers team, and they lose close to 100 games.

But don’t take my word for it. Take Peter Gammons’:

“But at the risk of setting off yet another MVP-defining firestorm, from this scenic overlook Kemp is the National League’s most valuable player. And before beginning the litany of his statistical achievements, let it be noted that his 37th home run came in PETCO Park, where flyballs die, and that his numbers have been accumulated playing nearly 100 games at Dodger Stadium, PETCO and San Francisco’s AT&T Park”

Gammons has a fantastic point here. Park factors being what they are, Kemp has destroyed pitching in Dodger Stadium (.981 OPS), Petco Park (1.058 OPS) and AT&T Park (.695 OPS, but against the team with the lowest SP ERA and in the park that allows the least amount of runs in the majors).

I might be a total homer, with my opinions constantly colored by my home team bias. But if the GOAT of baseball journalism says it, you all have to listen. And that’s the bottom line. Because Peter Gammons says so.… Read more...