Joe Torre failed to start Matt Kemp for three straight games this week, and when he was asked about it he was kind of coy. The impression given was that he was giving Kemp some time off in order for him to regroup and find a way out of his season-long slump. Dylan Hernandez reports, however, that it was much less zen than that: Kemp was being punished.
Why? Because during Saturday’s game with the Yankees he failed to back up second base when Russell Martin threw to try and nail and Derek Jeter, whole was stealing on the play. When the throw skipped, Kemp wasn’t there and Jeter scampered on to third base.
The problem came after the inning when bench coach Bob Schaefer tried to remind Kemp of his defensive responsibilities on steals, Kemp was dismissive and Torre subsequently decided that Kemp needed some time off.
True Blue L.A. had a great post recently analyzing Kemp’s struggles this year, and determined that they were mostly a function of speed: he’s getting caught stealing, he’s hitting into double plays, he’s not getting infield hits and he’s not tracking down fly balls.
One possibility is that he’s lost a step or has an injury or something. Another possibility — made more likely in my mind given Hernandez’s story — is that Kemp just isn’t all that motivated to bust his ass like he has in the past.