Matt Kemp pulled on Saturday, benched on Sunday

Matt Kemp DodgersIt wasn’t that long ago when benching Matt Kemp would have seemed like a crazy idea. Two seasons ago he should have been NL MVP, and last season he posted a .905 OPS in 106 games. He’s one of the most dangerous hitters in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup, so not having him in there seems crazy. But that has not been the case this season.

Kemp has hit .260/.312/.343 in 48 games and only has two home runs. His 14 walks to 54 strikeouts is his worst ratio since his first two seasons in the bigs. He’s hit poorly enough this season where he was actually pulled on Saturday and benched on Sunday.

Kemp struck out with two men on to end the sixth inning with the Dodgers up 4-3 on the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday. He was lifted as part of a double-switch that saw pitcher Kenley Jansen enter the game in his spot and Skip Schumaker replace him in center and bat in the pitcher’s spot. Manager Don Mattingly wanted Jansen to pitch more than one inning (which might result in his spot in the batting order coming up), and Kemp had made the last out, so he subbed him as part of a double-switch.

Kemp was ticked off when he entered the dugout, and he could be seen saying, “The f— is that bulls— about man?” toward Mattingly.

According to ESPN LA, Mattingly said that he saw Kemp’s reaction on replay and was not offended.

Mattingly also benched Kemp on Sunday to give the outfielder a day off against a tough pitcher. Mattingly noted that right-handed hitters are only batting .177 against Shelby Miller and decided that was a good time to give Kemp a break. Kemp did get a pinch-hit at-bat in the game and went 0-for-1.

Benching Kemp and Andre Ethier could make Mattingly less popular among some players, but he says he’s not concerned about that.

I’m not really questioning Mattingly at this point. The Dodgers are 20-28 and he’s trying to shake things up to get results. It’s just surprising that Kemp and Ethier, who have been the Dodgers’ most reliable hitters the past handful of seasons, are now getting benched.

Don Mattingly benches Andre Ethier again, says he’s not playing hard enough

andre-ethierDon Mattingly continued to show his disappointment with Andre Ethier by benching the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder for the team’s 9-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday. The benching marked the third time in six games Ethier did not start, though Ethier did appear late in the other two games, unlike Wednesday.

Mattingly is specifically taking issue with Ethier’s effort. When asked to explain why Ethier was not starting again, Mattingly told reporters he was “putting out my lineup that I feel is going to be the most competitive and going to compete the hardest.”

Though Mattingly seems to believe Ethier is giving effort, he says the outfielder is not playing hard enough.

“There’s a touch difference between, ‘I’m giving you my best effort’ and being willing to fight you for that prize, to do whatever it takes to win,” Mattingly said, via the OC Register’s Bill Plunkett. “It’s almost something inside you that says you’re not beating me today, you’re not getting me out.

“There’s another level (to effort) you can’t measure with sabermetrics. They may say ‘BS’ to that. But there are certain things that you can’t measure.”

Ethier said he shows up to the park expecting to play each game. He was not aware that Mattingly said he was benching him for essentially not playing hard enough, and said he took offense to that.

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Don Mattingly: Dodgers massive payroll will create unrealistic expectations

Don-Mattingly-DodgersAll of a sudden, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the New York Yankees. After the massive trade they pulled off with the Boston Red Sox last season and an offseason that has included signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million deal, L.A. is expected to have the highest payroll in MLB history in 2013. As baseball fans know, with a massive payroll comes massive expectations.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly knows what will be expected of his squad this season after how much money they have invested in its current roster. He also believes it’s likely the team falls short of expectations no matter what they accomplish.

“No matter what we do this year, every article that’s written is going to have something in there about the payroll,” Mattingly told ESPN Radio’s Mason and Ireland. “And if we win, we were supposed to win. How could these guys not win with that payroll? And if we lose, then it’s a monumental disaster. So we might as well just take it head-on.”

I’m sure the Red Sox could shed a little light on that and, ironically enough, the Dodgers have taken the expensive pieces that didn’t work for Boston to give them a shot on the West Coast. Like most others, we thought the money the Red Sox spent on Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford was a good investment. Fans and the media were instantly thinking of multiple World Series championships and a 100-win season, but the worst September collapse in MLB history changed all that.

Will the outcome be the same for L.A.? Only time will tell, but we certainly know the expectations will be just as high.

Matt Kemp flips out on umpire after being ejected (Video)

Matt Kemp went nuts on umpire Angel Campos Thursday after being ejected for yelling from the bench during the Dodgers-Pirates series finale. Kemp was likely still upset with Campos after striking out in the first inning when he began hollering from the bench during Andre Ethier’s at-bat.

In the video above, you can hear Campos exchanging words with someone on the Dodgers bench, though it’s unclear what was said. It sounds like Campos says “I don’t want to hear another word from you.” Kemp continued talking, prompting Campos to eject him.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly came out of the dugout to contest the ejection, and Kemp soon followed.

The MVP candidate bolted out of the dugout in a furious rage and tried confronting Campos. He had to be restrained by Dodgers players, coaches, and the other umpires on the field. Kemp appeared to grab and bump umpires on several occasions, which will likely lead to a suspension. Mattingly was also ejected during the argument.

What was it that Kemp said to earn the ejection?

“Let’s go Dre.”

I guess he had done enough talking by that point and the umpire was serious when he said “I don’t want to hear another word.”

That was easily the most outrageous reaction toward an umpire since Brett Lawrie’s blow up. The Dodgers went on to lose 10-6 and will likely be without Kemp for a game after the league reviews the video.

Don Mattingly says struggling Javy Guerra lost his ‘swag’

Javy Guerra is the Dodgers’ closer, but if he keeps struggling the way he has, he’ll soon become their former closer. The reliever started the season with five saves and a win, but he’s gone 0-3 and allowed seven runs over his last six appearances.

What’s been his problem? According to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, Guerra’s lost his swag.

“My biggest concern with Javy [Saturday] night was no swag,” Mattingly said on Sunday. “Honestly, that was my biggest concern. It’s never his stuff. It was like the lack of the bounce in the step and the confidence and commitment. Just like, ‘I’m getting you out and I know it.’ That’s what scared me [Saturday] night.”

Mattingly may blame Guerra’s lost “swag,” which apparently is the new word for confidence (though it has to be played out now that Mattingly is using it), but I disagree. It seems to me that Guerra was doing just fine until taking a line drive off the face against the Braves last week. He remained in the game after surrendering the hit to Brian McCann and was slapped around even more, giving up three runs and five hits while getting just one out. That liner may have knocked all the confidence out of him. But really, I just wanted to post this story because I thought it was strange that Don Mattingly said Javy Guerra had lost his swag. Don Mattingly is hip and he’s got the soul patch to prove it!

Don Mattingly calls Ozzie Guillen ‘this little s***’ during interview

Most people consider Ozzie Guillen to be an annoying loudmouth. Apparently many players view him the same way.

During a radio interview on “The Dan Patrick Show” Thursday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly referred to the Marlins manager as “this little s***.”

Patrick asked Mattingly if there was any manager he wanted to physically confront.

“No, not at all,” Mattingly answered, prompting Patrick to ask if Guillen was on the list.

“No, I’ve been around Ozzie. I played against him and that’s just the way he is. He’s talking all the time … as a player too, as a player you’re going like ‘this little s***’, sorry about that,” Mattingly said, apologizing for using profanity on the air.

“I like Ozzie but it is the way he is. He talks and he is just kind of like that. You gotta be yourself. And if Ozzie was doing something different, he wouldn’t be himself. And if I was trying to be like Ozzie, I wouldn’t be myself.”

Mattingly seemed to say everything in a friendly manner, and knowing Ozzie, he probably takes it as a compliment. The entire interview was pretty good. Mattingly says he thought the team was close to signing Prince Fielder, and he also says Magic Johnson pranked him with a note. You can listen to it at Dan Patrick’s website, though you won’t hear the Ozzie Guillen clip — it appears to have been edited out. Video of the clip is below via Busted Coverage:

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Don Mattingly Was Contractually Manager-in-Waiting for Dodgers

If you were wondering why Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly turned down interviews to manage the Nats and Indians, now we now why. Mattingly, who was announced as Joe Torre’s successor on Friday, apparently had it written in his contract that he would be the Dodgers’ manager should Torre step down.

Dodgers reporter Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times tweeted (via MLB Trade Rumors and LBS contributor Alan Hull) that “Mattingly had signed a deal that guaranteed him the manager’s job if Torre stepped down” before the season began. The practice has been common in college football where coaches and schools name a “coach-in-waiting” so that they don’t lose valuable assistants to other schools. As far as we know, this is the first time the practice has been used in baseball.

MLB granted the Dodgers an exemption from the rule that requires teams to interview minority candidates for managerial jobs because they kept the League updated on their plans. As much as Mattingly figured his future was solidified, I would caution him against making great plans; the Dodgers could have new owners before too long and those new owners might want new managers.

As far as Joe Torre goes, the man has been incredibly celebrated by baseball. I always felt he had the easiest job in baseball all those years with the Yankees. He really did underachieve with many of those teams. Until the Dodgers got Manny in 2008, the Dodgers weren’t going anywhere. This year, the team went down the crapper under his watchful eye as he completely mishandled the bullpen and overused too many arms. You know what? Mattingly should fit in perfectly.