What's to be done with Matt Kemp?

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
2:14
PM ET
It must be fun to write about the Dodgers this season. Here's Bill Plaschke quoting Matt Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart:
    "I'm almost to the point — and maybe so are the Dodgers — where I'm thinking that this just isn't going to work," Stewart said. "The Dodgers have gaps on this team, and maybe they could fill them by trading Matt. It could be good for the team, and good for the player."

Stewart emphasized he would never formally ask for a trade, but he wonders if his client can be successful while fighting off what he claims are unfair barbs from within the organization, particularly veteran coaches Bob Schaefer and Larry Bowa, both of whom have been critical of the fundamental deficiencies in the budding star.

"It's very, very difficult to play under the circumstances that Kemp is playing under," Stewart said.

"The thing we have to look at is, is there going to be a fit? Is he going to be able to get past the public scrutiny? Matt has to wonder, 'If these guys don't like me, how can I play for them?'"

--snip--

"Everything was fine until suddenly Schaefer and Bowa start getting on him publicly," said Stewart, a former Dodgers pitcher. "On those great Dodger teams of the past, you would never read about a player being trashed like Matt's been trashed."

Stewart is referring to the midseason incident in which Schaefer scolded Kemp for not backing up second base on a stolen-base attempt. Kemp replied with enough harsh words that led to his being benched for three days. Though Schaefer never criticized Kemp publicly, Stewart felt the encounter and punishment unnecessarily embarrassed his player.

Stewart's anger with Bowa stems from a recent Times story in which Bowa chided Kemp for not always playing hard, a charge with which Kemp actually agreed at the time.

"When Larry Bowa played, he would never accept a coach talking about him in the newspaper like that, but they want to Matt to accept it?" Stewart said.I don't know what Larry Bowa would have "accepted" in the 1970s. I'm not sure that Dave Stewart knows, either.

Are Kemp's coaches critical because Kemp isn't playing well this season?

Or is Kemp not playing well this season because his coaches are critical.

That probably depends on your perspective.

I'm not nearly smart enough to get inside Matt Kemp's head. Purely in terms of performance, he's not the player we expected. Here are his OPS+ for the past four seasons: 127, 110, 125, 110. He's striking out (slightly) more often than ever before. His steals are down, his caught stealings up. According to two reputable defensive metrics -- UZR and Defensive Runs Saved -- Kemp's play in center field is way off this season.

Essentially, he seems to be regressing. Maybe he can't stop thinking about Rihanna. Maybe he put on 25 pounds of muscle last winter, which is slowing him down on the bases and in center field. Maybe he's decided he's a power hitter, which would explain the strikeouts and the batting average.

I don't have any idea, really. But you can understand the coaches' frustration with Kemp just a little, can't you? Larry Bowa and Bob Schaefer have been around the game forever, and they haven't seen many players with Matt Kemp's raw talents. And it must be killing them to think he's wasting it.

Which doesn't mean they're helping. Maybe Kemp would benefit from an attitude adjustment, but maybe that process would be facilitated by a coaching adjustment.

Which brings to mind a question that nobody seems to have asked ... What's Joe Torre been up to? In the spring, the general manager ripped Kemp. In the summer, the coaches ripped Kemp. Is Torre waiting for the fall?

The fall doesn't begin until the 23rd of September.

Of course, that's probably too late for the Dodgers, who have already fallen too far. Maybe the solution here is to keep Kemp and find a new coaching staff. Because the old staff doesn't seem to have accomplished much this summer.

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