Life is jagged lines.
In the majors, Yasiel Puig shouldn’t be expected to match the .383 on-base percentage and .599 slugging he has put up with Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, though to be clear, the Southern League isn’t nearly as deceptive a hitting environment as the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Scott Van Slyke, for example, has a major-league OPS with the Dodgers this year of .909 following an Albuquerque OPS of 1.236. The gap should be less for Puig, and if it is, he’ll be hitting better than Andre Ethier is now.
As a result, there are few scenarios in which Puig’s arrival in Los Angeles on Monday won’t improve the Dodgers. Puig will play in the outfield and likely be more productive than the guy he’s replacing, Skip Schumaker. While he will still serve as a late-inning defensive replacement, Schumaker can also spend more time in the infield and be more productive than the guy he takes at-bats away from, Luis Cruz.
By my appropriation of the transitive property, that is the low bar that Puig needs to clear to be an asset. That doesn’t speak to what kind of leap Puig will actually make. Puig could be a band-aid for this struggling team, or he could be bionic. At different times, he’ll be both.
Life is jagged lines. Puig, like everyone else, will go up and down and down and up, his graph of success as prickly as a porcupine. He will have good games and bad games and games where you can’t decide what they were.
He will be like the last savior in the outfield, Matt Kemp.
Some Dodger fans have little sense of irony, but you have to admire how the rapid and rabid revolt against Kemp for his shortcomings in 2013 has been accompanied by urgent calls for him to be replaced by the player who most resembles him.
Seven years ago, Kemp was Puig – the raw kid with talent to burn and lessons to learn. Puig, like Kemp did when he hit the majors at age 21 in 2006, has a hugely bright future. But anyone putting their faith in Puig will almost certainly at some point need a level of patience that many fans have denied Kemp whenever he has struggled, no matter how much he has done for his team.
In 2007 and 2009, Kemp was hugely productive. In 2008 and 2010, people were calling for him to be traded.
Last May, he was the best player on the planet. This May? Read these letters to the Los Angeles Times.
It’s hard to believe that Matt Kemp has made the Dodgers’ $160-million investment disappear quicker than Bernie Madoff ever could have.
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I have never heard of a team being worse off if a guy that’s hitting .251 with two home runs and 17 RBIs goes on the disabled list. I’m pretty sure that a minor leaguer could equal or exceed those numbers in half the time. How does Matt Kemp injure his hamstring when he hardly, if ever, goes full speed?
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Lest we forget, Matt Kemp is a paid performer and he’s not earning his keep. Baseball is a business. At any other company he would have been dismissed long ago for his woeful performance. Kemp would do well to invoke the ghost of the late Lyman Bostock who memorably asked the late Buzzie Bavasi, then the GM of the Angels, to withhold his salary because of poor performance.
They’re all good, but Nevell’s is my favorite. “At any other company he would have been dismissed long ago for his woeful performance.”
“Long ago.” Just let that roll around in your head for a minute.
It never ceases to amaze me how many baseball fans act as if they’ve never seen a player slump, much less struggle to recover from surgery. They expect straight lines. I don’t know why, because in baseball, they don’t exist. The only straight lines in baseball go from home plate toward the right-field and left-field corners.
Even Mike Trout got the derisive whispers this past April. Imagine.
There’s no mistaking how difficult it has been to watch Kemp play this year. I don’t know exactly what his future holds, but I don’t see any reason to believe that what we’ve seen this season is the best we’ll see from him for the rest of his days. I don’t understand how baseball fans can have such short memories, when it’s a game built on lasting ones.
Kemp made a name – and a nickname – for himself out of the gate in 2006, hitting seven home runs in his first 15 games. A month later, he was back in the minors. I’m excited about Yasiel Puig’s arrival – curiosity, hope and the potential of witnessing the birth of greatness are a good combination to have when tuning into a game, especially when your team is in last place. But I pray I’m not alone in anticipating how uneven the road might be, not only over the coming days, but also weeks, months and years. It doesn’t pay to be too hopeful or too cynical.
Life is jagged lines, and baseball is life.