An end to the hottest start of an incredible season came rather quickly for Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp due to nagging injuries that inhibited him from bidding for the Triple Crown.
Where it stands, exactly, remains to be seen, as his primary focus should be on recovering and returning to good health, before he gives chase to an honorable award that not too many players of this generation can ever accomplish.
But, to be clear, if there’s one player who can realistically master such a rare deed, it would be Kemp — an All-Star center fielder who perked up his performance after a poor season in 2010, the year he was dating music sensation Rihanna and was pestered by paparazzi over his romantic relationship.
He’s a gifted, hard-swinging slugger, easily described as the Dodgers primary superstar. There’s no doubt Kemp must return to the lineup if the Dodgers are striving for the NL title — or better yet — a World Series title.
For the sake of his health, he should consider skipping the home run derby and rest for the All-Star break to be somewhat ready in time for the second half of the season. It would have been nice if Kemp, in his role as the team’s most important player, had not chosen to swing his bat in the home run derby, a meaningless event for the fans.
He is, however, putting his body in harms way by traveling to Kansas City to take part in the All-Star festivities. If anything, it can delay him of his Triple Crown quest, and even greater, hinder the Dodgers from playoff hopes.
For the sake of the Dodgers, the last thing they want is Kemp swinging the bats in the home run derby Monday night when he should be missing out on all the fun for the well being of his health. But if Kemp comes back healthier and hits home runs by having another offensive surge, he can very well jockey for a position to win the Triple Crown.
Logic is, with his desirable power at bat and speed on the bases, he has a legitimate chance and can especially qualify for the Triple Crown. It has been a long time since the Dodgers have seen this much excitement, glorifying a power hitter who has been absent for much of the season and been out since May 30 dealing with a hamstring injury. Kemp recently completed a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
He is expected to be activated Friday when the Dodgers resume play, a game in which he won’t only try to find his touch and lead his team to winning ways again, but also make a run for a milestone that seems impossible in today’s game.
This season has fallen so quickly for Kemp that it has had a negative impact on the Dodgers, even when going into the All-Star break a half game atop the NL West standings. As for where he left off last season, Kemp was off to a fast start and had 11 home runs with 24 RBIs in the month of April, and showed the majors that he was well deserving of MVP honors after being robbed of the award a year ago by Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, who later tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
There is realistically a large chance he becomes the National League’s first Triple Crown winner since Joe Medwick in 1937, and celebrates in triumph. It seems as if winning the Triple Crown is the focus for a well-respected franchise, even after an ugly battle between Frank and Jamie McCourt that nearly derailed the Dodgers season. Now under new management, the Dodgers have moved forward and left behind a family feud, building a foundation around Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw, Dee Gordon and Kemp – of course — with Magic Johnson, Mark Walter and Stan Kasten operating the business.
The state of Kemp’s health is unknown, including his mechanics, particularly after the home run derby. As we all know by now, participating in an event that can throw off a player’s swing mechanics and risk further injury, the home run derby has triggered even more misfortune over the years.
But it is totally fair, after finishing last season with a league-leading 126 RBIs and 39 homers, to boldly assume that Kemp has a real chance at becoming the next and first Triple Crown winner of the 21st century. There is something truly special about Kemp to separate him from other players around the league, while there are other names worth mentioning who can lead the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting averages, which include Josh Hamilton and Jose Bautista.
However, it’s quite fitting to speak highly of Kemp, and when he’s finally healthy, it would really be all right to speak nicely of him. But he’d have to step into the batter’s box with a beautiful swing and deposit home runs over the fence at Dodger Stadium, where earlier in the year he accounted for a number of homers and has monster numbers to show for it.
The last Triple Crown winner in the American League was in 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski hit .346 with 44 home runs and 121 RBIs. If you go back to the future, Ted Williams won two in 1942 and 1947. It’s easy to know and remember the first year, a year Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his Labor Day Address and a year my father was born. Years ago Mickey Mantle, the great Yankees legend, won a Triple Crown. That was 1956, to be precise. And 10 years later Frank Robinson won it.
It’s possible Kemp can move into the company of reputable legends if he can see the ball well over the plate and stay healthy. If he hopes to win, he must hit consistently next season and would need to have a good batting average, which is the toughest to keep intact as it can drop when a player has a poor game.
It’s a pretty easy choice favoring Kemp, considering that he has gone down the stretch with multiple hits. If he had 15 hits in six games that ended with a 4-for-5 performance last September, then he’s definitely Triple Crown worthy. There’s no sugarcoating it and he will revisit MVP conversations, maybe some time next season when he’s fully robust.
There’s no denying that he has a lot of promise and many years committed to the Dodgers organization when he signed a deal for $160 million, a longterm contract that keeps Kemp in Los Angeles. It’s a boatload of money for the 27-year-old outfielder who has already proven to be a marquee player, the kind of power hitter the Dodgers are fascinated with in the foreseeable future.
He’s marketable, he’s a superstar perfectly in the right town, a territory that adores celebrities, as is the case for Kemp. We may be looking at the next Triple Crown winner.
If he’s the next Triple Crown winner, he’d undoubtedly go down as one of the finest baseball players to ever walk onto a major league baseball field, and knowingly so, he would join the list of Dodger greats.
Although he’s not playing and is expected to make his return Monday night, he’s worth the talk, as anticipation of winning is commensurate with his Triple Crown status. He has swag and fire, the kind of urgency it takes to win.
It’s rare but it is possible. It would be unexpected but not surprising.
It’s Kemp, folks.
If one person can do it, it’s Kemp, folks.
Don’t Think Blue. Think Matt Kemp, folks.