Posted on: November 14, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 4:28 pm
Turns out, bankruptcy was a minor little inconvenience on the road to forever between the Dodgers and Matt Kemp: The two have agreed to an eight-year, $160 million contract extension pending the outfielder passing a physical examination, CBSSports.com has confirmed.
Talk about a serious commitment. Only six men in baseball history had reached the $160-million mark: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.
For those with a sense of humor ... or a sense of irony ... Kemp's deal is for the same numbers -- years and dollars -- that Ramirez received from Boston before the 2001 season.
In becoming the face of the Dodgers for years to come and en route to serious MVP consideration, Kemp first had to blow past comeback player of the year.
It was barely more than a year ago when Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti delivered harsh criticism of Kemp's defense and focus.
But after the disappointment of 2010 came a sensational 2011 in which Kemp batted .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI. He led the league in homers, RBIs, runs (115) and total bases (353), and he swiped 40 bases.
And in one more bit of irony, the man who now will remain in Hollywood will stay in part because he went a little less Hollywood last summer. Those close to Kemp do not think it is a coincidence that he took his game to a different level after his high-profile romance with Rihanna blew up.
"I think he has less distractions in his life -- from my perspective," third baseman Casey Blake, one of Kemp's closest friends on the 2011 team, told me late last summer. "This game, some guys can do it with a million things going on. But this game is tough enough by itself.
"It's a hard game, and it seems like you're always dealing with a lot of thoughts of failure. The more you can lessen those thoughts, the better. The fact that he doesn't have some of those distractions anymore. ..."
Blake told me he thought Kemp had made a conscious effort to simplify things in his life, and it worked.
"I think he was embarrassed by a lot of things," Blake said, referring to Kemp's 2010 season in which he batted just .249 with a .310 on-base percentage, 28 homers and 89 RBIs. "And he made up his mind he was going to get serious about it."
The off-field stuff, the Rihanna romance, "I think they all directly related," Blake said.
Blake could tell Kemp was more focused in 2011 from the first day of spring training.
"He showed it in his attitude and in his play," Blake said. "How he went about it, from day one.
"He's respecting the game a lot more this year. He has an understanding that to be a complete player, you can't take a day off -- whether it's on the bases, on defense, anywhere."
Today, that respect is coming right back at Kemp to the tune of $160 million ... and a trust the Dodgers are placing in him that maybe you can't even hang a price tag on.
Posted on: June 15, 2011 8:01 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 12:02 am
As I periodically do, a reminder: The term "Love Letters" is simply a tribute to a column in one of the newspapers I read as a young boy in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press. So if you're looking for something steamier, well, go to your local Congressman's office or something. ...
FROM: Karl T.
And it can be used for sooo many occasions.
FROM: Jeff A.
I'm shocked that you didn't mention Jose Reyes. He may be the best player in baseball at this time. Give the man his props. He is doing more than any of the guys you mentioned. Those guys don't glove as well as he does. The man has what, 33 multiple hit games. Other ball players are awed by him.
FROM: Rich B.
As a Red Sox fan, I was torn when they made the Adrian Gonzalez trade. I mean, I knew we were getting a great power hitter, but I had my reservations about the trade for two reasons: 1. I didn't want to give up Casey Kelly, and, 2. I didn't like that the Sox were blocking Lars Anderson's path to the majors. So ... now I'm not sure if I was right for the wrong reasons, or what!
Listen, Anthony Rizzo is going to be a good player. But few are ever going to be Adrian Gonzalez. So stop beating yourself up and put your mind to use on the next big dilemma of our time: Five Guys Burgers and Fries or In-N-Out?
Should we really be all that surprised about the Indians collapse? Let's be honest, they were a nice feel-good story to start the year, but now their lack of talent is finally catching up. There is no one in the rotation that is any more than a 3 starter, Shin-Soo Choo isn't hitting, Travis Hafner is hurt, and outside of Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana, I don't see much else talent-wise. The Indians have been overachieving all season.
But here's the thing: Choo should be hitting far better, and Carmona at times looks like a top-of-the-rotation starter. That said, the overachieving looks like ancient history.
You're right, the guy is unbelievable. He's hitting .372 in June alone at Triple-A Omaha. But he's a first baseman and Hosmer is at first. The Royals have too many good young players, and when was the last time you heard that?
I don't think so, not being that he's already 61. He's still got fire, though: I heard a rumor that he was recently suspended for three games for bumping an umpire during an argument.
FROM: Mike B.
I'm sure I'm not the only one to point this out to you, but just in case -- you do know that greater Bakersfield has a population of over 600,000 people, don't you? The only thing bush league about Bakersfield is Sam Lynn Ballpark. And the only thing preventing a new ball park is that little thing called the economy. To be honest, I haven't seen a tumbleweed around here for years.
I'll tell you this: There's nothing bush league about the Moo Creamery. That place can bring it. The Toasted Almond ice cream is incredible.
FROM: Barry W.
Also attending that dinner was Steve Carlton, and I just remember thinking what a huge difference there was between the two men not only in attitude but just the ability to be themselves around other people. I can tell you that it is a story I tell over and over, and it is one of my nicer memories. Our time here is short and the majority of us do not leave much behind, but a form of immortality can be living forever in someone else's stories and memories. Hopefully I am able to do justice to his memory each and every time I do tell that story. I can tell you that each and every time I tell the story, I do so with a genuine smile on my face. Thanks for the column.
That is a fabulous story. And thanks for telling it now.
FROM: Jay D.
I remember meeting Mr. Killebrew as a youngster before a Cleveland Indians' game, and even though I wore the hat of the opposing team, he was SO nice, SO gracious! I have tried to keep the exactly same smile and the exact same attitude toward kids that he did. He may have been small, but, the sporting world lost a true GIANT.
"Listed at 6-feet, 190 pounds, until cancer slipped a final fastball by him Tuesday. ..." Really? A man loses his life to cancer, and you're making baseball metaphors? I typically enjoy your columns but this line is unprofessional, disrespectful and a literary stretch I'd more likely expect to find in a high school publication.
The man spent his entire life playing baseball, involved in baseball, and is a Hall of Famer. What should I be doing, making roller derby metaphors?
FROM: Bill H.
Great piece on one of my first baseball heroes. I watched him play for the old Senators and blossom into a tremendous slugger. Even when the Nats became the Twins and I couldn't stand them, I still rooted for Killebrew and followed his career closely. This is a genuinely sad day for baseball, one many modern fans may not understand.
Our responsibility is to help make them understand, my friend. Thanks.
Likes: Praise be for day baseball, the MLB Extra Innings television package and XM/Sirius radio broadcasting all those days. Because when I landed flat on my back, ill, Wednesday, with a fairly significant fever for the first frickin' time in 11 years, it sure was nice to have baseball on the telly. ... Pittsburgh -- the Pirates! -- at .500 on Wednesday, the latest point in the season they have not had a losing record since 1999. ... Midnight in Paris, the new Woody Allen movie. Not great, but entertaining. ... The slice of "royal wedding cake" I had in Kansas City last week in the hotel restaurant. There was some celebration going on downtown honoring the late Princess Diana and, in relation to that, the pastry chef at the hotel "recreated" the actual cake served at Diana and Charles' wedding back in 1984. It was sort of like carrot cake -- had that consistency -- only it was cinnamon-y. And the frosting was thick as bathtub caulk. It was delicious -- and the most expensive darned piece of cake I think I've eaten in my life ($8.75 a slice!).
Dislikes: Clarence Clemons, stroke victim. Many prayers for Bruce Springsteen's Big Man, who is fighting the battle of his life. Here's to the man who brought so much joy, soul and music to so many others.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"When the change was made uptown
-- Bruce Springsteen, Tenth Ave. Freeze-Out
Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:48 pm
Some quick mid-week notes:
-- Brandon Belt, who will be back and will be productive one day, made Wednesday's decision easy on the Giants by hitting just .192 with a .300 on-base percentage and .269 slugging percentage. It was a given since opening day that somebody would be the odd Giant out when Cody Ross (calf) was healthy. Belt's ongoing struggles combined with a weak defense with Aubrey Huff in right and Pat Burrell in left made it a no-brainer. The lesson in Belt's demotion to Triple-A Fresno (on his 22nd birthday, no less!): It's just not that easy. Not a new lesson, just one that needs reiterating from time to time. When Belt hit .282 with three homers and 13 RBI in 71 spring at-bats, Giants fans had visions of Buster Posey II. But Posey, who punched the accelerator as soon as he arrived last May, was the rare exception. Belt leaves with just one homer in 17 games (60 plate appearances).
-- And they don't even get paid overtime: Kansas City has gone extra innings in five of its first 16 games. At that pace, the Royals would play 48 extra-inning games this season. The major-league record is 31, held by the 1943 Boston Red Sox.
-- Into Wednesday's series finale in Oakland, the powerful Red Sox remained historically impotent: 0-7 on the road, their worst-ever road beginning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, surpassing 0-6 in 1927. It's not historically bad by major-league standards, however: The Nationals started 0-8 away from home just two seasons ago.
-- The Padres were confident that they had a better-balanced lineup even without Adrian Gonzalez's bat, but they were shut out in four of their first 16 games. At that pace, San Diego will be blanked 41 times this season. Yes, that would be a record. The current NL mark for being shut out in a season is 33, held by the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals. The AL mark is 30, owned by the 1906 Washington Senators.
-- Yes, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp is off to a sensational start, leading the NL with a .438 batting average and ranking second with a .514 on-base percentage. But before declaring that he's turned it around from a disappointing 2010, let's let things play out another couple of months. Kemp ALWAYS plays well in April: Coming into this season, his career April numbers were a .312 batting average, .362 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage -- his highest numbers of any single month all season.
-- That said, my favorite Kemp moment so far this season occurred in the second game against the Giants. At first base and running on the pitch, Kemp read a ground ball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval perfectly. Not hesitating, he blew around second base as Sandoval was throwing to first and easily made it to third. It was a great play that involved athleticism, talent, instincts and smarts. When Kemp is on like that, he's as electric as anuybody.
Likes: The Farrelly brothers are moving along with plans to bring The Three Stooges to the silver screen, bringing in Sean Hayes of Will & Grace to play Larry. Better news would have been coaxing Sean Penn to change his mind on Moe, but, alas, no such luck. Curly is Will Sasso of MADtv. But with filming supposedly set to begin in Atlanta soon, still no Moe. Speculation: Hank Azaria, who voices in The Simpsons.
Dislikes: Rented Wild Hogs the other night. A couple of pretty funny moments but, overall, not so good. Strong cast, though: William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei, John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"As I walk on
-- Nick Lowe, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
Posted on: April 8, 2011 9:15 pm
Nevertheless, they were sad, disappointed and stunned -- stunned at Friday's news, and surprised that whatever system of checks and balances Manny uses, that he would put himself in a position to get zapped again.
"That's bad," said shortstop Rafael Furcal, a teammate of Manny's from 2008-2010. "Oh my God.
"I promise you, he does not want to retire. I don't know what happened.
"For me, it's sad."
Ramirez abruptly retired Friday, just five games into Tampa Bay's season, rather than face the penalty for a second drug bust: A 100-game suspension.
Throughout the game, people were adjusting their views of what he accomplished during his 19-year career, which now includes becoming the first (and, so far, only) player to get popped twice for failing PED tests.
"A little bit," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, Ramirez's hitting coach in Los Angeles from the time he landed on July 31, 2008, until the club allowed the White Sox to take him as a waiver claim last Aug. 30. "It's hard not to wonder what's what.
"You just don't know. That's the hardest part."
Part of not knowing the "what's what" with Ramirez, from the Dodgers' perspective, now includes his torrid run two-month run immediately upon joining the club in '08 during which he pretty much carried the Dodgers into the playoffs.
"I think you look at all guys, when it comes out like that," Mattingly said. "You wonder about the last seven or eight years. You wonder about Boston [where Manny played from 2001-2008].
"You wonder about all of it."
Though echoes of Ramirez's Dodgers past continue to reverberate in the organization, it's not like he left behind many close friends. Outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier both said they texted some with Manny during the winter but had not heard from him since spring training started. Furcal said he hasn't been in contact with Ramirez since he left Los Angeles last August.
"I didn't think this would happen again," Ethier said. "I don't think if this hadn't happened, [retirement] would be his decision.
"Unfortunately, circumstances forced him out of the game. I don't know if he felt uncomfortable, or he didn't have the confidence, to be the old Manny."
Or, perhaps, the skills.
"I don't even know what to say," Kemp said. "I haven't talked to him in awhile."
Furcal said the news "caught me by surprise" when a reporter told him what had happened with Ramirez shortly after the shortstop's arrival in the clubhouse Friday afternoon.
"That's bad," Furcal said. "He's still young. He's only 38 years old. He can still play.
"You never know what happens in other people's minds."
The Dodgers still owe Ramirez roughly $20 million in deferred salary through 2013. That is money still owed that will not be affected by his retirement.
Posted on: April 2, 2011 1:10 am
LOS ANGELES -- For the Dodgers, the most important thing to kick off their season was so subtle you might have missed it if you don't know your history.
Matt Kemp was 1 for 1 on Thursday -- with three walks.
Now. That's not exactly as dramatic as Ramon Hernandez's game-ending homer for Cincinnati on Thursday. Or John Mayberry's game-winning single Friday as Philadelphia crushed Houston in its last at-bat.
But for Kemp, coming off of a season in which he batted .249 and his on-base percentage fell 42 points, the plate discipline during those walks was all the action the Dodgers needed to see.
"We know what he's capable of," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We've talked about just be focused, you know? ...
"We know the upside with Matt. Matt knows the upside with Matt."
But in 2010, Kemp's concentration was in and out, like the reception on an AM radio.
Now, there is no guarantee that he can or will repeat his opening-day focus 160 more times.
But in the Dodgers' 4-3 win Friday in their second game of the season, Kemp keyed a three-run rally in the sixth with a beautiful, heads-up base-running play, streaking from first to third on a grounder to third. Of the Dodgers' first four runs this season, Kemp scored three and knocked in the other.
As Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti often says (along with many others), the Great Wall of China wasn't built in a day. It was built by laying one brick, and then another, and then another. ...
As for Thursday's season-opening 2-1 win, Kemp had never walked three times in any of the previous 626 games in his career.
He did, though, set a franchise record with 170 strikeouts last season ... after previously setting a franchise record of 153 whiffs in 2008.
Kemp scored both runs in Thursday's 2-1 win after reaching base via a walk. Two of his three walks were drawn against ace Tim Lincecum.
"Definitely he was more patient," Lincecum said. "I think he's trying to be more aggressive on the pitches he wants than on the pitches the pitchers want."
Exhibit A came in the sixth inning of Thursday's game when Kemp managed to lay off of a full-count Lincecum slider that broke just outside of the strike zone.
"He threw me some really good pitches," Kemp said. "That 3-2 pitch was a really good slider. I almost bit, but I laid off of it.
"The key for me to be good is to be consistent."
Right now, the sample size is way too small to draw final conclusions. But early evidence in 2011 is that, perhaps as he enters what will be his fourth full season, Kemp, at 26, might have the experience now not only to formulate a plan with each plate appearance, but to stick with it. In his first two games, he's now 3 for 5 with three walks, three runs scored and an RBI.
"You've got to have a plan up there every time," he said. "When I don't get my pitch, don't swing."
As Mattingly said, everybody -- Kemp included -- knows his upside.
"But sometimes that's the curse we talk about," the manager said. "It can be a curse, too: 'If you do all of this, you can do that. And if you do all of that, what else can you do?'
"We expect more and more. But it's day to day. That game's over. Worry about today."
Kemp does that, the Dodgers will have much less to worry about themselves.
Likes: Final Four Saturday. Go Butler! ... Vin Scully in the Dodger Stadium press box. Still. ... Day baseball in April. When you've been starved for baseball all winter, nothing like being able to watch baseball during the day before the night games. Highly entertaining Astros-Phillies game Friday. ... I have a whole bunch of favorite places to run while on the road, and right there among them is the route through the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, along the Rose Bowl and then next to the golf course. A beautiful run, with mountains surrounding, and so peaceful through there. Great run midday Friday before Giants-Dodgers game. ... Bob Seger back on tour and breaking out Shinin' Brightly from the Against the Wind album. One of his most underrated songs from one of his greatest albums.
Dislikes: Aside from the legendary organist Nancy Bea Hefley, most of the in-game production stuff in Dodger Stadium is brutal, and has been for the past three or four years. Pounding music, awful mash-ups of songs, too much noise for the short-attention span crowd and Thursday they brought the fan who acts out the lyrics to Journey's Don't Stop Believin' onto the roof of the Dodgers dugout to do it. Total amateur hour. Entertainment capital of the world, my eye.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Roll down the window, put down the top
-- Randy Newman, I Love LA
Posted on: April 29, 2010 5:56 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2010 12:10 pm
Veteran Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, dismayed over his friend Matt Kemp being called out by Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti this week for poor defense and regressing since signing a two-year, $10.95 million contract, says he intends to call Kemp and offer some quick advice.
"I'm going to make a phone call and tell him to keep his cool," Hunter, 34, told CBSSports.com Wednesday night before flying home to Texas to spend Thursday's off-day with his family. "I don't know what was said or why it was said, but it's something you keep in-house.
"That's one of my buddies right there. I know he plays the game hard. I thought he was a pretty good outfielder."
The outgoing Hunter over the years has become a mentor to several young players around the game, and he and Kemp have become especially tight over the past year.
They spent some time together this winter, with Kemp staying at Hunter's house in Dallas for two weeks while the two worked out at the Athlete's Performance Institute.
Kemp, 25, got to know Hunter's family then, and the two Los Angeles center fielders continue to talk "once or twice a week", according to Hunter.
Colletti's comments to KABC radio in Los Angeles this week started a firestorm of emotion around the Dodgers, and Colletti did not back down a day later when, among other things, he told reporters in New York, "If this is the last day of the season and people are voting for the Gold Glove, his name is not even on the ballot. It's a shame that he would go from where he was a year ago to revert back to when the ball goes up in the air and you're not sure where it's going, or if it's going to get caught."
Though Kemp, Colletti and Dodgers manager Joe Torre talked following the team's series-ending loss to the Mets in New York on Wednesday, Kemp's agent, the former big league pitcher Dave Stewart, fueled the controversy by ripping Colletti in Thursday's Los Angeles Times.
Hunter, an 11-year veteran, just shook his head Wednesday night.
"Hopefully, this will make him a better man and he'll come back stronger," Hunter said of Kemp. "Ned Colletti is his boss. I've never heard of a GM calling a player out like that. I'm just in awe right now. Matt needs to be the bigger man and not come out and say anything.
"All Matt Kemp can do is go out and play ball, and play hard. I know from talking to him all the time, he plays hard. He wants to win."
Hunter said he checks in with Kemp by phone regularly "just to see how he's feeling, where his head is at."
Right now, it may take a few extra conversations to gauge that.
Posted on: October 16, 2008 2:11 am
LOS ANGELES -- The whirlwind continues for Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel, who was to fly overnight Wednesday from the Phillies' National League pennant celebration to Virginia for his mother's funeral.
While the rest of the Phillies were to charter home, the club was to provide the manager with a private plane bound for Roanoke, Va. Manuel's mother, June, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia before Game 2 of the NLCS. She was 87.
Manuel said he figured to land in Virginia on Thursday morning in time for the viewing, where he will join his five brothers and five sisters. The funeral is scheduled for Friday, and several members of the Phillies' organization are expected to attend.
Manuel will return to Philadelphia after that. He said late Wednesday that the Phillies will work out on Friday and Saturday, take Sunday off and then fly Monday morning to either Tampa Bay or Boston. The club then will work out later Monday and again on Tuesday in preparation for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.
This undoubtedly is one of the most emotional times of his life on several levels, and when Wednesday's
In describing Matt Kemp's drive that sent Shane Victorino to the center-field wall to haul it in with the Phillies leading 5-1, one on and one out in the ninth, Manuel said: "Mother Nature kept it in the yard tonight. You've got to have her on your side, too."
In the moments after the game ended, Manuel immediately hugged Victorino and several other Phillies -- though he couldn't remember whom he hugged first.
"It wasn't a woman, I know that," he quipped.
He also spoke at length of his team, in emotional terms.
"The attitude of this team is off the charts," Manuel said. "It's the best I've ever been around. And I totally mean that."