Matt Kemp: From All Done to All-Star
July 9, 2018

It was a salary dump. All the reporters told you that. You didn't even need for them to tell you that. It just made sense. The Dodgers acquired one-time phenom Matt Kemp from Atlanta in December, and you figured he would be in LA again for about 20 minutes. Now he's an All-Star.

The exact date was December 16, 2017. Just over a week before Christmas, the Dodgers sent Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, and cash to the Atlanta Braves for Kemp. Atlanta almost immediately released Gonzalez, and everyone figured the Dodgers would do the same with Kemp, except they didn't, and he's putting on a show.

Gonzalez had a great career with the Dodgers, but got hurt last year, which allowed for the emergence of Cody Bellinger. Bellinger won Rookie of the Year, and there was no turning back on him. McCarthy and Kazmir each spent a lot of time on the Disabled List, and were no big loss. Culberson, by far the youngest of the group, had some great moments in LA, including the division-clinching walkoff hit—Vin Scully's last call at Dodger Stadium. You figured Atlanta needed at least * something * of value in the deal, so they got Culberson.

McCarthy is 35, and will be a free agent at the end of the year. Kazmir is 34 and hasn't pitched in the big leagues in two years. The Braves released him in March. Gonzalez is 36. He'll be a free agent at the end of the year. He played the first third of the season with the Mets, but with New York going nowhere fast, they let him go so they could try out younger guys. Culberson is 29, and has become a bit of a cult hero in Atlanta with some game-winning hits, but he'll also become a free agent at the end of this season. Bottom line? Atlanta (which probably didn't see themselves as a first place club this year, which they currently are) could spend one year with all these guys they got from the Dodgers, and then clear the books.

The Dodgers figured they were getting something out of the deal, too. Yes, they had to part with Culberson, but they already had two Culberson-like players in Kike Hernandez and Chris Taylor. Getting rid of the older, often-injured guys would clear up some salary room to maybe sign a free agent or wait until July and make a deadline deal. Meanwhile, they had to figure out what to do with Kemp, who came up with the Dodgers in 2006, but was shipped to San Diego prior to the 2015 season in a multi-player deal which included catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Kemp is 33 now (it seems like he would be older), and is signed through next year. That's why the Braves traded him. He's owed about 40 million over those two years. The Dodgers could afford to write that off and give him his walking papers. Instead, they invited him to spring training. When he was in San Diego and Atlanta, he looked nothing like the guy who, in retrospect and Ryan Braun's performance enhancing drug use, should have won the National League MVP in 2011 (39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB). Kemp can't run anymore, but he showed up a reported 40 pounds lighter than last year, and made the team.

Kemp was an All-Star in his great season of 2011. He was back the next year, but this is his first trip back since. Injuries have slowed him down, and some fans (like my mother) questioned his focus. His rumored romance with singer Rhiana and an attraction to the Hollywood lifestyle supposedly entered in, but the numbers don't entirely back that up. Kemp only played 73 games in 2013. In his final season with the Dodgers in 2014, he hit 25 homers and batted .287. The Padres made a lot of moves to get competitive in 2015, and trading for Kemp was one of them. It didn't work out for either party, the Padres dealt away a lot of their better players, including Kemp to Atlanta. He now finds himself back where it all started.

Kemp is on pace for 30 homers and 100 RBIs this season, and while me may fall short of being an MVP, he is an All-Star on a team where it all started, but where no one thought he would stay.

D.C. Bound: The All-Star game is in Washington D.C., and not only is Kemp going to represent the Dodgers, but so is relief pitcher Kenley Jansen. Dave Roberts will manage the NL squad, after taking the National League championship last year, and he'll bring most if not all of his coaches with him. Infielder Max Muncy is in the fan vote for the final roster spot, and Muncy apparently declared on a radio talk show that he'll be participating in the home run derby, even though the field won't officially be announced until Wednesday.

Sprawling Socal: It may have been hot in Anaheim when the Dodgers faced the Angels Friday night (108 degrees at first pitch), but the game was in the Dodgers' own backyard. For three weeks, from June 25 and running until Sunday (July 15), the Dodgers don't leave southern California. They had a homestand with the Chicago Cubs and Colorado, a weekend in Anaheim, they began a four-game series in San Diego this evening, and finish with a three-game series at Dodger Stadium against the Angels Friday through Sunday. After the break, they have one of their longest road trips of the year to Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Atlanta—all of whom are playoff teams in the NL as of right now.

Sunday sports spectacular: Get up early, set your DVRs, or both, because there is a lot going on on Sunday. The men's final at Wimbledon begins at 6am (all times Pacific), and the World Cup Soccer championship game is at 8. If you are so inclined to get into the All-Star festivities early, the Futures Game is at 1pm on MLB Network, but the Dodgers and Angels are on at the same time (no TV where I am), and the Giants and A's face each other in the final game before the break.

The world's final four: All four teams remaining in soccer's World Cup are from Europe. France will face Belgium in one semifinal on Tuesday, and England battles Croatia in the other semi on Wednesday. I don't know who to root for here. Belgium knocked off my team (Brazil) but they are pretty good, but a France-England final would be more than interesting.

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