Agent speaks out in Matt Kemp's defense and says Dodgers might be better off trading him

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Matt Kemp returned to the Dodgers’ lineup last night after being benched for two games and went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs.

Hours earlier Kemp’s agent, former All-Star pitcher Dave Stewart, spoke to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times about the Dodgers’ treatment of his client, suggesting that perhaps everyone involved would be better off if the 25-year-old outfielder is traded during the offseason

Here’s some of what Stewart said:

It’s almost like it’s open season on Matt, and it’s not right. It’s a bunch of back-seat crap. I’m almost to the point–and maybe so are the Dodgers–where I’m thinking that this just isn’t going to work. The Dodgers have gaps on this team, and maybe they could fill them by trading Matt. It could be good for the team, and good for the player.

It’s very, very difficult to play under the circumstances that Kemp is playing under. The thing we have to look at is, is there going to be a fit? Is he going to be able to get past the public scrutiny? Matt has to wonder, ‘If these guys don’t like me, how can I play for them?'”

Stewart stressed that Kemp would never formally ask for a trade, but went on to specifically address how the Dodgers’ coaching staff and front office have publicly criticized Kemp at various times this season:

Everything was fine until suddenly [coaches Bob] Schaefer and [Larry] Bowa start getting on him publicly. On those great Dodger teams of the past, you would never read about a player being trashed like Matt’s been trashed. When Larry Bowa played, he would never accept a coach talking about him in the newspaper like that, but they want to Matt to accept it? Yes, it affects the player, it has to affect the player. All this external crap coming from Schaefer and Bowa, why would you want to play for somebody like that?

I tend to agree with Stewart and my guess is that his comments will be taken more seriously than the usual lip-service from an agent because he pitched 16 seasons in the majors, including four years for the Dodgers. Kemp has become a scapegoat for all things wrong with the Dodgers and, while his play this season has been somewhat disappointing, he remains one of the team’s best players and certainly doesn’t deserve the level and type of criticism he’s received, not to mention the benchings.
In response to Stewart, general manager Ned Colletti said that he has “no plans to trade him” and added “he’s got a chance to be one of the best players in the history of the franchise.” However, he also admitted that perhaps going public with criticism of Kemp was a mistake:

Our coaching staff only wants the best for the kid. Are they too hard on him? That’s a matter of opinion. But if there’s a miscommunication, we’re all adults here, let’s put everybody in a room and work it out.

Sounds good, but that probably would have been a better idea three months ago.

The day Giancarlo Stanton became a “True Yankee”

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Personally, I would’ve assumed that the day Giancarlo Stanton became a “True Yankee” was when the Yankees traded for him, thereby willingly incurring a legal obligation to pay him hundreds of millions of dollars and pencil him in the lineup until his knees fell off and, probably, for some time after. That, however, is not how things go with the New York Yankees.

The Yankees can trade for you, but that does not make you a “True Yankee.” They can sign you to a nine-figure deal in free agency, but your signature on the contract is not your “signature Yankee moment.” They can draft you, develop you for six years and play you for another three and you still may not have enough time and accomplishments under your belt to be anything other than, more or less, a probationary employee.

No, to be a “True Yankee” you have to be declared so by the media after doing something neat like hitting a big home run like Stanton did last night to lead the Yankees to victory over the Mariners. Until then — until you become the hero of a Wednesday night game in June, I guess — you’re suspect. After that, well . . .

And:


And:

Seeing these headlines and the many other stories and tweets with references to Stanton’s newfound “True Yankee”-dom makes me wonder when, say, Jonathan Villar, became a “True Brewer” or when Daniel Descalso will deliver his “Signature Diamondback Moment.” I’m sure someone will tell us.

Haha, just kidding. No other team does that. Probably because no other team likes to stoke its own mystique like the Yankees do. They have always done this to some degree — and given the franchise’s success, they are allowed a bit more leeway to boast than other ones are — but I blame George Steinbrenner for taking this to silly levels.

Big Stein was the first owner to really take advantage of free agency, but that also made him the first owner to stigmatize the players he signed as somehow owing the team more than any other player for their having accepted a big paycheck. For having to prove themselves in ways other players didn’t. He famously did this with Dave Winfield, contrasting him poorly with Reggie Jackson, who had proven himself in ways that made Steinbrenner happy. He never really did this with homegrown Yankees players. It was like a parent being partial to their natural child and cold to the adopted one.

Steinbrenner also built up the level of expectations for Yankees players — all of them — beyond reason. I think it was in the late 90s that he started up with that “anything less than a World Series title is failure” jazz. I question whether that was motivational to highly-trained and already motivated baseball players, but it was certainly good for building the Yankees brand. The idea that you’re not a “True Yankee” — which I seem to first remember being a sticking point with Jason Giambi — is a logical extension of that. While it may not be the best way to run an organization it is, as a matter of brand-building, pretty effective to portray your team as having higher expectations and something of an initiation period for its players. It’s a way of making fans feel like the club and the players they root for are a level above everyone else.

Of course, George Steinbrenner was George Steinbrenner, and being sorta crazy and sorta unfair and working overtime to build the Yankees brand was what made him The Boss. It was literally his job to do that kind of thing, so let’s not be too hard on him. I get why he did it that way.

I do wonder why, however, the media tasked with covering the Yankees has so eagerly taken up the job of Yankees brand-building like that. Wherever Big Stein is today, he’s likely beyond caring about things like money, but I bet he’s still probably pretty happy with all of the free P.R. work his team continues to get, long after he shuffled off this planet and became an immortal Yankee.

Wait. I’ve gotta talk to a trademark lawyer, stat.