Dodgers, Angels are deserving of boos, but it still hurts Matt Kemp
They brought out a group of Wounded Warriors from beyond the center-field fence in Dodger Stadium as everyone cheered.
They spread an American flag across the outfield and had former astronaut Buzz Aldrin throw out the first pitch. Great stuff on this Memorial Day.
Then about 30 minutes later, while Aldrin was probably asking himself, “I came back from the moon for these two underachieving teams?” the hometown fans began booing the Dodgers and Matt Kemp.
The only question here: What took them so long?
As unlikely as some thought it might be to land on the moon at one time, some might have also wondered when the error-prone Dodgers would win.
But it would prove only one thing: In the race to demonstrate which team really stinks, the Angels would triumph.
The Dodgers won, 8-7, with the fans giving it to Kemp, who was 0 for 5 with four strikeouts.
Just imagine how good the Dodgers might be if they knew how to play, or if Kemp performed like Kemp.
There is no cheering in the press box, as they say, but they didn’t say anything about booing.
And I just witnessed the sloppiest two innings of Dodgers defensive play that I have ever seen beyond T-ball, and the Angels’ pitching so horrific it was like the Dodgers were hitting off a tee.
But before going into detail, I ask you: Should hometown fans and columnists boo hometown players?
We begin with Kemp, booed loudly the last few days because he can no longer hit, who said it was so bad at one point, “It felt like I was in AT&T; Park.”
First inning against the Angels, and a ball is hit over Kemp’s head. Now he can’t catch.
He races back, reaches up and the ball hits directly into the pocket of his glove. What do you do, kids, when the ball hits the pocket of your glove? Squeeze! Kemp drops the ball.
The official scorer rules it a double, the first error of the night for the official scorer.
Then the Dodgers’ catcher allows a passed ball on strike three, letting the Angels score. The catcher fetches the ball, throws it over the head of the first baseman, allowing the guy who struck out to advance and another runner to score.
In the second, the Angels hit a hard ball to the Bad News Dodgers’ Tanner Boyle, sorry, Mark Ellis. He can’t catch it. The official scorer calls it a hit, and the official scorer now has two errors.
There is a bunt, and Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez drops the ball for another error. Cover the eyes of your Little Leaguer at home.
Better yet, tell Kemp to open his.
“I’m taking a beating from the fans,” admits Kemp, and that was before he struck out four more times. “It’s disappointing to get booed by our own fans, even shocking.
“Maybe the fans are disappointed in me for not performing,” he says, and I let him know there is no maybe about it.
“I would never boo one of my favorite players or someone on my team,” Kemp says. “As a true fan I would stick with him in the bad times as well as the good.”
The debate to boo or not to boo is particularly provocative when considering how loudly everyone cheered Kemp’s heroics two years ago.
He’s a gifted player. Or, he was before getting hurt.
Should you really boo a physically limited player?
I look at him and I see Dwight Howard.
Howard returned too early from back surgery and didn’t have the power in his legs to allow him to be a bigger force. As a result Lakers fans struggled to understand his value.
Kemp ran into a Colorado wall last season, underwent shoulder surgery and now swings hard. But he pulls back at the very end because his shoulder lacks flexibility. It makes him vulnerable to low and outside pitches.
Kemp hates, and that’s not a strong enough word for it, to say anything that might suggest he’s making excuses for his lousy play.
“I’m the one swinging at the bad pitches,” he says. “I don’t want to talk about my shoulder.”
But the fact is he’s two months into the season and he has just been cleared medically to start lifting weights. And it might be months more before Kemp is swinging like Kemp again.
“It doesn’t matter,” says Kemp. “Kobe finds a way [when he’s hurt] and I have to find a way to help us win.”
The booing, though, is threatening to become a drag on his confidence as if he needs another mountain to climb.
“As much as superstar athletes don’t say a lot about failure, every athlete is scared of failing,” says Kemp. “It’s not doubt, it’s just human nature.”
If Dodgers fans want to cheer a winner, Kemp may be as important to the cause as any player on the team, they might want to stop tearing into Kemp while he finds himself again.
And leave the booing to the columnists.
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