Monday, May 26, 2014

Give Mattingly credit for taking a stance on Kemp

As the Dodgers get ready for a Memorial Day game against the Reds, one day after Josh Beckett's epic no-hitter, Don Mattingly has released his lineup with Carl Crawford in left, Andre Ethier in center, and Yasiel Puig in right.

And, for the fourth straight game, no Matt Kemp.

And, for the fourth straight game, Mattingly has made the right call.  Again.

Look, this is not going to be a "Matt Kemp Sucks" post where I completely bash everything about the guy.  There's a reason he's earning $21+ million this season, and that's because he's an All-Star caliber player who is capable of being as a complete a five-tool player as there is in baseball.

But, after being handed chance after chance, even Mattingly had to concede that center field might not be the thing for him anymore.  Thursday night's game in New York was the final straw.

Who knows what goes on behind closed doors, but so far at least, we have not heard anything negative from Kemp about being benched, and then being told that he'll start to work some in left field.  I can't imagine a competitor like Kemp likes hearing that he's basically not quick enough anymore to cover all the ground a center fielder requires.

If he's smart, though, then maybe deep down he knows there's some truth to what Mattingly is doing, and is trying to make the necessary adjustments to crack the lineup again.

Nonetheless, with the Dodgers taking two of three in Philadelphia this weekend with a more defensive minded approach to the lineup, it'll be more of the same as the Reds come to town.  Winning makes managers look pretty smart, so in this case, even the biggest Kemp fans can't complain about Ethier getting the nod in center again.

With that said, let's not forget that Ethier has plenty of work to do as well.  He's clearly the best center fielder on the roster right now, no doubt.  But, he absolutely has to start hitting left-handed pitchers better.  He's over 100 points lower against lefties (.182) than righties (.288), which has been an ongoing issue for him his whole career.  I'm not sure it'll ever change, but if he wants that everyday nod in center, he'll need better results than 4-for-22 against Southpaws.

I'm sure we'll soon see Kemp in the starting lineup again, but hopefully in left, not center.  Maybe that will be just the thing to kickstart his career again.  We will see.

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