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Opinion of Kingman's Performance
Friday, April 20, 2012
I Dare To Compare
Dare I say it? Yeah, I will. This current run by Matt Kemp is “Bonds-esque.” Please allow me to explain.
In the early part of the 2000s, I’ll admit it. I hated it when Barry Bonds came to the plate. I hated it because he was the best freaking hitter that I ever saw in my life. I hated it because I knew there was a pretty good chance he'd hit it out. I'm not ashamed to confess that when the 7th inning rolled around and the game was close, I'd count how many hitters had to come to the plate before it was Bonds' turn again. That guy had no weaknesses. If your man made the perfect pitch, the ump would call it a ball. If the pitch he received was within the strike zone, he’d hit it out. I mean, it happened 73 times that one year. 73! Some guys are lucky to get 73 hits in a year. It's no wonder they walked the man 232 times one season.
Yes, I know, he used PEDs to prolong his career and boost his super-human power numbers and ego that went along with it. Something that Matt isn’t doing in this age of random drug testing. I know Bonds was probably the biggest jerk in the game with a nasty personality and difficult demeanor, about the opposite of Kemp. I compare the two because there is a swagger and confidence in Kemp when he steps up to the plate, something I haven’t seen since Bonds was a hitting fiend. Matt expects to mash the ball, his teammates expect him to mash, the fans, the opposition, everyone knows they can’t stop this guy. He’s in a zone that just seems to not end.
photo by Jon SooHoo, L.A. Dodgers
There’s something else, and it's something I saw during that Bonds run. The world stops when Kemp steps up to the plate. People want to see if he’ll do it again. There is something awe inspiring and majestic about that super human strength that is shown when the long ball is hit. It's just a cool thing to watch. My wife likes baseball but doesn’t care much about the grand old game enough to really follow it, but she’ll stop what she’s doing and watch when Kemp comes to the plate, just to see if he'll hit it out again.
If this continues as it does and as this season goes on, we are going to see some crazy stuff. First, there will be news updates on his home run chase, inning by inning. If Matt starts getting near that 50/50 prediction that I used to think he made in jest, I guarantee you there will be a media watch at the latter part of the season.
Second, the league will start really pitching around him. By that I mean, we’ll see him intentionally walked with the bases loaded to force in a run, or when nobody is on base to start an inning. Crazy strategy, I know, but I saw it happen with Bonds and the way Kemp is swinging the bat, it’s just reminiscent of that monster year he had.
Third, Matt Kemp is going to be the talk of the league. Water cooler discussions, friendly wagers amongst factory or warehouse workers, impressions of his stance and trot will be done by Little Leaguers and old men in their softball beer leagues. He's reaching superstar proportions.
They’re even talking about it up here in the Bay Area already and the Dodgers haven’t even played the Giants yet. Much of the talk on the morning show on the Giants flagship station is about the Dodgers hot start. I admit, they tend to dwell on the Dodgers "easy schedule" so far, but Mike Krukow said it this morning, "They're beating the teams they are supposed to beat, and that's the sign of a good team." When asked about Kemp, the Giant announcer had nothing but praise for the Dodger center fielder stating: “Kemp used to swing at stuff out of the strike zone, and last year we went in there in the very first series when the Giants were taking them on in L.A. and not one time did Kemp go fishing outside of the strike zone. Kuip and I looked at each other and said ‘Uh, Oh,' and he stayed in that zone the whole year. And he’s picked right back up again this year. He is premier. The best player in the league, and I just think with a guy that good, you just let somebody else beat you. Even a red hot hitter like Ethier.”
2010 Topps card of Kemp
One last point. As much as Matt and Barry are displaying similar power hitting capabilities. It's a no brainer to say that Kemp's 5 tool skills put Barry to shame. Though Bonds had 4 of those tools for much of his career, when he bulked up with roids, he lost the foot speed and defensive prowess that he once had. Kemp, now in his prime, just seems to get better in the 5 tools as his career progresses. It's gonna be a fun run