Welcome back, Matt Kemp. It’s good to have you home for the holidays as a Dodger. I, for one, embrace the reunion. Even if we don’t know how long it will last.
I mean it. When I analyze these things, to me, it makes a lot of sense. Those lyrics from the song Buffalo Soldier are always appropriate and even more so when we want to welcome back Matt Kemp, The Bison. However, this story is not homage to Bob Marley. Neigh, this tale owes a debt to an oft-adapted story of Christmas featuring the likes of Marley’s Ghost, among others. Yes, this is a ghost story, but I promise it will not scare the dickens out of you.
Our tale begins all the way back on December 16th, 2017. A shocking trade transpired that magically transported Matt Kemp to Los Angeles. He inexplicably found himself in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, even though the trade had happened only moments earlier. Off in the distance, from the dark recesses of the locker room, Matt heard the sound of chains dragging on the floor. The noise got gradually closer to him then suddenly, in front of his face, he saw the face of a man he recognized. The face was transparent, but Matt could still make out the facial hair stubble. The apparition wore a baseball jersey with the word Dodgers stitched in cursive across the chest and a red number sixteen over his heart.
“In life, I was your teammate”, said the phantom. “Hear me! I am here to warn you that you’ll be haunted by three spirits. Expect the first tomorrow at 1:00.”
Eastern Time or Pacific, thought Matt. AM or PM? Everything was so confusing to him in that moment. He decided he needed to get some sleep and so he went straight to bed. In the middle of his slumber, Matt was awoken by a spirit just as he was told he would be. The spirit was a childlike figure. His face had no wrinkles and he had perfect hair on top of his head to go with a perfectly groomed mustache. He said his name was Ned.
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Ned took Matt by the hand. As he did so, the room glowed like a flame. They were still at Dodger Stadium, but the year was 2011.
“Look over there. Who is that man so happy to be in the presence of such large sums of money?”, asked Matt.
“Why that’s old Frank! Boy, did he did love money”, said Ned “It’s mid-November of 2011, the 18th to be exact. You and your agent were finalizing a record-setting contract at Dodger Stadium. Do you remember?”
“Those were good times”, said Matt, “the celebrities, the parties, the adoring f–“. A fiery glow returned to the room. “Wait, no, don’t take these moments away! Where are we going?”
“These are memories from your Christmases past, but not all are fond.” Explained Ned, “We must be on our way, now, off to another moment in time.”
They were still in the front offices of Dodger Stadium, except now the miserly old owner was gone. Replaced was he by a statistically focused business conglomerate ownership group with plans for a more financially restrained future.
“I remember that day. How could I forget?”, said Matt, trailing off. It was understandable that his voice choked up a little. After all, this was the team that had selected him in the 6th round of the 2003 MLB Draft and groomed him in the ways of their system. For more than a decade, Kemp bled Dodger Blue. “I remember it like it was yesterday”, he said to himself before drifting back off to sleep.
Matt was asleep for less than an hour when a particularly rough snore was enough to wake him up. He awoke in his own bed and therefore determined he had dreamed the previous spiritual encounters. He was about to doze back to sleep when he heard a voice call to him from the other side of his bedroom door.
“Who’s there?”, demanded Matt.
“Come in to get to know me better, man!” replied the voice.
As if possessed, Kemp entered into the next room trough the door. A man wearing glasses was on the other side. His eyes were focused and kind.
“You’ve never seen a spirit like me,” said the ghost, “my name is Farhan. Touch my robe.”
Kemp grabbed the robe and held it tight. As he did, he and the spirit flew high and fast from Atlanta over SunTrust Park and then all the way across the US, over downtown Los Angeles, and then finally to Chavez Ravine.
“It looks very strange.” said Matt, “I know it’s only been three years, but I feel like so much has changed.”
“I am here to show you that, if you can learn to trust our Process, you can find success in your team’s success. The days of you playing for an MVP award must remain in the past if you want to be a Dodger again.” The spirit explained, “You must consider that, in order for you to provide the most value to the current Dodgers roster as it’s assembled, you might be accepting a situational role.”
“Nah! Hogwash! Sounds like you don’t want @TheRealMattKemp, you want someone like Franklin Gutierrez”, Kemp protested. The spirit was gone and, in its place, a dark shadow of a figure now stood. It wore a giant black hoodie and had no discernible face.
“Are you the ghost of the future?”, pleaded Matt. “Am I getting traded again? Released? I want another chance! Please! Don’t send me to Cleveland!”
The phantom just stood there speechless with one arm outstretched pointing off into the distance. “I hope this is the last of the spirits! I’m really tired!”, thought Matt.
The next instant, Kemp found himself back in his own bed. He rubbed his eyes with disbelief and grabbed his phone. Could it be? It was still December 16th, 2017. It was all a dream, but it doesn’t matter. Chances are, the Dodgers end up ghosting him again.
If not, I’m no Scrooge. I’d welcome back Matt Kemp with open arms. Merry Christmas.