Thursday, April 29, 2010
Was Matt Kemp really loafing in center field?
More on the Colletti/Kemp Affair, and Memories of Kevin Malone's takes have been both on-point and delicious.
But what started all this? In the ol' mailbag I found this, from the estimable Gabriel Schechter:
After watching the Dodgers against the Mets on Tuesday, I was appalled by Kemp's outfielding, but not as measured by putouts and errors. The appalling thing was his lack of effort. Two balls in the gap that should've been doubles went for triples because Kemp didn't run hard to retrieve them. Kemp even allowed Henry Blanco to go from first to third on a routine single. Blanco looked at Kemp and saw that he was loafing to the ball, and took an extra base on him that helped set up a key four-run rally.
So I think the issue is not whether Kemp has talent or is capable of playing well, but whether the things that aren't measured in the box score (or even in SABRmetrics) are the true measure of the man. For my money, he's loafing. I have no idea whether it's because he's sitting on his salary, because he was tired in the second game of a doubleheader the Dodgers were destined to lose, or because he didn't think the Mets were going to take advantage of it. But it was plain as day. He didn't hustle, and it costs his team several runs if not outright defeat.
I went back and looked at the three plays in question, the two triples and Blanco's first-to-third dash:
- In the bottom of the first, Jason Bay drove a hanging knuckleball over Kemp, a little toward left field. After Bay slid safely into third, Keith Hernandez said, "And Kemp, look at this! Kind of loafing after it! He loafed from the beginning, and that's the reason Bay got the triple." Hernandez was right. Kemp never did break into a full sprint to retrieve the baseball. If he had, Bay presumably pulls up at second base.
- Henry Blanco led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. One batter later, Angel Pagan singled up the middle, just a little toward right field. With the play in front of him, Blanco motored around for third base. Kemp had to collect the ball, then turn his body for the throw to third base, where the play wasn't close. Could Kemp have charged harder? Yeah, maybe. But I would rate this one 15 percent Kemp's loafing, 85 percent Blanco's hard-and-smart baserunning.
- Also in the sixth, David Wright slammed one into the gap in right-center. Kemp didn't get a good read on the ball, but once he realized where the ball was going he went after it. This ball was hit to a triples spot and Wright's a lot faster than Jason Bay. No play at third base, triple all the way.
I see three possibilities here:
One, we're imagining things.
Two, we're not imagining things but Kemp was fatigued, or nursing an injury.
Three, we're not imagining things and Kemp simply wasn't giving his best effort.
It's Ned Colletti's job to know which of these is right. I don't know that it's Colletti's job to express his opinion on the radio. Sure, maybe Kemp could use some motivation. But is Colletti the man for that job? Joe Torre's a future Hall of Fame manager who makes roughly $4 million per season to do things exactly like motivating young players who occasionally forget to run hard.
Hey, I could be completely wrong about this. Maybe Colletti has some real insights into human nature and knows exactly what he's doing. Just seems to me like a strange way to run the store.