Matt Kemp: The Stress of a Triple Crown
Three Points is a magic number in sports. It represents a shot, a field goal a hat trick and now a Triple Crown. At this very moment Dodger Center Fielder Matt Kemp sits just 3 points away from becoming a legend. He is tied with Albert Pujols for the league lead in home runs with 37 and he owns the lead in rbi’s with 119. At .326, the only thing standing in his way is Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers with a .329 batting average, just three points.
So what is going through his mind right now? What should this emerging star be focused on and what is he thinking? Well, one thing is for sure, he is thinking about it. No matter how humble an athlete sounds, they always know where they stand. The great advantage that Kemp has over all the others that have tried this feat before is his coach and mentor, Don Mattingly. Don has been down this road before, once hitting a homer in 8 consecutive games to set an MLB record. Kemp must lean on his manager for focus and positive reinforcement right now.
Another thing you can bet on is that Kemp is watching Ryan Braun and every swing he takes, even if he says he isn’t. He may even be a bit frustrated that the Brewers locked in the division title Friday night, because there is almost no reason for the Brew Crew to start Braun for the remainder of the year. So Kemp needs to think only in terms of his play and the results of the team right now. He must think that Braun will hit .329, period.
The good thing for Kemp is that he isn’t playing for a title of any sort; there is no additional pressure on him to win. The Dodgers are playing for a winning record, not the playoffs; this is a big relief in this type of situation. Kemp can be a bit more focused on himself in this last week and he should not feel guilty about it.
He is also trying to be the fifth player in MLB history to ever steal 40 and hit 40 homers. If he does this, he will join Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, A-Rod and Alfonso Soriano. Wow, what a great year! So it is also very tempting for Kemp to start swinging from his heels, to do everything he can to get those final three homers and make it into the 40/40 club.
He is from a good family and has a good mentor in Mattingly, so no matter what happens from here, he will be back and in even better shape ready to go next season!
At the end of the day, Kemp is having the season of a lifetime. If he ultimately falls short of some arbitrary statistical goal, he should not be disappointed, and neither should his fans. No matter what happens from here, Kemp has delivered a performance that none of us will soon forget, one that might be worthy of the NL Most Valuable Player award on an average team.