|Matt Kemp gestures to the dugout after doubling for his first hit of the season. (photo by Reed Saxon/AP)|
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Kemp, Overcoming the Mental Hurdles
As Matt Kemp drove an opposite field RBI double into the right centerfield gap in yesterday’s action, I sensed that an uneasiness was starting to lift out of Dodger Stadium. He raised his batting average 77 points (to .077) with that one swing and the Dodger number three hitter appeared to have had a burden lifted from his shoulders. He’s not completely there, but a nice 3 for 4 day would be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Kemp has hit the ball hard his last few outings. He’s been robbed of two hits. He has driven the ball deep into the marine layer’s night air as his batted ball descended upon the warning track for an out. Bad luck and misfortune has descended upon him. Such occurrences are inevitable in a 162 game schedule, but starting off the year after returning from a serious injury and off season surgery has to raise questions in Matt’s mind.
“Do I still have it? Do I still have the ability to hit with power? Will I ever be the same player?” Those thoughts have to be what lingers in his mind. Starting off the year 0 for 12 will only make things worse. This is as mental a game as there is in sports. Baseball allows you to stand out in the outfield grass or sit in the dugout and let your mind mess with you. There is enough stoppage time to really drive you nuts.
When J.D. Drew began his first year as a Dodger going hitless in his first twenty-four at bats, it was an ugly scene. Never mind that he batted well over .316 the remainder of the year, those first 24 plate appearances set a negative tone on the season. One that is viewed by many as a failure. It’ll be a chore for Mark McGwire to keep Matt on an even keel and not allow him to go nuts.
So four games in, Kemp is 1 for 14, with a double and one RBI. Before the Dodgers depart on their first road trip of the the season after Sunday’s game, it would really be nice to see Matt get about four knocks. Remove the doubts, raise the confidence, get this team moving offensively. It’ll make a world of difference.