Los Angeles Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp is once again on the disabled list for the third time this season and may not return to the lineup until September. With the emergence of rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers have surged to the top of the NL West by compiling a 24-7 record since July 1st, and now hold a 4 1/2 game lead over Arizona. Kemp, the $160 million dollar man, was once poised to be the everlasting light at Chavez Ravine, but now the glimmering ray of hope only appears sporadically, ready to illuminate L.A., and then disappears into the darkness. What happened to you, Matt Kemp?
To be fair, injuries are part of the game and critics must remember a few important facts. Kemp missed only 11 games from 2008-2011 in which his home run total increased with each respective season (18, 26, 28, 39). However, after being robbed of the 2011 MVP Award by Milwaukee’s now disgraced outfielder Ryan Braun, the Dodger slugger appeared in only 106 games in 2012 (remember this?) and has played in 62 games this season (.263/5 HR/27 RBI). The biggest moment of 2013 for Matt Kemp has been a heartwarming gesture to a cancer-stricken fan in San Francisco.
Kemp has played his whole career in Los Angeles, and it is a city that watches your every move. The question is: Once the King reaches his throne, is he primetime enough to hold his seat? Matt Kemp is watching the throne being taken away. We know that he is PTPer, but the unfortunate reality is that there are more people in Hollywood watching “The Royal Baby” right now than watching the injured Dodger outfielder. Since the arrivals of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in Anaheim, the pressure has been on Kemp to claim his throne as the “Big Swingin’ Bat” of Los Angeles. Can he return to MVP form and take the seat?
The contract: 8 years and $160 million. Keep in mind that the 28-year-old Kemp is clearly not the Dodgers star player any longer. That honor belongs to 25-year-old SP Clayton Kershaw who is producing Koufax-like numbers (1.87 E.R.A; 8.6 K/9) and expected to sign the largest contract in baseball history, worth possibly as much as $300 million. 22-year-old rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig has shocked the world of baseball since his call-up on June 3rd by hitting .373 in 55 games.
We are all rooting for Mr. Kemp, no doubt, (right, Giants fans?) however with the enormous contract, the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw and the emergence of “Puig Mania”, is it possible that the Dodgers could deal Kemp in the offseason? Does Hollywood still love Matt Kemp? How about this: the Dodgers trade Kemp to the American League, possibly to Texas, and set themselves up for the Puig era. Kemp grew up just north of Texas in Midwest City, Oklahoma, and would be a great fit for the Rangers as another powerful right-handed bat. Outfielder Nelson Cruz has been suspended for the remainder of 2013 due to his role in the biogenesis steroid scandal, and who knows what his future in Texas will be.
The superstars in Los Angeles are Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig. Whether or not Matt Kemp can live up to the hype remains to be seen, but he certainly knows what it takes. Perhaps a bigger question is whether Kemp’s commitment can satisfy Dodger fans. Angelenos want to see a fire within their star players which Clayton Kershaw displays every time he walks out on the mound. Kemp may be a star but he is not THE star anymore. What’s it going to be, Matt Kemp? Will you come back and lead your squad to a World Series run or will you be watching the throne from the bench?