When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres, shock waves ran through the Dodger Nation, prompting Roberto Baly from the always informative and entertaining blog Vin Scully Is My Homeboy to send out this tweet:
Roberto’s tweet sparked a small series of follow-up tweets and a mini-twitter-conversation between him and I, which led further to inspiring this post.
While the trade of Kemp to the Padres was a bit of a shocker – partly because conventional baseball wisdom dictates one does not trade a star player to a division rival – I believe Roberto’s point behind his tweet was the weirdness comes from seeing an icon from your favorite team wearing the uniform of a division and (kind of) hated rival.
Roberto asked a great question when he put it to us “old folks” to compare the weirdness of Kemp as a Padre to our experience of seeing Steve Garvey in a Padres uniform. My initial reply to his tweet was absolute; the comparison is “Not even close”.
These are the reasons why:
1. Aside from the die-hard Matt Kemp fans, a hefty portion of Dodger fans knew there was a very real possibility that Kemp would be traded in the offseason. It was well-known the 2014 Dodgers had a glut of outfielders with bloated contracts from which at least one, and possibly two had to be moved in order to shed salary and make room for the up and coming Joc Pederson.
2. Once again, aside from die-hard Kemp fans, many Dodger fans saw Kemp as a polarizing and selfish player. Despite putting up MVP-like stats, Kemp often said things (or said things through his then-agent Dave Stewart) that made him appear to be a whiny prima dona.
For example, at the start of the 2014 season, when there were clearly more outfielders than fields to go around, Kemp loudly proclaimed himself to be a starter. Never mind what might be best for the team. Never mind what the manager thought. Never mind how starting the season with an “I’m the star around here” attitude would affect anyone or anything else.
More than once Kemp intimated “it might be best to be traded to a new team”. When Dodger manager Don Mattingly moved Kemp out of center field because his lackluster defense was giving up runs and games, Kemp sulked and according to ESPN, he openly grumbled about losing his position and made things uncomfortable for other teammates.
In comparison, Garvey was generally viewed as a team leader who played for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back. He wasn’t just loved by his hard-core fans, he was loved by the majority of Dodger fans – and the city of Los Angeles over a 14 year span.
Garvey had a middle school named after him. People wanted Garvey to run for public office when he retired from baseball. You half-expected to see “Steve Dodgers Garvey” written on his drivers license.
Garvey haters were usually people who just didn’t like Garvey’s squeaky clean public and professional personas.
3. Garvey was, and still is the National League’s iron man, playing a record 1,201 straight games and anchoring the famed “The Infield” of the Dodgers through the 70’s. In comparison, Kemp barely played for almost two years (2012, 2013).
Garvey played the game the right way and never injured himself through a lack of hustle.
4. Over those 14 years Dodger fans witnessed a rock steady career which produced 4 straight Gold Gloves and 8 All-Star appearances. Garvey won the NL MVP, NLCS MVP and back to back All-Star Game MVP awards. He also won the Roberto Clemente Award and came up huge in batting .417 to lead the Dodgers over the Yankees in the 1981 World Series.
I don’t toss out those stats about Garvey in order to start some kind of numbers war with the stat heads, so much as to point out many of Garvey’s accomplishments as a Dodger were viewed by those of us living through it as team accomplishments that were all about “the Dodgers” or “Los Angeles”.
Many of Matt Kemp’s public postures seem to be all about Matt Kemp, period.
And then this happened…
People like myself, and that’s who Roberto directed his question to, literally grew up with Garvey solidly representing the Dodgers and the city for over a decade.
The man was a Dodger icon whom we believed had Dodger Blue blood running through his veins.
Is it weird to see Kemp in a Padre uniform? Sure it is.
Does it compare to the culture shock of seeing Steve Garvey as a Padre?
It aint even close. Not by a long shot.