Matt Kemp has quietly gone from damaged goods to once again damaging the other team for the good of the Dodgers. This time last year Kemp was not even available for the Dodgers. Kemp had a severe ankle injury and eventually needed off-season surgery.
Kemp actually injured the ankle on July 21st on an awkward looking slide into home plate during a game against the Nationals, a team they could later face in the postseason. He tried to play through the pain and still contribute to his team the rest of 2013 and therefore did not have the surgery until after their season was done on October 21st.
The Dodgers, as you may recall, opened the season in Australia against the Diamondbacks. Kemp did not take the plane to Australia in order to continue his rehabilitation. Then there was the issue of the ever-changing Dodger outfield, and where Kemp was going to fit in. “I feel just blessed, man,” Kemp said. “It’s been a grind the last two years. Last year was a disappointing year for me as far as just sitting there and watching my team be successful. I thought I could have helped them a lot, but they did a really good job last year of getting as far as they did. I’m just blessed to be able to be on this stage and be able to be healthy and to help the team try to accomplish a big time goal.”
You may recall Kemp’s stellar 2011 season when he posted career highs in home runs (39) RBI (126) and steals (40) and finished 2nd place in the MVP race. This season, only one player had 39 or more home runs (Nelson Cruz). This season Kemp’s teammate Adrian Gonzalez led the league in RBI’s but only amassed 116. And with 40 stolen bases he would have finished in 5th place in MLB this season. That is why the Dodgers, in November of 2011 signed Kemp to an 8 year $160 million contract.
2012 and 2013 were not kind to Kemp. Ankle, hamstring, and shoulder injuries caused him to miss (151) almost as many games as he played (173). His 2014 season did not start off much better. On April 4th Kemp started at Dodgers Stadium in center field. After a lackluster performance both offensively and defensively manager Don Mattingly to moved Kemp from center to left. Then on July 21st Mattingly moved the still slumping Kemp from left to right, a place he once played as a kid. And the rekemption started.
In the next 46 games after the 2nd position move Kemp was hitting .307 with 11 doubles, 1 triple, 11 home runs and 33 RBI’s. And in the month of September this year Kemp hit .322 with 9 home runs and 25 RBI’s. “You just don’t lose everything at 29 years old,”said Davey Lopes, Dodgers first base coach, earlier this year. Davey may be right, especially after Kemp had the big home run that contributed to the win in-game 2 of the National League Division Series.
Matt is on the road to rekemption, but unfortunately, until he does it for a whole season, he is still driving about 10 MPH under the speed limit.