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Matt Kemp's historic April leading torrid Dodgers' charge

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist
LOS ANGELES -- On the last day of the month, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp is so scalding hot that if he was a cup of coffee, McDonald's would put a warning label on him.

Only three players in major-league history have finished April with a batting average higher than .400, 10 or more home runs and 20 or more RBIs: San Francisco's Barry Bonds (2004), Colorado's Larry Walker (1997) and Cincinnati's Hall of Famer Tony Perez (1970).

But as the Dodgers prepared to open a series in Colorado in Monday night, Kemp was ready to bust into that club. His .425 batting average not only leads the majors, it's more than 25 points beyond the game's next-highest, the Mets' David Wright (.397). His 11 homers also lead the majors, and his 24 RBI are tied with teammate Andre Ethier for the National League lead. In the American League, only Texas' Josh Hamilton (25) has more.

Joe Torre, Kemp's former manager and currently a consultant to Commissioner Bud Selig, was in Dodger Stadium on opening day and proclaimed at the time that Kemp might be the best player in the game "because of his age."

Certainly, he's on a short list. But on that day, I sort of dismissed Torre's comments the way you might a parent who is bragging on his son. No doubt Kemp, 27, is great, but Torre was his manager for three seasons (2008-2010) and was speaking in Los Angeles, standing on the Dodger Stadium grass while the Dodgers were taking batting practice.

What else was he going to say?

Especially given that Kemp, in 2010, got into it with one of Torre's coaches, Bob Schaefer, and Torre benched the outfielder for three games. Torre is a master politician, and once Kemp got back into the former skipper's good graces, as I listened to Torre on opening day, I figured, uh-huh, Torre is making sure to stroke him early.

But as April has unspooled, there is no question that Torre is right.

Considering Kemp's numbers, youth and drive -- which we saw begin to develop last year after his highly disappointing 2010 season -- who else would you rather have right now?

"Like any manager, you have things you agree on, things you don't agree on," Torre said that day. "He was challenging because, like a lot of young players, they're going to make adjustments on their own. He was so talented, or he is so talented, that I think he just felt that his ability would speak for itself."

It did, and it is.

And, wow.

His .888 slugging percentage leads the majors, and his .495 on-base percentage ranks second.

Every time he so much as pokes his head out of the Dodger Stadium dugout, fans began chanting "MVP! MVP!" And after his finished second in last year's controversial NL election, he's miles ahead of everyone else out of the gate this year.

As we enter May, the Dodgers would take another month of what Kemp just gave them, wouldn't they?

"No, we don't want him to do that," manager Don Mattingly joked. "He's gotta do better than that.

"It's been great. I always put Andre with him. If Matt doesn't get the RBI, Andre does."

And at 16-6, the Dodgers are off to their best 22-game start since 1981. We'll see if May brings 'em more flowers.
 
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