I’m not saying just yet that they are or aren’t; but it seems to be a discussion worth having. Check out these comments from Joe Torre to MLB.com:
Kent is always a focal point of sorts, even when he’s gone. Manager Joe Torre said that the dugout mood was especially loose during Sunday’s win (Kent had returned to Los Angeles before Saturday night’s game) and, responding to a question, acknowledged that Kent’s serious demeanor might intimidate his younger teammates.
“With me, when I was a young player, nothing meant more to me than my brother Frank’s opinion,” said Torre. “Now, maybe, the shadow of big brother is not around. Maybe that frees them up to do other things. That’s what comes to mind for me. I still think there’s an air of respect for that person, but sometimes you’re a little hesitant to be outgoing if someone’s there to correct you.”
This is hardly a solid cause-and-effect, but with Kent, the Dodgers had lost 10 of their last 11 games. As soon as he was out of town (and not just out of the lineup. The whole point here is the idea that just his presence may have been detrimental), they’ve ripped off four wins in a row, starting with Saturday’s game, since as the article notes, he left before it.
Again, I’m not saying any of this is more than just a coincidence. But it’s really not all that hard to believe that as what is most likely Kent’s last season began circling the drain during a brutal losing streak, that he might have become even more difficult to be around in the clubhouse. It’s hard to play well when you’re tight and not having any fun, and as prickly as Kent always is, I can only imagine what he was like when no one could hit. I mean, it’s not as though replacing him on the field has helped all that much, because while Blake DeWitt’s definitely been an improvement on defense, he’s only managed three singles in the five games he’s played since returning. Maybe a happier, looser clubhouse is what turned things around? No one can say for sure, of course, but if you’ve got a better idea for how a team can suck so awfully against the worst team in baseball (Washington) and somehow come back to take out two Cy Young contenders on back-to-back nights starting the exact game Kent was out of the locker room, please let me know.
On another note, Giants blog El Lefty Malo is already taking a look ahead at what you might be seeing from San Francisco in 2009. (Sidenote: woof! I almost feel bad for these guys. Almost.) In discussing what they might have in right field, they say:
(The ideal right fielder for Mays Field is a guy with plus speed, a great arm, and a right-handed bat whose home runs don’t die on the right-center field warning track. Like this guy.)
In case you don’t want to click on their link… they’re talking about our very own Matt Kemp. Is there anything better than having your oldest rivals drooling over your young talent? I think not.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness