Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Irreplacable Matt Kemp

There is a certain zen of calm, being over 12 games out in the standings, here at the precipice of the July 31 trading deadline. The Dodger fan does not get alarmed to see that the high-octane Phillies have picked up another weapon in Hunter Pence (in fact, counting this as a move against the Giants, I'm in favor), nor does the Dodger fan worry to see Colby Rasmus, one of the few players out there actually mentioned among the early Hiroki Kuroda trade talk, go to the Blue Jays. And Carlos Beltran to the Giants? A guy famous for leaving the bat on his shoulder in a key post-season situation joins the second-worst offensive team in the NL. Fine.

We know Hiroki Kuroda should probably be gone, though we'd love to see him stay and know he's gotten a raw deal this year in the run support category, diluting his win-loss record beyond recognition like a five-gallon jug to a can of orange juice frozen concentrate. We think Jamey Caroll and Rafael Furcal could probably be gone, too, if anyone were interested (apparently, according to MLB Trade Rumors, the Diamondbacks are interested in Furcal. There's a slew of other players that could be dangled (in some cases, we'd have to check if the rope were strong enough to support 300+ lbs), but we know only the very desperate would fish in those waters.

There's a healthy debate about Andre Ethier, he of the awesome first halfs for the last two years, but acting like a slumpasaurus after the All-Star break both times. I like Ethier, I'd love to see him stay and think he could put together a full season of solid play for the Dodgers; but even I admit that there are two other huge, huge players on the Dodgers who can't be touched, who need to be addressed soon if we want to keep them on the squad, and Ethier might be the odd man out (especially given the organization's lack of liquidity).

But Ramona Shelburne of ESPN had to open up the can of whup-ass early on one of those two pillars of the Dodgers' lineup, Matt Kemp, in an ominous article Friday. It doesn't say that Kemp is anywhere near the zip code of trading deadline conversations, which is a relief. But it does indicate that the time is fast approaching to figure out how the Dodgers are going to retain the best offensive power on the squad:

LOS ANGELES -- Five months ago, Ned Colletti wasn't sure. No one was.

Matt Kemp was coming off a tangled, tortuous season that raised concerns for everyone in baseball about his long-term future.

Had Kemp peaked in his breakthrough 2009 season? Were his failings in 2010 one-year anomalies, or the seeds of much larger issues? Could Davey Lopes and Don Mattingly be enough to turn him around? And if they didn't, were the Dodgers better off trading him?

When Kemp showed up in spring training lighter and leaner, losing both the excess weight and the surly attitude that slowed him down in 2010, Colletti pronounced himself cautiously optimistic his young star could turn his career around.

All Kemp has done since then is play the best baseball of his career.

He has been great, both on the field and in the clubhouse. A leader, even.

For a franchise and fan base that's been pelted as hard as the Dodgers have this season, Kemp and budding star Clayton Kershaw have become the reasons to get up in the morning or buy season tickets for next year.

"Matt is becoming one of the better players in the game," Colletti said during a recent interview in his Dodger Stadium offices. "He's always been a five-tool player, he was just short on experience.

"Now, with that experience, he's become an excellent player who can help you in the field, on the bases, at the plate. He can probably even help you in the clubhouse."

Losing Kemp would be catastrophic; it might even send a couple, if not all, of us Sons over the edge. I'm sure most other Dodger fans feel the same.

Hopefully, we can get over this ownership debacle some time in the offseason. And Mark Cuban's first step is to secure Matt Kemp as a Dodger for a long, long time.

photo: Kyle Terada / US Presswire

2 comments:

Dusty Baker said...

The big question is, will Josh still support the Gnats getting to the World Series?

Josh S. said...

No.

Cc: Paul