Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Matt Kemp: The Bison As A Team Leader

Remember a year and a half ago, when everyone was ready to give up on Matt Kemp? Because he had what was perceived to be a surly disposition? Because he couldn't hold up on the down-and-away pitches that struck him out at a crazy rate? Because he would make baserunning gaffes and take bizarre routes to fly balls that overshadowed his speed?

How about you, Bill Plaschke, he whose opinion of Kemp blows with the winds?

Those of us who have supported the full cadre of high-potential kids on the Dodgers squad--yes, that includes the season-long disapppointment of Russell Martin, as well as the late disappointment of Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton; along with James Loney and Andre Ethier, of course)--always knew that Kemp has the potential to be a future star. Kemp's .297/.352/.490 numbers this year, an OPS+ of 120, a career high of 26 HR and 101 RBI on top of fewer strikeouts than last year, all indicate how Kemp's trajectory is still very positive.

And now, I can't help but smile as I see his leadership abilities as well. On his blog, here's how Kemp initially (2.30am on the day following the loss) described the depression of the Game 4 loss:

We got to come back on Wednesday and we gotta fight and keep on pushing. We got practice tomorrow and we got to go about our business. We still have a lot of fight left, I really believe that. I know when it's time to play a game, we'll be ready. We need a win to take it back to L.A. It hurts right now. It happens to the best of us. We're going to try to ride this thing out.

This game was just shocking. That team is so much like us, it's kind of crazy. A very similar team as far as hitting. They never give up. They keep fighting. It's crazy, same thing happened to us last year. Then it was a home run, but it's just crazy what's happened to us here.

All we can do is win three in a row. Hopefully we can go home happy, down 3-2. We get it back to L.A., I think we have a good chance. I really do.

And then, later last night:

Joe had a meeting before we went out to the field and just told us to take it one game at a time. You got to win one to win two, got to win two to win three. It's a one-game series for us, that's how we have to think. We get back home, I like our chances, I like the way we play there.

Our mood is good, man. I'm going to check out a haunted house tonight, supposed to be pretty scary. Can't sit in the room all night and just think about last night's game. Sleep in a little bit tomorrow, get some food, chill out. Same routine, nothing's going to change. Everybody has faith in us. My friends tell me to keep your head up. This is the right team to come back from 3 to 1. I'm good. I'd be way more looser if it was 2-2 going into tomorrow, because we hit Cole pretty good the first time we played him. But this is just something we have to deal with and fight through it.

Maybe Kemp didn't write these entries, maybe Josh Rawitch is ghostwriting these from his blackberry (Rawitch is rumored to have an affinity for haunted houses, so that may be the case). And one shouldn't think more highly of one player who decides to write and post his thoughts to the world, relative to another player who might be more introverted or private.

But what if this is Kemp? Can you believe that a 24-year-old has this type of poise and resilience and stiffness in the upper lip? And don't you think that everyone else on that team who might have shreds of doubt is either reading this blog, or listening to Kemp in the locker room, and following his lead?

This is the kind of maturity, inspiration, and poise that I want to see from this Dodger team. This is Matt Kemp, team leader. And I have to say, I'm impressed.

We (okay, maybe mostly me) here at SoSG have always been very partial to James Loney, with the whole Free James Loney campaign in 2007 and all. But I've become a big fan of Matt Kemp this year, and it's been solidified with these two blog posts. Thanks, Matt, for being a great Dodger. And go get 'em tonight.



Erin said...

The "way more looser" part makes me hope it's not Rawitch.

Kyle Baker said...


I think that's how the kiddos talk cool these days.

Matt Kemp said...

If this is Matt Kemp, then I'm impressed. He's an emotional guy, but if he can channel those emotions the right way then the Dodgers have a shot. This may be coming from the fact that Matt is my favorite Dodgers (evidenced by my name), but I do have some optimism for tonight's game.