Tag Archives: Matt Kemp

Dodgers’ Struggles Put them in a Giant Hole

They say money can’t buy happiness. Well the Los Angeles Dodgers have found the truth in that phrase pretty quickly.

After a slew of trades landed them Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Shane Victorino – as well as forcing them to take on several hefty contracts – the Dodgers have nothing yet to show for their spending spree. In fact, they’ve been worse since making this acquisitions.

Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers could be watching their playoff hopes drift away if they don’t start playing with more urgency.

Before trading for Ramirez, the Dodgers were 53-45 – a winning percentage of .540 – even with Matt Kemp spending a good portion of this time on the disabled list. Since then, with a healthy Kemp and Ramirez, Gonzalez and Victorino also joining the club, LA has gone just 19-18, barely keeping their heads above the .500 mark. And while Gonzalez has single handedly helped his new team secure a few victories, including a walk-off 2-run double last night, the Dodgers have limped to a 4-5 record since he came over from the Red Sox.

The Dodgers’ struggles are really quite remarkable. All the players they acquired were former All-Stars replacing fairly marginal players at their positions. Yet the result has been a net loss thus far. A tougher schedule can’t be to blame; 22 of their 37 games since the initial trade for Ramirez have been against teams with a losing record. For a team that has the most offensive talent of any National League team to struggle this much is baffling.

Angel Pagan has been red hot as the Giants have steadily increased their lead in the NL West since Melky Cabrera’s suspension.

Even more distressing for LA is that the Giants, who despite losing one of their best hitters Melky Cabrera to a suspension, have actually played better without him. Prior to the suspension, LA and San Francisco were tied atop the NL West at 64-53, but since then, the Giants have gone 12-5, while the Dodgers have fallen 5 games back entering Monday’s matchup against the Padres.

The Giants have really been the bizarro-Dodgers during this stretch. Despite sending out a weaker lineup and some recent pitching struggles, San Francisco has found way to scrap together wins, albeit against some weaker opponents. Regardless, the Giants have had four come from behind victories in their past six games, a feat which will only fortify their confidence and help them going forward.

While the Dodgers haven’t been bad, their underperformance is gradually pushing them further from the playoffs. This could all be explained as growing pains for the Dodgers as they work to build team chemistry after a fairly drastic overhaul of the lineup. Unfortunately, the time for gelling as a unit has long since passed. As the season draws to its conclusion, slipping backwards in the NL West standings is not the direction Los Angeles wants to go if they hope to make the playoffs. Things could be looking bleak for the Dodgers if they can’t turn things around soon.

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Giants Take Round 1 of Pivotal Series with Dodgers

There’s still over a month left in the season, but the fate of the NL West may very well be decided these next few days as the Giants face off against the Dodgers, a heated rivalry given more fuel as the two teams jockey for positioning atop the division.

For two teams seemingly heading in opposite directions, they met Monday at a fairly even place, with the Dodgers leading the NL West by half a game. LA has resurrected their season in this second half, thanks to Matt Kemp’s return to health, as well as the acquisition of several high profile players. Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino have boosted the Dodgers’ offense and made the lineup for threatening.

Bumgarner lead the way with 10 strikeouts to give SF a .5 game lead.

Meanwhile, Hunter Pence, who the Giants traded for at the deadline, has fizzled in his time in San Francisco, only recently coming out of a slump in which he hit below .200. Add to that a 50 game suspension doled out to the Giants’ best* hitter Melky Cabrera, a DL stint for Pablo Sandoval, and the sudden loss of consistency from Ryan Vogelsong (combined 5.2 innings, 17 hits allowed, and 11 earned runs his past two starts after pitching at least 6 innings in every start prior this season) and it’s a miracle the Giants haven’t collapsed. The stellar second half of Buster Posey (.424, 11 Hrs, 34 RBI) is all that’s keeping them afloat.

But Monday, Posey’s production was nowhere to be found, as he went 0-4 with three strikeouts. Instead the Giants were supported by their favorite crutch – their pitching. Madison Bumgarner, facing off against reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, out dueled his opponent, tossing 8 scoreless innings, allowing just 4 hits, and striking out 10 to lead the Giants to a 2-1 victory.

For a team whose season appeared over after the Cabrera news, the Giants have shown a lot of heart and fight in their play. Since the suspension, San Francisco has won 3 out of 4 (if you discount their loss on the day of the news, which I will, since they only found out an hour before the game). Of course three of those games were against the lowly Padres and it’s also a tiny sample size, but regardless, the Giants have shown they aren’t going to roll over.

Hanley Ramirez has his sights set on knocking the Giants off their spot atop the division.

With Sandoval now off the DL and returning to his past form (2 RBI in Monday’s win over the Dodgers), the emerging contributions from the Brandons – Belt and Crawford – at the bottom of the lineup, Pence recovering from his month-long slump, and the continued excellence of Posey, the Giants may not be a team on the decline. At this point, Los Angeles seems to have a more talented roster, but if San Francisco can keep up this level of play while continuing to use their anger at the Melky situation as fuel, things could get interesting in this NL West race. And with such a small gap between the two teams, this series gains even more importance. If one team can gain a multi-game lead over the other, it could be difficult to overcome.

Now with a half game lead, the Giants will throw Tim Lincecum into the ring against Joe Blanton, hoping to expand hold their spot atop the division. If Monday’s game was a pitcher’s duel, Tuesday’s game should be anything but, as both starters are still trying to shake off their season-long struggles.

But with the hunt for the playoffs in full steam, now would be the perfect time for both of them to stop sucking.

 

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The Importance of Walk-Up Songs

Hitting against major league pitching has often been deemed the single most difficult task in all of sports.

When you think about it, even the physics of the situation are terrifying.   A five-ounce sphere made of cork, rubber, leather and yarn is hurled at speeds that would render a reckless driving ticket by large individuals with wrist sizes that could snap a Livestrong bracelet in no time.

As a coping mechanism, MLB hitters are left with the walk-up song as a means to either help them relax or amp them up for this potentially traumatic experience.

Walk-up songs are the ultimate form of expression—a ten second sample for tens of thousands of a player’s most devoted fans to hear.  It’s a pretty amazing thing knowing one song can make even more of an impact than John Cusack with a trench coat and a boombox.

That having been said, here are some notable walk-up songs from players around the league:

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: “Stop the Party” by Busta Rhymes

Jeter has always come out to hip-hop songs, even paying homage to Brooklyn’s own Notorious B.I.G. a couple of seasons ago when his song was “Juicy.”  A friendly player who is extremely dangerous at the plate with 3,163 career hits, Jeter’s baseball demeanor fits well with the line “I don’t want to hurt nobody but s*** that’s what it’s coming to.”

Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers: “I Spend It” by 2 Chainz

Currently in the first year of an 8-year, 160 million dollar contract and nursing an injury, it would make sense if Matt Kemp is “spending it.”  Widely considered to be an MVP snub last season after batting .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI, there’s no man more deserving of a life of “riding around and gettin’ it” than Kemp.

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Kemp had reason to be angry after last season, losing the MVP vote to Ryan Braun, who later tested positive for steroids.

Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays: “Down and Out” by Tantric

In only his fifth MLB season, the three-time All Star and Tampa Bay Rays third baseman is anything but “down and out.”  Batting a robust .329 on the young season, the Trop-dwelling former Rookie of the Year is making it clear, “I don’t need no understanding…I don’t need to change a damn thing.”

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: “N***** In Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West

Aside from his offseason DUI arrest in Florida this year, Cabrera is “balling so hard” this season that he can’t be fined.  Charting 70 hits and 44 RBI already and hitting middle of a dangerous Tigers lineup that now includes Prince Fielder, pitchers everywhere should be worried now that they let Miguel get into his zone.

Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners: Various

Now in his 12th season with the Mariners, the Japanese-born outfielder is putting together a career that will likely render him the first Asian-born player to be enshrined in Cooperstown.  Throughout his brief journey to nearly 2,500 hits, Ichiro has bumped everything from the Super Mario Brothers theme song to 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.”  With an approach at the plate that says, “If you watch how I move, you’ll mistake me for a player or pimp,” he has had pitchers off balance ever since his arrival in Seattle.

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Tulo learned the hard way that you DON’T MESS WITH THE BIEBS!

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies: “Levels” by Avicii

“Oh, sometimes, I get a good feeling, yeah.”  Quite the opposite, actually.  Coming off a season in which he finished with an impressive .302/30/105 stat line while walking up to Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” Tulowitzki foolishly strayed from the Canadian superstar’s hit song in favor of “Levels,” and is now nursing a groin injury.  At the time of the injury, an angry Bieber must’ve been saying, “I thought you’d always be mine, mine.”

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