Been following this Dodgers road trip? For the sake of your sanity and the structural integrity of your TV screen, I hope not.
The club began a seven-game trip last Tuesday, three games in Washington and four in Pittsburgh. Teams that were 51-98 and 56-95 when the Dodgers left LAX. That is, the Dodgers were going off to play the two worst teams in baseball … and ought to just leave behind some smoldering wreckage when they were finished, in D.C. and Pittsburgh.
They just finished going 3-4 on that trip, playing more ineffectual baseball as they went along. It got really serious on Sunday when they blew a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth and lost 6-5 — missing a chance to clinch the National League West. And then they bottomed out on Monday (in a day game they can only hope no one other than I saw), losing 11-1. Missing another chance to clinch because of more bone-headed plays, mental lapses, poor decisions …
Wait! Bone-headed plays, mental lapses, poor decisions?
That reminds me of Matt Kemp!
Matt Kemp gets lots of love, of late, for his raw talent. He was on espn.com’s MLB home page for most of a day, over the weekend, and was the subject of a fawning profile. “Emerging superstar” comes up a lot. Someone said something about how he will be a “top-five fantasy pick” in drafts next spring. Presumably because he steals bases as well as hit for power. Well and good.
But imagine how good this guy would be if he weren’t an utter dolt.
Is there a dumber guy in baseball than Matt Kemp? Not talking real-world IQ (but maybe we could), but “dumb plays involving a guy who no longer is a kid.” Baseball IQ, that is.
And on that scale, is anyone dumber than Matt Kemp?
Search your mind, for a moment, and consider how many times you have seen Matt Kemp thrown out on the bases. Yeah. A lot. Not as often as you’ve seen Juan Pierre ground out weakly to second (that’s a number in the hundreds), but a lot. Somebody somewhere must have that stat, Matt Kemp outs-made on basepaths …. and I will bet you $5 that (subtracting caught-stealing) no one in baseball has been tagged out on the bases more often than Matt Kemp.
Matt Kemp tries to take extra bases all the time. And often doesn’t make it. He gets doubled off a base. He strays too far off the bag and gets picked off. He’s just a disaster out there. And this has to do with a really low baseball IQ.
Some Matt Kemp gaffes (including one on defense) from just the past week:
–In Washington on Thursday, bottom of the sixth, lazy fly ball to left-center. Kemp is playing center. Manny Ramirez is playing left. Repeat: Manny Ramirez is playing left.
Kemp jogs over near to where the ball will come down. Manny does the same. Neither player calls for it. The ball falls untouched for a single. The Nationals go on to score twice in the inning to erase a 6-4 Dodgers lead.
This is Matt Kemp’s fault, 100 percent. He is playing next to Manny Ramirez, one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball. (If not the worst.) Any ball Matt Kemp can reach, in left, he should take. Every time. Because Manny doesn’t do defense. Yet Kemp pulled up and, apparently, thought (if he thought at all) that Manny would catch the ball. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
At the end of the inning, Dodgers broadcast analyst/apologist Steve “Psycho” Lyons talked about how playing center field is a learning experience for Matt Kemp. This is the same Matt Kemp who is now 25
27 and has played 152 games in center field this year.
No, Psycho, there is no such thing as a learning experience for Matt Kemp. He is a gold fish in the fish bowl that is baseball; every trip around the same small world somehow is a brand-new experience for “Goldy” Kemp.
–Top seven, same game, in Washington, no outs. Kemp hits a ball to deep left that Josh Willingham tracks to the wall … and doesn’t catch. The ball hits the top of the wall, falls to Willingham’s feet, and he can’t find it. He’s looking everywhere for it, and he’s almost standing on it. It’s almost comical.
Meanwhile, Matt Kemp is running … and as he rounds second base he becomes so engrossed by Willingham’s inability to find a ball lying at his feet (Kemp is staring out to left, as he runs) … that Kemp is no longer running toward third … he is running toward a point somewhere 30-40 feet up the foul line. When Kemp finally looks around to see where he is … he is in short left field and has to make something resembling a hard left turn to get to third base. Arguably, he could have scored if he hadn’t run 350 feet while getting to third base. Just another example of his brain-dead work on the basepaths. Oh, and he was stranded at third.
–Today, in Pittsburgh. Top second, scoreless game. Matt Kemp leading off. He reaches second on the Pirates’ second error of the game. James Loney follows with a shallow pop to shortstop … which turns into a doubleplay when lookie-loo Matt Kemp decides to jog about halfway to third … and can’t get back to second in time to avoid being doubled up.
If he says alive, maybe he scores when the next batter, Mark Loretta, singles, and the Dodgers lead, and perhaps what finished as an 11-1 humiliation goes in some other direction entirely (Pittsburgh’s first five runs were unearned, by the way) and the Dodgers did the champagne in the clubhouse thing today — instead of lugging it all to San Diego for a game tomorrow.
I’ve been thinking about this for some time, while watching Matt Kemp play. And marveling at what a complete dope he is. He is a valuable player because he does so many things so easily … hit, hit for power, run. But he could do so much more if he brought, say, the brain of Torii Hunter to the game instead of the brain of Abby Normal. (”Young Frankenstein” reference there.)
I have been wondering when was the last time I saw someone with that much talent do so many stupid things, and wondering if Raul Mondesi or Pedro Guerrero could rival Matt Kemp for the sheer volume of bone-headed plays … and thinking, “No. Probably not.”