Before Clayton Kershaw's scoreless inning streak was snapped at 41, the news of the day for the Dodgers on Thursday was the return of Carl Crawford. He was activated off the 15-day DL, and Clint Robinson was DFA'd to make room.
Don Mattingly has gone on record as stating that Crawford will strictly be a bench player for now, as he will leave Matt Kemp in left field. The Dodgers' better play of late is the prime reason.
And to that, I say this: Carl, don't get too comfortable on the bench. I see some starts in your near future my friend.
There's a couple of reasons for this. The first, and biggest, has to do with Kemp. While he did hit .317 in June, he's down to .242 this month and .271 overall. His slugging % is a mere .435. He has five stolen bases and has been nailed four times. So not only is he pretty much a singles hitter at this point, it's not like he's going to run wild on the bases and make things happen.
Then there's his defense in left. Right now his Defensive WAR is -2.4, by far the worst on the Dodgers to Hanley Ramirez and his -1.1. It should be noted that he's still adjusting to left, so some mistakes are almost bound to happen. However, the reason he was moved there in the first place was because he was so bad in center, Mattingly had no choice but to make a switch. So before people complain that it's unfair to critique Kemp so harshly in left, just know that he was a disaster in center before that.
The second reason is strictly a money thing. Crawford's contract runs through 2017, and he still is owed over $80 million. Unless the Dodgers have dreams of a team like themselves coming in and swooping a big chunk of that contract away, he's not going anywhere. We need to get used to that.
Do you really think someone who's getting paid as much as Crawford will just sit by and settle for pinch-hitting the rest of the year? Especially since he's backing up a guy in Kemp who is shell of his former self? I don't think so.
While I appreciate Mattingly's desire to keep a consistent lineup, I don't think it's an issue at all to split Kemp and Crawford in left. The same can go for Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke in center. Kemp and Ethier have been given plenty of playing time of late, and neither one of them has set the world on fire. I'm not saying they've been bad - that's not the case at all. But their days of All-Star caliber play are far behind.
If I'm Crawford, I'm carefully biding my time until I get back in the starting lineup. Kemp and his slow bat can't possibly hog all the time in left field the rest of the season. Crawford's time will come. Just wait and see.