A New Challenge for Matt Kemp

I can honestly say that the news that Hanley Ramirez had been acquired by the Dodgers this morning didn’t really come as a total surprise to me. In fact, he’s been on my radar for about two years now… as a shortstop, not as a third baseman. But in the same breath, I can also honestly say that I was not all that disappointed that the Dodgers never actually went after him very hard in the past, and not just because of the financial woes of Frank McCourt. No, my lack of drive to push hard for Ramirez was based more on Hanley’s lack of drive to play baseball – or what the media is calling his “baggage” – and make no misyake about it, Hanley Ramirez has a lot of baggage.

Acquired early this morning, Hanley Ramirez will make his Dodger debut tonight at third base against the Cardinals in St. Louis. (Photo credit – Jon SooHoo)

No one can deny that Ramirez is an extremely gifted and talented baseball player or that he very well could be the piece that the Dodgers have so desperately needed to get to the post season, but let’s face it, Hanley Ramirez has had a lousy attitude the past two or three seasons.

Enter Matt Kemp.

There isn’t anyone on the Dodgers roster who will dispute that Matt Kemp is the team leader (or captain, if you will). Matt has inspired the team like no one else, even while on the DL for nearly two months. In addition to being the best player on the team (and perhaps in all of baseball), Kemp is also the team’s biggest motivator. The question is, will Kemp be able to motivate the ego-driven Hanley Ramirez? Keep in mind that Ramirez has always been the center of attention for the Marlins, something that was seriously challenged when they acquired Jose Reyes last winter; an acquisition that forced Ramirez out of the spotlight and forced him to move over to third base – a combination that had disaster written all over it from the very beginning. With Ramirez now a Dodger, it will be Matt Kemp’s responsibility to keep Ramirez motivated and to play up to his true talents and expectations, which will be no easy task for Kemp.

Another concern that I have is that Hanley Ramirez undoubtedly wants to be an everyday shortstop, yet the Dodgers have acquired him to be their everyday third baseman. With Luis Cruz playing well at shortstop and hitting exceptionally well of late, and with Don Mattingly having already said several times that Dee Gordon will be the Dodgers everyday shortstop for years to come, where will Ramirez spend most of his playing time? My guess is third base. As such, there is absolutely no place on the 25-man roster for Juan Uribe – period. As I have said countless times, it is time for Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti to cut their losses and DFA Uribe regardless of what he is still owed.

Dealing with malcontents is nothing new for the Dodgers and in most cases the outcome has been quite favorable, most notably, of course, was Gary Sheffield and much more recently Vicente Padilla. Of course, they’ve also had their fair share of failures too, such as Milton Bradley (for whom the Dodgers got Andre Ethier, so this wasn’t all that bad) and Kevin Brown, just to name a couple. Manny Ramirez is in a category of his own. He almost single-handedly got the Dodgers into the 2008 post season and put a lot of fannies in the seats, but his $45 million re-signing ended up being a disaster and seriously handcuffed the Dodgers in being able to afford other much needed free agents. Will the newest Dodger named Ramirez have the same fate? We shall see.

As has been noted in the countless media reports and blog posts on the Hanley Ramirez acquisition, perhaps the change of scenery alone will be enough to re-energize Ramirez back to the incredible All-Star and MVP caliber player that he was when he first came up with the Marlins. If it does, this trade could rank right up there with the best ever for the Dodgers.

Being traded to the Marlins will undoubtedly expedite Scott McGough’s road to the Major Leagues. (Photo credit – Ken Weisenberger)

As for Randy Choate, my only knowledge of him comes from the limited times that I have seen him pitch against the Dodgers over the past couple of years. On the other side of that coin, I have seen Nathan Eovaldi pitch every one of his starts and I am convinced that he will do very well with the Marlins. I have also seen Scott McGough pitch several times with the Quakes, and though he got lit up pretty bad when I saw him pitch, he has exceptional stuff and the skills to succeed on the Major League level. Being traded to the Marlins will undoubtedly expedite the process for McGough, as there are (were) quite a few guys ahead of him on the Dodgers depth charts.

All in all, I have a very good feeling about this trade and I am quite confident that Matt Kemp will have a tremendous and very positive influence on Hanley Ramirez.

Let the good times roll!

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One Response to “A New Challenge for Matt Kemp”

  1. MFGRREP says:

    What’s for sure is that what we had wasn’t working and what we get in Ramirez has a lot of upside, assuming he’s up to the task. As you say lets hope Mattingly, Kemp and the Dodger tradition will make Ramirez a better person and better player !!

    FYI, first AB and he gets a triple and scores on a sac fly by Loney !!

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