Is Matt Kemp the next Grady Sizemore?

Anyone who follows the game of baseball closely knows exactly how good Cleveland Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore is, or perhaps I should say was. In his first five seasons in the Big leagues, Sizemore appeared in three All-Star Games, won two Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger, became a member of the 30-30 club and led the American League in runs scored and doubles in 2006. In other words, Sizemore was on what appeared to be a surefire track to the Hall of Fame.

…and then came the injuries.

Grady Sizemore had everything going for him and was on track to becoming one of the greatest in the game - and then came the injuries. (Photo credit - Jamie Squire)

Grady Sizemore had established himself as one of the very best in the game.
(Photo credit – Jamie Squire)

Sizemore suffered a sprained ankle in April of 2008, pulled a groin muscle during spring training 2009 (forcing him to miss the World Baseball Classic), had elbow surgery a month before the end of the 2009 season, had hernia surgery a week later, had a season-ending microfracture surgery to his left knee only 33 games into to 2010 season, spent two stints on the DL in 2011 for two separate right knee injuries and ended that season a month early for a second sports hernia surgery.

As a result of his seemingly endless injuries, the Indians declined Sizemore’s option for 2012 but eventually signed him to a one-year/$5 million contract. That was before his back surgery and a second microfracture surgery to his right knee which kept him from appearing in a single game in 2012. As of this writing Sizemore remains a free agent and according to his agent, he does not want to commit to a team until he is ready to play again, which may not be until next season – if at all.

If ever there were a heartbreaking story about a potential future Hall of Famer’s career being derailed by injuries it is Grady Sizemore.

With the Dodgers set to resume play after the All-Star break later today, and with the likelihood that their All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and should-have-been MVP center fielder Matt Kemp returning from the disabled list on Sunday, the first day he is eligible to return, the burning question is: For how long this time?

Now I certainly know that die-hard Matt Kemp fans (of which I am one) may see this question as being negative and even cynical, but the truth of the matter is… well… it is the truth of the matter.

After playing in 399 consecutive games, the seemingly indestructible Kemp made his first trip to the DL on May 14, 2012 for a strained left hamstring, an injury that he insisted was minor and one for which he said he would be on the DL for the absolute minimum – and he was. He returned to action with the Dodgers on May 29; but in the first inning of his second game back, Kemp re-injured his left hamstring while rounding third base and scoring. This time there were no claims of an immediate return. In fact, Kemp would miss the next two months, returning after the 2012 All-Star break. And though Kemp was beginning to heat up after his return from the DL, his collision with the center field wall at Coors Field on August 28 that led to off-season left shoulder surgery for a torn labrum and rotator cuff damage now has the popular center fielder’s durability in question.

When the 2013 season began, Kemp insisted (repeatedly) that his shoulder was “one hundred percent,” even though it was clearly evident that it was not. His swing was entirely different and his center to right-center field power was gone. He had also lost his eye for the strike zone and eventually became the victim of vicious booing from ignorant Dodger fans for his frequent strikeouts which, of course, only compounded the problem. On May 29, Kemp was placed on the DL for what was reported as yet another hamstring strain, although there are some who believe that this was just a ruse in order to give Kemp a much needed head-clearing break. It also allowed for a much needed break to give his shoulder time to fully heal after he finally acknowledged that it was not 100 percent.

After spending 24 days on the DL (most of it at extended spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ), Kemp returned to the Dodger line-up on June 25. But in only his tenth game back, Kemp left the game after swinging (and missing) at a pitch and obviously re-injuring his surgically repaired shoulder – an injury later diagnosed as an irritated left AC (acromioclavicular) joint, which landed him back on the DL three days later. And though the medical staff wants us to believe that this latest injury is not related to his shoulder surgery, how can it possibly not be?

At the very least Matt Kemp will have to make adjustments to his swing because of his surgically repaired shoulder. (Video capture courtesy of MLB.com)

It is quite possible that Matt Kemp will never regain the swing that he had prior to his shoulder surgery. (Video capture courtesy of MLB.com)

“It’s going to take more than a couple of days,” said Kemp after the game. “I just want to play and I want to be 100 percent when I play. I’m not good when I’m 70-80 percent. I may be all right, but I want to be more than all right.”

Now this is certainly not to say that Matt Kemp is following in the footsteps of Grady Sizemore, Lord knows it would take another eight or ten trips to the DL for him to even come close to that, but I will be the first to admit that every time Matt Kemp steps into the batters box or takes his position in the Dodger outfield, in the back of my mind I will be thinking to myself: For how long this time?

Please prove me wrong Matt… please.

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6 Responses to “Is Matt Kemp the next Grady Sizemore?”

  1. ebbetsfld says:

    I don’t think Matt is injury prone, but I do think his pride and competitiveness lead him to do two things that lead to his troubles:
    1) He doesn’t (despite his comments) give himself a chance to heal completely, and
    2) He plays with complete disregard for life and limb (which is both a blessing AND a curse).
    Hopefully maturity and experience will allow him to have a great career leading to the Hall of Fame after numerous Dodger World Championships.

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