Joe Torre admits to difficult relationship with Matt Kemp

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Joe Torre called Matt Kemp the game’s best player in a conversation with ESPN Los Angeles’ Tony Jackson on Tuesday, but he indicated it might have taken his departure as Dodgers manager for Kemp to take that next step.

Kemp had his breakthrough season in 2011 after Don Mattingly replaced Torre as manager.

“He was challenging because just like a lot of young players, they are going to make adjustments on their own, but he was so talented — and again, this is just my opinion — that I think he just felt his ability was going to speak for itself,” Torre said. “He sort of eliminated the highs and lows once he got established in a more businesslike way. I know he and Donnie have a good relationship, which is hugely important.

“I remember telling him as I was saying goodbye when I stopped managing, ‘You’re going to love playing for Donnie.’ ”

Torre said that he and Kemp “didn’t always agree” but that the did keep “working” at their relationship. “Let’s put it that way,” he added.

Kemp finished with OPSs of .799, .842 and .760 in Torre’s three years as Dodgers manager before coming in at .986 last year. He’s off to a fantastic start in 2012 as well, having driven in a run in five straight to begin the season.

Javier Baez, D.J. LeMahieu have disagreement about sign-stealing

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Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.

LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.

There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.

The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.