There is an unwritten rule that prohibits players from calling out teammates in the media for virtually any indiscretion. Issues are to be handled behind closed doors, and an inch of insight gained by the public into clubhouse discord is an inch too much.
The same holds true, apparently, for upper management.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told a Los Angeles radio host that outfielder Matt Kemp’s “base running is below average,” and that his “defense is below average.” (KABC’s Peter Tilden Show can be found here. Colletti’s segment begins at the 16:25 mark; his statement about Kemp is at 18:30.)
“Why is it, because he got a new deal?” asked Colletti, referencing the two year, $10.95 million contract Kemp recently signed. “I can’t tell you. But it’s below-average.”
Kemp ranks fourth in the National League in both home runs and RBIs, but just Tuesday got thrown out on a play that high schoolers are expected to recognize, trying to advance from second to third on a ball hit in front of him, with nobody on first base and fewer than two outs.
That the Dodgers have lost four in a row and are in last place in the NL West doesn’t help.
Kemp refused to comment on Colletti’s sentiments, but his agent, former big leaguer Dave Stewart, does not face similar constraints.
“When it comes time for Matt to arbitrate two years from now, we’re going to look at that situation and do what’s best for Matt,” he said on The Mason and Ireland Show on 710 ESPN Los Angeles. “When it comes time for Matt to be a free agent three years from now, we’re going to look at that situation in the same way as I would with Chad Billingsley, my other client on that ballclub.”
It’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened with the Dodgers. In 1978, Don Sutton criticized Steve Garvey in the Washington Post, saying, “All you hear about on our team is Steve Garvey the All-American boy. But Reggie Smith was the real MVP. We all know it . . . (Smith) has carried us the last two years. He is not a facade. He does not have the Madison Avenue image.”
When Garvey questioned his teammate about the quote, Sutton brought Garvey’s wife, Cyndy, into the conversation, and the two were soon wrestling on the clubhouse floor.
This clearly won’t be the outcome with Kemp and Colletti, where the pertinent unwritten rule is to avoid punching anybody with the power to trade you.