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

December 2, 2010 |  7:09 am

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

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