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.