I’ve almost written this post a few times this season, but it seems apt now. Matt Kemp’s 2013 was a lost season for himself and the Dodgers.
Kemp is out for the postseason because of his left ankle, which he initially hurt on July 21 on an absolutely meaningless play at the plate.
Things were going to be questionable since the end of last season, as Kemp needed surgery on his shoulder. He played sparingly in spring training and began the season with the Dodgers. Unfortunately, Kemp got off to a bad start, as he hit just .251/.305/.335 with two home runs in his first 51 games (210 plate appearances). He went on the disabled list shortly after his 51st game because of his shoulder that was still not anywhere near 100 percent.
Kemp came back on June 25 and looked like he might be getting back on track, to a certain extent. He had matched his season home run total in 10 games. But then he hurt his shoulder, again in an at-bat against Matt Cain. Kemp took a swing and grabbed his shoulder. Cain proceeded to walk him (inexplicably) because Kemp wasn’t going to be able to swing.
After 16 days, he returned in Washington and was on cycle watch, hitting a home run, double and single in his first three at-bats. He ended the day 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a walk, only to injure his ankle, as mentioned above.
Again, Kemp returned from the disabled list and showed tons of promise. From Sept. 16 through Friday, Kemp hit .314/.385/.486 with a monster home run in ‘Frisco and three doubles.
Kemp was a late scratch on Saturday with “left ankle soreness.” Sunday, he was out of the lineup again because he wasn’t going to be able to play. Little did we know he’d be out for the rest of the season.
Kemp spoke to reporters about his ankle after Sunday’s game (quotes via Ken Gurnick at Dodgers.com).
“I don’t know what to say except the season is over for me. I’ll be a cheerleader on the bench.”
He’s had plenty of experience with this in 2013, unfortunately. Here’s hoping he can keep his spirits up.
“Pretty bad sign when they pull out the crutches. To sum it up, if I keep going out there … I could break it, and I don’t want to do that. It could turn out really bad for me.”
I’m sure some idiotic Dodger fans could say this is selfish. It’s anything but. Kemp isn’t going to do anyone any good by going out there on an ankle that’s significantly less than 100 percent and risk breaking it, putting his 2014 in jeopardy. Yes, the goal is to win now, but Kemp’s ankle has been an issue since July. There’s no reason for him to risk further injury.
“I worked really hard, I was doing well and thinking I’d be OK. I was excited two or three days ago, felt real good at the plate. I got my swing back, everything needed to perform. Then they tell me I can’t perform anymore. It’s tough.”
This makes me sad. Anyone who questions Kemp’s desire can look at this quote and stop. The guy is passionate. He wants to be out there and help his team win. But if he physically can’t do it, then he can’t do it.
I said last year the Dodgers should have shut him down in September so his shoulder can heal. I said earlier this season he needed to sit until his shoulder was 100 percent (or close to it). The Dodgers did neither, but they’re not entirely to blame. And this isn’t a question of who to blame, it’s just an unfortunate situation.
Every sane Dodger fan and I had the wind knocked out of them after hearing the news last night. Kemp, as he said, got his swing back and he looked really good in the last 11 days. He was the big bat the Dodgers could use, but now he’s gone. And with Andre Ethier’s ankle also hurting, it looks like Skip Schumaker will be the Dodgers’ starting center fielder on Thursday.
If Kris Medlen starts, then it's a no-brainer for Schumaker. However, Don Mattingly should consider sticking Puig in center field and starting Scott Van Slyke against left-handers. Mike Minor, a lefty, could get the ball for the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS. If not, he'll definitely pitch in Game 2. Either that or the Dodgers should just promote Joc Pederson. I’m only half-kidding about that, but if Ethier is truly out for the NLDS (and maybe beyond), then why the hell not?
I keep trying to convince myself things are going to be OK. It isn’t going well at the moment, but I really think they will. This team is nothing if not resilient, and they still have that Hanley Ramirez guy. If Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig are hitting well, the Dodgers still have a solid three-hitter combination. Throw in Carl Crawford, who looks like he’s getting hot at the right time, and everyone’s favorite bear (Juan Uribe), and maybe it isn’t all doom-and-gloom for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers went 42-8 in a 50-game stretch. Exactly zero of those games were played by Kemp. The Dodgers don’t need to win 42 of 50, they just need to win 11 more games. That seems doable with elite pitching.
Eleven. More. Wins.
Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue