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.