While it rained on Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night, and while Adrian Gonzalez was raining down upon San Diego pitching on Wednesday evening, San Diego right fielder Matt Kemp quietly enjoyed a solid series in his surreal homecoming. In an uncanny twist of fate Kemp collected five hits in the three games, going 5 for 14 with four singles and a double. Bison drove in three runs, haunting the Dodgers in all three games. Is Matt Kemp our new Dodger villain?
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The weird thing about the whole series is just seeing Kemp in a San Diego uniform. To know that not only is Kemp not a Dodger anymore, but he’s trying to beat us puts a strange taste in our mouths. Kemp was Mr. Dodger for the last nine MLB seasons. The 30-year old was drafted by the Dodgers in 2003, and since his major league debut in 2006 has been our darling Bison his entire career.
Spending his first nine seasons in Los Angeles Kemp went through numerous ups and downs. The Dodgers new front office traded him to the Padres last December in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal, and two pitchers. Was the trade worth it in the end?
Call to the Pen
That has yet to be seen. What we did see was vintage Kemp swinging the bat very well throughout the three game series. Mixed emotions filled the Dodger Stadium crowd as Kemp was first introduced on Monday afternoon. The crowd did give him a nice round of applause during pregame introductions, but saved the ovation for his first trip to the plate.
So there it went, in the top of the first inning with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, Matt Kemp would come to the plate for the first time not wearing a Dodger uniform. Dodger fans gave him a very classy standing ovation, as Kemp doffed his hat to the crowd.
Kemp then greeted Dodger fans with a base hit past the over shifted infield into right field to score the first run of the season for the Padres. This was an unfamiliar sinking feeling for Dodger fans. Matt Kemp, as an enemy.
Weather you liked Kemp as a Dodger or not, it is beyond odd to see him in an opposing uniform, let alone a division rival. Seeing that television ad of Kemp saying “beat LA” nearly made me cringe. It just doesn’t feel right.
Kemp continued to hurt the Dodgers as his two-run double in the fifth inning off of his former teammate Kershaw scored two to give the Padres a 3-2 lead at the time. Kemp singled in the second game, and then had two more hits on Wednesday night. He singled and scored on Justin Upton’s two-run home run in the first inning. He then singled again in the fifth inning, but would not score.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
This is not the same Padre club that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Gone are the Cameron Maybins, and Everth Cabreras. The Padres have retooled their entire roster. Just hours before opening day, they traded for super closer Craig Kimbrel. Our rivals to the south now have a beefed up lineup, and pitching staff, and Kemp is smack dab in the middle. There he was still wearing his old number 27, almost taunting us with his familiarity. It almost doesn’t compute.
It remains to be seen whether the Dodgers got the better of the trade or not. It’s only been three games. The overall roster flexibility and team cohesion is what the Dodgers really gained from the Kemp trade. That and a bit of Yasmani Grandal’s power. However there is no denying that Kemp is still a good hitter, and he’s going to hit some out this year. Some of those he hits out may come against us, and we’re just going to have to get used to it. Whether you were for the trade or against it, the Dodgers have lost something. It still doesn’t feel right in a lot of ways.
Kemp was ours, he was our beloved Bison. Kemp was a true Dodger. Drafted, developed through the system. He was with us during the Grady Little days. We watched him mature into a star. He batted in front of Manny Ramirez, and he survived the Frank McCourt years with us. He almost won the MVP in 2011, leading the league in home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored. He’s suffered every conceivable injury one could think of as a Dodger, and was a part of four division championships. Now he’s an enemy. The Dodgers must defeat him, and treat him no different than any other opposing player.
Dodger fans began to slowly boo him during his subsequent trips to the plate. In the Dodger’s 6-3 opening day win Kemp was the final out recorded. He struck out against Chris Hatcher. I smiled as I watched Kemp walk back to the dugout unhappy. At first it felt odd, but now those feelings have gone away. I respect Kemp, and thank him for all of the memories he’s provided Dodger fans over the last nine years. That is over now. I hope he plays well, yet never wins.
It looks like Kemp is going to be a thorn in our sides from now going forward. I tell you what guys, Kemp has actual villain potential.