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Daily Dodger in review: Where does Matt Kemp go from his 2010 high-wire act?

This concludes the "Daily Dodger in review" series. There were 30 in all, though I saved the most controversial Dodger for last.

MATT KEMP, 26, outfield

Final 2010 stats: .249 batting average, 28 home runs, 89 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, .310 on-base percentage, .450 slugging percentage in 602 at-bats.

Contract status: Signed for next season at $6.95 million.

The good: Set a career high in home runs. Led club in homers, RBIs, runs (82), extra-base hits (59) and at-bats. Played in all 162 games and has a 204 consecutive-game streak going. Started the season hot (seven homers in a 10-game April stretch) and ended it that way (homers in last five consecutive games).

The bad: Well, let's see … there was the base running. He was caught stealing 15 times in 34 attempts. There was the defense, which went from supposed Gold Glove to probably one of the worst center-field jobs in baseball; he continually struggled to get a proper jump and had only three assists on the entire year. There were the strikeouts, a club-record 170. His batting average fell almost 50 points from 2009.

And then, of course, there was all that other stuff. General Manager Ned Colletti calling him out on a radio show for his lazy fielding and base running. The dugout confrontation with bench coach Bob Shaefer for failing to back up second base. Third base coach Larry Bowa saying he was playing at less than full effort. His irate agent, Dave Stewart, floating the possibility that Kemp might have to play elsewhere. Kemp taking responsibility for his disappointing play at season's end.

What’s next: Only brighter days, right? Things do seem set up for him. Schafer and Bowa are gone. He appears to have a strong relationship with new manager Don Mattingly. New first base coach, and presumably base-running coach, Davey Lopes is a good friend of Stewart's and seems intent on developing a strong relationship with Kemp. And he finished 2010 on a strong note.

The take: Next season figures to be the one in which we find out if Kemp is truly dedicated to being a great player or being a celebrity.

Kemp is not just the team lightning rod, he's their Benjamin Franklin of lightning rods. No player more divides team followers. His supporters point to his still-strong share of positive stats. His detractors bemoan wasted talent and a too-casual style of play.

With Kemp, everything starts with his enormous ability. No Dodger -- and precious few players anywhere -- has more talent. And he's judged against that talent, which often make his boosters cringe. But that's how it works in all walks of life. If you're a great writer and you mail it in, you get called out on that. If you're a Russell Crowe-caliber actor and go through the motions in "The Next Three Days," you get ripped for that too.

Great things are expected from great ability. It's the burden of being enormously talented.

Kemp has been playing professional baseball for eight years now, yet somehow he still seems a raw talent. Everyone -- including Kemp -- agrees that there's much more there. Now everyone waits on Kemp.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Comments () | Archives (20)

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To the point! We need this guy to step up and play hard. Cool and casual is for the times in-between games. Time to grow to the potential. Go Blue!

This guy can really have an impact on the team. When the Dodgers are winning you are sure to see a highlight from Kemp and when they have been beaten you will probably see a blooper. Once this guy figures out that the low breaking ball is a pitch he should not swing at, the sky is the limit. Hopefully this year he will get back to playing like he did the first 2 full years and learn from last year.

Kemp is a complete chump who doesn't know how to play the game and isn't interested in learning. Complete garbage. His I-don't-care attitude brings the entire team down.

I'd trade him.

"Where does Matt Kemp go from his 2010 high-wire act?"

- if things "seem set up for him" according to the author via removal of those who tried instruct (criticized) him & addition those might try support (coddle) him, shall have to wait and see who will be to blame or annoint post '11.

Does appear that the ball is now in his court & if this former basketball player doesn't dribble the ballgame off his foot again like he did in 2010 then by this time 2011 brickbats might become accolades. I'll play the part an full chorus Missourians here: 'Show Me'.

If I had to venture a guess, lost angeles will be left wanting but then, I'm a big fan of Doubting Thomas.

I believe Kemp is still wet behind the ears (which is a nice way of saying he's immature/still acts like an big baby despite his approaching 27th birthday.) There is a time and a place for everything but as a Hall of Fame player said - "the field is neither the time or the place for fooling or being lackadaisical."

And I would add, in ANY era (call me seasoned.)

"His detractors bemoan wasted talent and a too-casual style of play."

- time will tell whether he 'gets it' or they 'get tired' of waiting for it. It's an old story: player (any sport) squanders his talent, looks back only too late at what he had/could have done/been & laments its/his passing a wasted opportunity. Even one as great as Mickey Mantle felt so inclined looking back the rearview mirror his career. Fans shouldn't expect to see Mantle like #'s from Kemp, but likewise shouldn't suffer side-aches watching a Mickey Mouse act out there.

In closing, reiterate what I have noted about Kemp afore: he seems to have no problem remembering to thump his own chest & point skyward after anything good 'he' does. I recall the late Vince Lombardi telling his players to, "act like you've been there before" reference declining self-showy displays on-field aft scoring.

Next step Kemp's evolution would be his declination of the "look at me" tack upon hitting a home run & crossing home plate. If he's unable or unwilling to 'act like he's been there/done that before', then he should undertake furious pounding his breast & copious sky-pointing behalf ANY/ALL his teammates whenever they succeed for the team - emphasis on 'the TEAM'. Otherwise, if Kemp and others decline to show such camaraderie the implication becomes clear... it's all about ME as an individual.

Is it Matt?

If not, expect you and your teammates to bloody thorax & dot the sky with gestures in a show of team unity.

Short of his base running and strikeouts, Matt's game is very good. He will get the advice needed to improve his base running from Davey Lopes, who better. Am I incorrect, but did Joe shut him down from stealing during the second half after his very poor success rate? And, as for his sub par batting average, this will improve as he cuts down on his strikeouts. He will either learn to be a more disciplined hitter or eventually will find himself struggling to hold on to a job. His value to this team is very high. Another suggestion may be to move him to left and bring in another accomplished player for center field. There is a lot more talent available for first base and as much as I love James Loney, his numbers are readily replaceable.

That's right we're all waiting on Kemp, as we're waiting on Martin and Loney. And on Furcal and Kuo for that matter. They're all question marks either for health or performance, Martin for both.
I'm wondering if Either will return to where he was before he hurt his pinkey and will it occur again.
That's baseball and all sports.
Now that the Giants won it all, it's time for the Dodgers to get out of their 22 year doldrums and start playing like an elite team again.

Keep waiting. Asked why he simply didn't hustle Kemp responded he didn't know. To paraphrase Vin Scully - having all the tools in the tool box doesn't make you a great carpenter. You have to know how to use them. 12 of his 28 homers were in the first 10 days and the last five days of a very dismal season. Larry Bowa is out of baseball because of this moron and Bob Shaefer luckily got a job with the Nats. Lopes has his hands full. Agent Dave Stewart, not exactly a shining example of good civics, convinced the Dodgers that his millionaire celebrity client needed a mentor. Well, at least the Dodgers will have Davey Lopes Bobble Head Night to off set his salary a little.

Rhianna= The Yoko Ono of the 21st Century

People mention replacing Bowa and Schaefer with Lopes; how about teammates? Playing alongside an Orlando Hudson (2009) vs. a Garrett Anderson (2010) can make a difference too. Not that GA was "dogging it", but he's just had that appearance his whole career as things came easier for him, and Kemp is still in his formative and impressionable years as a player.

I gotta believe Kemp acknowledges that his best chance for the stardom he appears to be on the road to is in LA or NY. He's got to know that there is no way he meets or gets to date Rihanna if he was playing for Detroit, Minnesota or even Florida. After his first full year (2007), when Kent called him out and Plaschke was demanding he be traded, Kemp came back and had a tremendous two years. So I gotta believe he bounces back. Whether he stays once he gets to his FA year is anyone's guess, but I think he ends up leaving for NY.

Sorry folks, but I gotta say that with grandpa gone along with his codger cronies, the whole team, not just Kemp will bounce back. Good enough to win?, don't know, but they'll all put up better numbers guaranteed.

A few 2010 Season Stats:

313 AB, 17 HR, .240 BA, 1 HR per every 18.4 AB's - Rod Barajas

602 AB, 28 HR, .249 BA, 1 HR per every 21.5 AB's - Matt Kemp

Will Kemp Grow Up?
Will he pay attention for a contract year?
Multi-million dollar talent with a 10 cent brain?

Formerly 'The Bison', now 'The Enigma'?

Prediction: Kemp is gone at the trading deadline if he doesn't shape up.

While I am in total agreement on most if not all of the criticisms regarding the bison, unfortunately most of them are missing the forest for the trees. Matt Kemps fundamental problem, pardon the pun, is an extremely low Baseball IQ, even lower than his seeming lack of hard nosed desire and laissez faire approach to the game. Seven years in the game, whether he came to it late in life or not, is more than enough time to recognize that a position player will never "learn", "grow", "improve", whatever adjective you desire, and become an elite player, let alone merely a good one. His numbers have decreased three years in a row and there is simply no substantive reason why they should suddenly rally because he likes Don Mattingly and that Lopes is a Stewart proxy.

It is common agreement among Baseball minds that only pitchers seemingly develop over time, particularly southpaws, but that everyday players are pretty much what you see is what you get. Matt Kemp, for all of his enormous basketball gifts and skills, which translate to baseball talent as we have seen, is alternatively challenged in regards his baseball intelligence. Matt may be a very smart guy. Most major league players have figured out the game way before they walk onto diamond. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, that does not seem to be the case for their center fielder.

Look it's very simple you can teach a guy to hit or catch a ball but u can't teach him to C-A-R-E. PERIOD!! And the only reason reason I would be hesitant to trade him is the same reason I wouldn't deal Martin or Broxton (yet). b/c YOU KNOW once they are somewhere else, they will BLOW UP (no pun intended with Broxton).

I think we all agree that this guy has all the physical tools, but his mental approach needs a lot of work. It's too bad his feelings were hurt by what Colletti, Bowa and Shaefer said, but they were right...and Dave Stewart was wrong for butting in. All that being said, I hope they (Mattingly, Lopes) don't coddle him...he's not a kid anymore. And he has to be much more disciplined at the plate. I can understand being fooled by those low breaking balls once in a while, but heck, not virtually every at-bat.

How about he goes under Rihanna's umbrella somwhere in the minors.

If all Kemp's justifiable detractors understood their own criticism of him, they would see that if he turns it off on whim, as they note, he turns it on on whim. "The whim" is his contract year. He stated it plainly at the end of the last, he stunk, he coulda played better, he needs to get and stay focused, and act all year as he did the last week. He publicly set his goals for '11 at the lofty 50-50. No shrinking dink to be seen, sez he.

Unless he's changed his mind, and forgot this is his contract year, which really is criticism dumber than he is, he's got Lopes to kick it in or kick his ass at 1st---Davey has been the grizzled veteran since the Dodgers let him go before he could be part of the ring ceremony after the Yankee beatdown of '81, and bitterly has taken no prisoners anywhere he's been since---and with his detractors on the field and in the dugout gone, and the fact he could stick it to the one up in the stands, Mr Ned, he has a lot to prove and have glorious fun in proving it, and REALLY bankrupt McCourt in the offseason if Frankie's still around, let us pray not.

With all this impetus pushing him to leap thru a hoop of fire, HOW does he fail at doing everything he KNOWS he can do?? Let's track this 50-50 year, and see if he keeps his focus in center.

Lopes will straighten this guy out.

Barring the miracle signing of Konerko or Ordonez, Kemp is our RHB. He is the only protection for Ethier in the line up. Regardless of his hitting one more HR in 10 than he did in 9 it was absolutely his worst(and only bad) year in professional baseball. I don't think he can do worse he needs to seriously adjust his approach. He looks for pitches away and swings at alot of unhitable ones. Everybody in the league knows it. Want to see him looking for middle in and drive it up the middle. He has awesome op-field power but the better mistake pitches are alway best on the inner half. If he can lay off for the first couple of months and Mattingly and the fans don't freak out when his numbers are less than thrilling the oposing staffs will be forced to come inside. If he goes in with the mentality of looking inside he will kill mistakes over the plate instead of fouling them off for strikes 1 and 2 like he did so many f'n times last year. He will do better regardless. If he can get back to .280 and hit 30hr with 30 2b's and 5 3b's we win a half dozen more games than we did last year and the rest of the line up does better. With the improved rotaqtion we are in the playoffs. I'd say 20 more hits and 20 less strikeouts would make a huge difference and that's not a remarckable difference when looking at his career as a whole.


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