We Have a Hostage Situation Here
(Disclaimer: Accused of being “negative” during this nightmarish first 2 months of the 2013 Dodgers season, the above photo seemed a more “positive” choice than a picture of Kemp angry, Donnie hanging himself, or Kasten smooching Cruz or Hernandez. Feel free to thank me later.)
Longer than a tweet, shorter than a big article, a look at Kemp and the probable challenges of Donnie filling out a decent lineup card…
Ok, so Kemp is obviously hurt, perhaps more than we even think, and at some point will slither onto the DL to avoid booing and perhaps even lead to another shoulder surgery. Negative? Sure, but it’s either that or one of the best players in the game a few years ago just suddenly lost it. So, my take is actually kinder than the alternative.
So assuming the boos and inability to hit a fastball, slider or curve finally push Kemp out of the 4 slot in the lineup, what can Donnie do? And, has Donnie been so stupid he didn’t realize Kemp was hurting the team batting cleanup all this time? Maybe he felt he “had no choice”?
It would seem that’s the case. Compound things with the options at Donnie’s disposal thanks to Stan Kasten’s roster of middle infielders of varying degrees of success and a useless old backup catcher, and what really can be done?
Think about it – the best hitter on the team is A-Gone and he’s batting third. Crawford is solid and has been wasted at lead off since there aren’t better options. If Punto was pushed to first and Crawford allowed a more productive slot down in the order, it would mean splitting he and A-Gone up since they’re both lefties and who’s the right-handed bat that could fit in between them?
Ethier is left-handed too and struggling close to as much as Kemp. AJ Ellis might be the natural guy but he’s overworked and struggling. I guess he makes more sense than Kemp at this point, but the more natural choice would be Scott Van Slyke. He has power, is hot, and could fit in nicely between A-Gone and Crawford but… where would he play? Right? But where does that leave Ethier?
See the problem?
Maybe Uribe’s unorthodox falling over swing is elevated to cleanup, and he’s having a better year anyway. But he isn’t even starting every day.
In a perfect world Kemp and Ethier would be healthy and none of this would be an issue, but they’re not – well, one isn’t, one mysteriously just isn’t good anymore.
In a less perfect world Kemp hits the DL, Puig and/or Joc Pederson are called up and the roster has some outfielders to go along with and hopefully replace some of the bottom feeders on the roster – notably Cruz and Hernandez.
A lineup of…
…makes a lot of sense, and would be more productive than what Donnie’s trotting out, but that assumes Ethier would be dealt and Pederson replace him (won’t happen, not for months anyway).
Or if Van Slyke fit in somehow, that would help. But can Crawford and his bad elbow play center at this point? I guess it’s possible – Brett Butler played center and had no arm, as did Juan Pierre most of his career. It’s not ideal though to have an outfield of Van Slyke, Crawford, Ethier.
So that keeps Van Slyke mostly on the bench. The Kemp/Ethier quandary, coupled with AJ’s overwork and slump and Kasten’s insistence to keep Cruz and Hernandez on the roster (even while Federowicz rakes at Albuquerque) presents clear problems for Donnie’s lineup options.
I think playing Kemp and batting him 4th is because they assume he will come around and because there aren’t any better cleanup options around right now.
This log jam looks to continue unless Kemp admits he’s hurt and goes to rehab on his own time or perhaps go under the knife, depending on his problem. Once that happens, Puig or Pederson, who both play CF, can take over and options open up. Right now, Donnie and the fans, and Kemp’s teammates, are being held hostage – or, if you prefer, in a holding pattern while this merry-go-round continues its slow circle.
It’s not an easy situation, given the parts, but is fixable if the following occur…
Kemp gets sick of being booed and management forces his hand and makes him hit the DL – short-term or long
Kasten (and Ned) make personnel choices to ensure the best players are on the roster, not the guys they went to the dance with who may or may not have incriminating photos someplace
Donnie is given the above and finally able to move people around so the least productive hitters aren’t continually coming up when it matters most
Until these three things are addressed, nothing will change. It’s a frustrating time to be a Dodgers fan, but then, it’s been frustrating for some time, hasn’t it?
Here’s to tough decisions, and some not so tough (Cruz and Hernandez) being made before the rest of the West realizes they can bury us before July if we help them.