The Braves acquired outfielder Matt Kemp from the Padres on Saturday for outfielder Hector Olivera in an exchange of bad contracts. Kemp left the Padres batting a slugging-heavy .262/.285/.489 with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances this season. While the 31-year-old Kemp’s arrival doesn’t change much for the Braves, who are out of contention, it did allow them some flexibility to pursue trading other outfielders like Nick Markakis and Jeff Francoeur, even if they didn’t materialize ahead of Monday’s 4 PM EDT non-waiver trade deadline. They could end up materializing by the August 31 waiver deadline.
Kemp penned a hello/goodbye column at The Players’ Tribune, detailing how he grew up a Braves fan and is excited to play for his childhood team. He also thanked fans in San Diego for treating him well since he arrived prior to the 2015 season.
The most interesting part of Kemp’s column was towards the end, where he takes responsibility for the way he has been perceived whether true or false.
To the city of Atlanta, and to all Braves fans worldwide, I want to make a vow to you before I even step into the box for my first at bat as a member of the team: After taking some time to reflect on my career, and the ups and downs I’ve experienced since my MVP-caliber season in 2011, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had begun to lose some of my love for the game. In so many ways, I got sidetracked from what I loved most about playing the game of baseball — having fun. I let a big contract, the Hollywood lifestyle, injuries and bad relationships tarnish the reputation I had worked so hard to establish. Sadly, I gained a reputation for being selfish, lazy and a bad teammate. While I may not agree with all the criticism I received in the past few years —and while I believe that a lot of it was unmerited — I take full responsibility for my shortcomings. And I promise you, Atlanta: Those days are gone.
The Matt Kemp of old — the kid who was the first at the park and the last to leave, the kid who would take cuts in the cage till his hands bled, the kid who would literally run through a wall for his teammates, the kid who was playing to win … not for a contract — that’s the kid who’s on his way to Atlanta. And the Braves of old will soon be the Braves of now.
Kemp didn’t owe anyone an explanation. But it’s big of him to take responsibility even while acknowledging that “a lot” of the cricticism was “unmerited.”