Kemp drew 17 walks in his first 25 games, but until Wednesday, none of them were issued intentionally. We'll give Andre Ethier and his National League-leading RBI total much of the credit for that fact. Why put Kemp on base when Ethier is driving him in all the time?
But somewhere along the line of Kemp's spectacular April that won him unanimous NL Player of the Month honors, you'd think an opposing manager would have stuck up four fingers and free-passed him, wouldn't you?
Rockies manager Jim Tracy finally became the first to do it in the top of ninth inning with a runner on first and one out — and Kemp as the tying run in a 5-3 game. Not exactly Buck Showalter's ordering an intentional walk to Barry Bonds with the bases loaded, but a move that had second-guess potential written all over it. And sure enough, it backfired.
Dee Gordon, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the spot that had been occupied by first baseman Juan Rivera, followed Kemp to the plate. Facing closer Rafael Betancourt, Gordon lined a double into right-center field, and Kemp scampered all the way from first to score, easily beating Troy Tulowitzki's relay throw to tie the game.
The Rockies won in the bottom half of the inning on Jason Giambi's dramatic three-run walkoff homer, so Tracy ultimately got off the hook. But afterward, he stuck to his decision by saying, "That's on me, and I'd do it again." Because Tracy is well aware of Kemp's accomplishments, too:
Through Wednesday, only the Mets' David Wright was within 53 points of Kemp's .411 batting average in the NL.
Kemp's franchise-record-for-April 12 home runs were five more than any other NL player, with four others at seven. It took last year's NL MVP — Ryan Braun — to do the unthinkable by hitting three homers in a game at Petco Park to join that group far in Kemp's rear-view mirror.
Kemp's on-base percentage sat exactly at .500, and Wright was the only other player higher than .450.
Kemp's slugging percentage lead was Grand Canyon-wide: .856 compared to runner-up Carlos Gonzalez's .631. The same went for OPS: Kemp at 1.356, followed by Gonzalez's 1.014.
And besides Kemp, only Larry Walker (1997) and Tony Perez (1970) hit .400 with at least 10 homers and 25 RBIs in April. The last similar performance in any month was Luis Gonzalez's .417/12/35 June 2001.
Why, it got to the point where comparing Kemp to mere individuals wasn't enough. Through April, he out-homered the entire rosters of the Cubs and Padres.
Best player in the game today? Kemp, and it's not even close — and it hasn't been since the beginning of the 2011 season.
As Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said: "You can't say what's going on is crazy. He went into the last week of the season last year with a chance to win the Triple Crown."
The only thing Kemp hasn't done much of is steal bases, as he sits at two in five attempts. That's far off his 40-steal pace of 2011. But the MVP award and Triple Crown that eluded him last season certainly are possibilities.
The former is tied to the Dodgers' great start — although at 17-8 through 25 games, their +10 run differential suggests three fewer wins. So does the lineup beyond Kemp and Ethier, with weak spots in left field, first base and third base.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Yet the Dodgers sit atop a National League that doesn't have a powerhouse team. The closest thing to it is the defending World Series-champion Cardinals, who are off to an Albert-who? start of their own.
So why not the Dodgers — especially if new ownership that officially took over Wednesday decides to add to the payroll before the trade deadline, rather than wait until the upcoming off-season?
Then maybe Kemp won't have to put together one of the best-ever months in history for his team to get to the postseason.
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