Matt Kemp, benched by Dodgers: “I just want to play, man”

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Benched yesterday for a fourth straight game, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp told Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times: “I just want to play, man.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been mixing and matching outfielders all season because he has Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier to play and only three spots in which to play them, but Kemp is the first guy in that group to sit out four consecutive games.

He’s definitely been benched and Mattingly has cited his poor defense in center field as a big reason, although there’s always the option of shifting Kemp to a corner spot to keep his bat in the lineup considering he has a higher OPS than Crawford or Ethier. And of course the fact that Kemp has a $160 million contract further complicates matters.

It sounds like Crawford and Kemp may form a quasi-platoon in left field, which is a helluva way to spend $300 million. And in the meantime Ethier is Mattingly’s choice to start in center field despite the fact that he’s very stretched defensively there. Sometimes having tons of money and tons of outfielders isn’t such a good thing.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.