Do You Believe in Happy Endings?

Notice the resemblance? I think they look alike…  It’s the color of their eyes and their smiles! But, I digress!

Once upon a time….there was a young boy who played basketball and baseball in high school, but seemed to be destined to play in the NBA as he was a standout at basketball, winning two state championships in a row.  He was raised by his mother and grandmother who took good care of him and provided him everything that a kid could need.

He was no slouch at baseball either, and he was drafted in 2003 in the 6th round of the major league draft.  After hitting just 1 home run in in inaugural minor league season , he hit 18 HR his second season and followed that up with 27 in his third and became an All-Star and TOP Prospect.

In 2005, he was the Dodgers 28th ranked prospect, but in 2006, he jumped all the way to #8 and made it to the majors the same year. By the end of 2007, Matt Kemp was up to stay.  Like many athletes with amazing talent, Matt Kemp knew he was good…. he was told that often… and in 2009, he won the Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove. He was already running with Hollywood types and the rich and famous of LA, who had him on speed-dial.

He started dating Rihanna and all the fame and accolades went to his head.  In 2010, the Dodgers GM, Ned Colletti called him out in the media for poor base-running and his attitude.  Kemp took it to heart and in 2011 he came to spring training early and announced he was going to steal 40 bases.  Contrast this with current Dodger players who speak of team goals, such as winning the World Series.  Matt Kemp was fixated upon himself.

He could have any woman he wanted, he was talented, he was famous and he got the 40 steals and nearly got 40 home runs as well as he was robbed of the MVP by a lying, cheating ‘juicer’ in Milwaukee whose stats were arguably inferior.  Matt Kemp won the BA Player of the Year, Gold Glove,  Hank Aaron Award and was voted by his teammates the Roy Campanella Award.  After the season, Colletti awarded him a 8-year $160 million dollar deal.

Bruce Bochy said this about Matt when he batted him third in the All-Star Game:

“He’s a guy with speed, power, a guy that can beat you with a base hit or a long ball. He’s what you call a complete player – tremendous defender, but more so in the 3-hole, he can do so many things for you. He’s so dangerous.”

2012 was an injury-riddled year and after losing the MVP Award in 2011, Kemp was moody, moped and was difficult in the clubhouse.  The injuries and attitude continued into 2013 and it was often rumored that he might be traded which led to even more of a poor attitude.  He ended the season with surgery on his ankle.

Up until then, everything Matt Kemp had touched turned to gold.  There were two occasions in his past, where he got into legal trouble, but in both cases the charges went away quickly.  He may have thought he was “bulletproof” but his health and struggles on the field were real. He came back somewhat in 2014 and had a decent year.  After the 2014 season Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi were hired and on December 11th, Kemp was sent to San Diego for Joe Wieland, Zach Eflin and Yasmani Grandal.

The trade was not finalized until December 18 due to the Padres expressing some concerns over a physical which revealed Kemp had severe arthritis in both hips. The Padres attempted to renegotiate the deal after the physical but the Dodgers refused, and the deal was consummated as originally conceived.

Kemp was disengaged during his time in San Diego and they unceremoniously traded him to the Atlanta Braves.  They just wanted him gone and were tired of his act.  It was more of the same in Atlanta (same in LA too).  He was moody and not an asset in the clubhouse.  Just a few weeks ago, the Dodgers acquired him back… not because they wanted him, but because it helped the team’s financial situation.   It was widely rumored the the Dodgers would cut him, much like the Braves cut Adrian Gonzalez… except they didn’t! AND THEY WON’T… at least until he demonstrates that he can or can’t play LF.

Then a funny thing happened:  Matt Kemp talked to Andrew Friedman and convinced him to give him another shot.  Friedman, Zaidi and Doc Roberts all know Kemp’s reputation, but I think they all are willing to give him a chance.  Next, he showed up at Dodger Stadium to work out with his teammates in great condition.  His arthritic hips will never allow him to be The Bison again… but he doesn’t have to. His physical condition will mandate that he become a student of the game:  studying film, working with the coaches and refining his eye and swing.

There will have to be changes and he doesn’t have to play 162 games.  In fact, he may play 5 or 6 innings on days he starts (if he starts).  His caddies (Toles and Hernandez) will take over in later innings (if he starts). He has been humbled… even humiliated, and in an unbelievable turn of events, he is back with his first love:  the team that drafted him.  He is a Dodger at heart!

This won’t be easy.  His hips could short-circuit this entire process.  This is written by a guy who was once Matt Kemps’ size whose amateur career in baseball and basketball became very difficult because of arthritic hips and shoulders in his mid-30’s.  I had nowhere the talent of Matt Kemp, but I can relate to the arthritis.  At 55, I had to get one hip replaced and at 64 my other hip and knees get by on CBD Oil (great stuff).

Matt Kemp is back and looking for redemption. Once you realize you are not invincible and have to work at the mental aspect of the game, anything is possible.  It’s possible his attitude hasn’t changed.  It’s possible he has lost it.  It’s possible his body won’t hold up, but one thing you should never do is underestimate the power of the human spirit! Several of his teammates are welcoming him back, including some of the players who told Roberts they wanted Adrian Gonzalez gone in last years’ playoffs.  I won’t mention any names, but their initials are Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Clayton Kershaw (or so I have been told).  Don’t ask and I won’t tell.

Storybook endings rarely happen, but this one would be a dandy.

Does Matt Kemp have one more Silver Slugger left? I’ll give you a “definite maybe!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Kemp’s father, Carl and Tommy.

 

This article has 30 Comments

      1. Exactly-odo, But it was Mark that brought me clean water! I was just going to ask you to bring us that song again. A less political John Prine these days. Catchy tune!

  1. AC had a great comment on the last thread, pretty black and white. Borass, (Good one Mark) is crying in his beer when the bottom line is that this years “top” free agents all have baggage. Borass can put lipstick on the pig all he wants, but there is no collusion, only subpar free agents not named Harper, Machado, etc. It seems to me like alot of teams are realizing this winter that signing one of these guys are not going to get them in the play-offs, so they are backing off and waiting for their farm system to fire up. I love the new thinking, reminds me of back in the 70’s when the Dodgers would groom guys in Triple A and you would see them in spring training trying to find a roster spot with the big club.

    1. Those 70’s Dodgers teams added free agents (Reggie Smith, Burt Hooton, Jerry Reuss) and added players by trade (Jimmy Wynn, Mike Marshall, Dusty Baker) to the guys from the system. That’s always been the formula for success in the free agent era. The question – will the Braintrust act accordingly? You can’t count on the Taylors and Turners to turn sow’s ears into silk purses.

      1. The 70’s Dodgers teams did not have Carl Crawfish and A-Gon as boat anchors which also caused FAZ to have to try and sign injury-prone players on the cheap. Most of that is gone and you will see it is different moving forward. They had to get out of the luxury tax this year. After 2019 Kemp is done, but let’s look at the players you mentioned:

        Reggie Smith was acquired by trade (not Free Agency) in 1976 and had 3 good years out of 6. OK, but not great.

        Burt Hooten was acquired by trade (not Free Agency) in 1975 and had a 10 year run with the Dodgers. Great trade.

        Jerry Reuss was acquired by trade (not Free Agency) in 1979. He was traded for Rick Rhoden who was pretty close in results to what Reuss was. Push!

        Jimmy Wynn was acquired in a trade for Claude Osteen and had 1 good year and 1 bad year – Push!

        Mike Marshall (P) was traded for Willie Davis who had a great year, and Marshall had 1 great year, 1 good year and one so-so year as a Dodger. Mehhhh

        Dusty Baker was an outstanding trade. He was traded for Lee Lacy, Tom Paciorek, Jerry Royster and Jim Wynn. Advantage Dodgers.

        None of the players mentioned were signed as Free Agents.

        1. Reggie Smith was a great trade. He was the best hitter of those teams. He had some injuries that derailed him. I can’t even remember who they gave up for Reggie.

          1. He was traded for Freddie Tisdale, Bob Detherage and Joe Ferguson.

            Ferguson later came back to the Dodgers.

            As a Dodger, Reggie hit 97 HR. He had a .297 BA and .387 OB% with a .915 OPS. Injuries were his undoing as he averaged 290 AB’s a year during his tenure with the team. Ferguson hit 91 HR as a Dodger. Here are Reggie’s HR, year-by-year with LA:
            1976 – 10
            1977 – 32
            1978 – 29
            1979 – 10
            1980 – 15
            1981 – 1

  2. I was loitering around outside the phone booth back in 09, I think? When the Dodgers team bus rolled out of the stadium grounds with a few of the players on it. As they passed our group of Dodger fans assembled beyond the gate, Kemp was up in the window waving and showing his support. Matt’s an emotional guy, but as we’ve seen, so is Doc. I think Kemp will adjust to the new format just fine. I also remember when Matt took of his cleats and signed them for the kid that was terminally ill, wearing Dodger gear in SF. I hope he sticks around and is successful enough that we see our beloved, one time prospect return to the place it all began. I trust the band of people leading this culture club of ballplayers. Karma, Karma Chameleon – I always think of Friedman as Indiana Jones, hat and whip included.

  3. I may start to believe you guys that Kemp may have a year or two left. He is home with the Dodgers. I think Friedman has been very honest with players. So has Doc. The one thing I have always liked about Doc is his willingness to give players a chance. Some have played themselves off the team and other have played themselves into the starting lineup.

    I love to hear that Clayton, JT, and Jansen are the leaders. One for the starting pitchers, one for the relief pitchers, and one for the regulars. Jansen has been a strong supporter of Baez. Baez needs to make a few changes, but could be very good. The players certainly feel comfortable talking to management. That is great.

    I do not remember which game it was last year when Doc left Baez in the game after he had given up the lead on a HR off his fastball. He left him in and Baez pitched about 25 pitches that inning. Grandal kept calling fastballs and the opposition was hammering Baez. I think Doc was sending a message to Baez that maybe you better learn another pitch. Good hitters will hit your fastball if that is all you have.

    I really do hope they sign Utley for one more year. He probably will not be a lot of help on the field, but he is well liked. Nothing would make me happier to see him go out with a WS ring. I have changed my mind about Utley and the value he has for the Dodgers.

  4. There are a few Dodgers coming to spring training that I would love to see a stroybook ending happen for them, players like Toles, Edward Paredes, Yimi Garcia, and one or two more but not Matt Kemp, he’s done nothing to deserve that happy ending, at least not with the Dodgers.

  5. Utley is actually the one guy who can show the guys what a WS ring looks like and the way you need to play to wear one.
    Him and Doc.

  6. IMO, this week has been the best in LADT that I can remember… When it gets a lil testy, AC seems to come in at the right time to calm the waters… His remembering of his transistor radio days under the pillow was a hilite… I began a lil earlier listening to Steve Bilko tearing up the PCL… What a great day it was when the Blue arrived in L.A. Only guy missing for me was Campy… He was my idol as a young catcher myself…
    I’m glad the dust has settled and what we see is what we get and that young and contending team again… I’m a lil worried about time for the OF situation to work itself out… Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have minded a Yelich or Stanton roaming the OF at the Ravine… But some of us knew knew that would never happen..
    Two things disturbed me and that was ” maybe Puig is the best natural athlete in baseball”!!! Yikes… Then there is Kenley Jensen saying maybe they MLBPA needs to strike… Do these folks know what they have???
    A couple of weeks and P & C report…Sweet!!!

    1. I actually said that “Yasiel Puig may have the most talent of anyone in baseball.”

      Underperforming notwithstanding.

      Mike Trout uses every ounce of his talent and I believe it is his brain that controls that.

      The brain is the issue with Yasiel, but can you imagine what he could do if he quit being a knucklehead?

      I still say he is a cross between Roberto Clemente and Bo Jackson. However, the results are closer to Bo than Roberto!

      Yasiel could do some amazing stuff this year. I am starting to believe.

      Nobody gets testy here and if they do, we just beat the hell out of them! The beatings will continue until the morale improves. 😉

  7. How different would Kemp be if he were 10 years younger? If he had the same player development program as Cody Bellinger? If he FAZ, Guggenheim, Doc, Kapler? Instead of the tumultuous McCourt/Colletti/Torre/Mattingly years? If he had Kershaw, Hill, and Utley for mentors instead of Jeff Kent and JD Drew? The best organizational structures with positive, intelligent, and open communication and goals produce the best employees and the best results.

    1. All I know is I still remember the sight of him rounding second in a AAA game. Such power and speed. My other main memory is a video of his workout. Insanity. I think when he became unable to exercise in that way, he lost a lot of the explosiveness that defined his game. If he can at least return to that graceful opposite field power stroke, he could theoretically be useful as a bench bat and occasional starter/DH. I still believe the most likely outcome is a release or salary swap.

      1. They were smoking weed in the stands at the phone booth the night I was there…security was stumped! So was I…stuff smelled tasty though.

  8. some chatter about yu at 4/70
    to me this would be the least likeliest of outcomes
    1. we win it all and let him walk
    2. we win it all and bring him back
    3. we lose and let him walk
    4. we lose and bring him back
    i’ll believe it when i see it. he does owe us one though . . . if it’s arbitrage i’m all for it

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