The Matt Kemp enigma continued: Dodgers coaches, agent Dave Stewart talk, kiss, spew, make up
Love, love, love. … Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. It's easy.
Then again, maybe not. Not even when everybody claims to have the same interest in mind -- making Matt Kemp the best player he can be.
Still, Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, went off on the Dodgers’ coaches in a column by The Times' Bill Plaschke, saying he was tired of them criticizing the outfielder and that it felt like "open season on Matt."
This was a curious reaction, and bit of odd timing on Stewart’s part. Understand, it's his job is to look out for his client, to support him, coddle him if necessary, and get him the biggest, fattest contract possible.
Stewart was upset with Dodgers coaches Bob Schaefer and Larry Bowa for ripping Kemp in the media this season. Which was interesting since Schaefer has never never publicly criticized Kemp. And Bowa has once, two weeks ago, to Times columnist T.J. Simers, saying that Kemp doesn’t always play hard. To which Kemp completely agreed.
Yet Stewart was so irate over perceived slights to Kemp that he even suggested to Plaschke that the Dodgers might trade their young center fielder.
"I'm almost to the point -- and maybe so are the Dodgers -- where I'm thinking that this just isn't going to work," Stewart said. "The Dodgers have gaps on this team, and maybe they could fill them by trading Matt. It could be good for the team, and good for the player."
Like that’s going to happen. One, Kemp loves L.A., loves the Hollywood scene and wants to become a superstar here. And two, the Dodgers aren’t about to trade away someone as talented as the 25-year-old Kemp, no matter how often he frustrates them.
After the Plaschke column was published, both coaches talked to Stewart late Thursday night or early Friday morning.
"We had a good talk," Schaefer told reporters in Atlanta. "I’ve got a job to do and has a job to do. My job is to make players better.
"It’s up to the player to make himself better with our guidance."
Schaefer had confronted Kemp in the dugout earlier this season after the outfielder failed yet again to back up second base on a stolen-base attempt. Kemp reacted angrily and was benched for the next three games.
Schaefer, however, never said he was the coach who confronted Kemp and never has commented on the incident.
"I didn’t appreciate [Stewart] saying I made bad comments, because I didn’t," Schaefer said. "It’s not a big story."
Said Stewart to Times beat writer Dylan Hernandez: "If I’m mistaken, I apologize."
As might be expected, Stewart had a longer conversation with the fiery Bowa. These are two emotional guys anyway. Bowa said they talked on the phone from 2:30 a.m. to 4 a.m., so it’s probably safe to assume it wasn’t always hugs and kisses, though both termed it a good conversation.
Bowa was upset that Stewart had complained to Plaschke about "all this external crap coming from Schaefer and Bowa. … When Larry Bowa played, he would never accept a coach talking about him in the newspaper like that, but they want to Matt to accept it?"
Bowa told reporters in Atlanta that "Dallas Green got in my face more than any human being alive" when Green was the Phillies' manager.
Even in the Simers column, Bowa praised Kemp’s talent.
"Did you read it? I said he had Hall of Fame tools."
Kemp, not surprisingly, had nothing to say Friday about the latest furor surrounding him.
"I ain’t getting into none of that, man," Kemp said.
Stewart, however, had more to say to Hernandez.
"We all have the same wants for Matt," Stewart said. "We’re not working against each other.
"We’re working in different ways. Their points were clearly taken."
Stewart still seemed irked to read about his player being criticized in the media, despite it having happened just once. I’ve criticized him, plenty of people have left comments here and elsewhere criticizing Kemp. The coaching staff has remained amazingly constrained.
"I don’t know why I read about my guy and they’re having private conversations with everybody else," Stewart said. "I don’t think that’s going to get it done, trashing him publicly."
The only other time Kemp was trashed publicly by the Dodgers, it was by General Manager Ned Colletti early in the season. And Stewart said that was put behind them.
So it’s kind of odd that Stewart went off now. It seemed more a reaction to Kemp getting benched for two games this week, though he never complained about Manager Joe Torre.
"Something different has to happen," Stewart said. "When you look at this season, you see how much the media has been used to explain to Matt what could have been said to him privately."
Say what? Not sure how the media has been used, but certainly if the Dodgers have a problem with the uber-talented Kemp’s inconsistent focus, they should talk to him. And they do.
Stewart backtracked slightly when talking to Hernandez about Kemp possibly needing a trade.
"Matt doesn’t want to play elsewhere," he said. "But I also would say that if a time comes when Matt can’t continue to grow, be himself and show his skills, then you have to take a look at the other alternatives."
Hopefully by "be himself" he doesn’t mean floating in and out of games. Kemp needs to play sharper, more intense, more consistent baseball. Pretty sure everyone can agree on that.
Now to move forward. Which figures to be interesting, because with Kemp, it always seems to work that way.
-- Steve Dilbeck