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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sons-Worshiping: A Comment On Matt Kemp

SOSG, long a 6-4-2 favorite, has a good piece about Matt Kemp's odd failure to gain acceptance as an everyday player, especially in light of his recent NL Player of the Week award.
It's been almost two years since any Dodger won Player of the Week honors, and Kemp's is well deserved. And it got me thinking about Kemp, who by virtue of being a young kid (he's 23) in a crowded and expensive outfield, has had his entire career with the Dodgers encircled by a cloud of speculation that he would be traded somewhere, anywhere.

I've felt like this wasn't a fair sentiment to be directed at Kemp alone, given his signs of his prodigious offensive and defensive potential that we've seen to date. But to be fair, while we at SoSG rallied a campaign around James Loney, we haven't yet struck up the band to play for Matt Kemp. And it almost seems like, in reading blog posts and comments, there are those who are predisposed to dislike him, despite his amazing potential.

Allow me to suggest here and now that the real issue is Ned Colletti's preponderance of what passes for depth, along with an inverted sense of what the Dodgers' depth chart should really look like. Why, just today, we discovered that Joe Torre is in the process of burying Andre Ethier behind Juan Pierre. We need stories, and the story of the Ned Colletti Dodgers is that of preventing kids from playing whenever a contractual albatross stands in the way of that playing time. Does anyone seriously believe that Blake DeWitt or a healthy Andy LaRoche* would be playing third base ahead of Nomar Garciaparra? Those of us standing incredulously outside of the three-ring circus in Chavez Ravine bang the drums labeled "play the kids" ceaselessly, yet Colletti makes the same mistakes over and over again.

Nomar is, in fact, a great set of horns on which to hang some of these problems because it was his extended absence last year that forced the Dodgers into trying out James Loney in the first place, and he serves much the same function for DeWitt and LaRoche this year. Uneven as Kemp's playing time has been, it's nothing that a good, old-fashioned grade-II quad strain couldn't correct.

But at last, we have to ask why these kinds of mistakes stutter on into the night, year after year. It seems to me there's a "Los Angeles won't tolerate a rebuilding year" mantra that's untrue in at least two dimensions, first from the standpoint that the market won't tolerate kids learning on the job, and second from the ill-considered notion that veteran players will perform better than the group of kids the Dodgers have now. That attitude stems directly from the team's risk-averse ownership, a subject I touched on recently; that is, the real problem is that the Dodgers, from ownership on down, are more concerned about looking good or being second-guessed than about actual winning.

Update: Joe Sheehan lumps the Dodgers' roster into its logical three categories, Logan White, Paul DePodesta, and Ned Colletti, and makes the "it's brighter when the sun is out" observation that that "Colletti’s players are all of the dead weight, for the roster and on the payroll".

I’ve said this before, but I don’t think I’ve ever written it: had the Dodgers sent Colletti on a six-month cruise starting November 1, 2006, they would have won the NL West in 2007. ... As his own players come to populate the roster, though, Ned Colletti seems more and more like someone promoted past his level, the Peter Bavasi Principle in action.

*How is it that the Dodgers ended up with two kids with mixed-case names at third?

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Rob, first of all thanks for the nice words. I thought about this piece for a while as it was stimulated by a backyard conversation with a neighbor that I had had, months ago. I was trying not to make it too much of a race issue; on the other hand, it was pretty clear to me that there could have been an undertone of race that was at least worthy of mention. Your point on the Colletti failing is dead on, however, great point.

What I'm really commenting on, however, is the mixed-case players issue. Should we try to get back Paul LoDuca on the team? Is this McCourt's plan for saving franchise costs by stitching smaller letters on the jerseys? Conspiracy theorists are taking note.

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