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A shot to generation gap

Dodgers' clubhouse rift appears to grow as young players fire back at Kent, with Loney saying, 'Who said he was a leader?'

September 22, 2007|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Word got back to the Dodgers' clubhouse on Friday that Jeff Kent had criticized the team's younger players, and James Loney wasn't pleased. Matt Kemp said he was disappointed. And Manager Grady Little admitted that clubhouse cohesion has been "quite a challenge" with a significant number of his players being on one extreme or the other of the age spectrum.

Before a 12-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night that pushed the Dodgers to within one game of elimination from the National League West race, the usually soft-spoken Loney vented about Kent's statements from the previous day questioning the team's reliance on younger players, whom Kent, considered a future Hall of Famer, said lacked "professionalism."

Asked if it bothered him to be criticized by one of the team's leaders, Loney said of Kent, "Who said he was a leader?"

Said Kemp: "If you take the younger guys away, do you have a team?"

Upon being swept in a four-game series in Colorado, Kent said he was "disappointed," "angry" and "perplexed." He spoke in vague terms of the "many things" responsible for the Dodgers' slide from playoff contention. When asked if that included Little's lineups and the coaching staff's strategy, he said, "Everything."

"We've got some good kids on the team," Kent said. "Don't get me wrong, please don't misinterpret my impressions. [But] it's hard to translate experience."

He said of the younger players: "I don't know why they don't get it."

Of what they don't get, Kent said, "A lot of things. Professionalism. How to manufacture a run. How to keep your emotions in it. There's just a lot of things that go on with playing 162 games."

He added: "It's close to the end of the season. And a career for me too. I'm running out of time. A lot of kids in here, they don't understand that."

Loney and Kemp acknowledged that their inexperience has resulted in mistakes, but denied they lack a sense of urgency.

"The younger guys, we work hard, we play hard," Kemp said. "We're trying to make a name in the game for ourselves. The older guys, they've already made their names for themselves. We don't want to get that bad rap, that we don't want to win or we don't want to play hard, because you won't make it far in this game."

Loney said the sizable generation gap in the clubhouse, and the fact there are few players in their prime to bridge the gap between young and old, probably resulted in some misunderstandings.

"That's not just in baseball, that's in life," he said. "Definitely, things get misinterpreted. You really need to get to learn that person. A lot of people don't want to take that time. A lot of people are too lazy to do that."

Loney said Kent has never spoken to him about any of his points of criticism.

But Little said that the mentoring process is "a two-way street. It's like a marriage."

Kemp said the younger players might "play around more" in the clubhouse, which he said might be mistaken for a lack of focus.

"Having fun is part of the game," Kemp said. "If you came up here and you were serious all the time, that's not fun. Joking with your boys, that's fun. It helps you relax. You don't have to think of all the pressures. You think of just having fun. But we've been serious when we get between the white lines."

Asked if Little had adequately managed the personalities on the team, Loney replied, "I don't really have anything to say on that."

General Manager Ned Colletti said the revelations of a generational rift in the clubhouse wouldn't affect Little's job status for next season.

Little admitted that building cohesion has "been something that in some ways could've been better. We'll do our best for it to be better the next time the situation comes up, but I don't foresee it coming up like this in my lifetime."

Little declined to comment on Kent's remarks, saying he hadn't yet talked to him about them.

Kent refused to revisit the discussion for long on Friday. To a suggestion that he might want to clarify his vaguer statements, he replied, "If I wanted to clarify anything, I would've done it yesterday."

He said he wouldn't retract what he said, asking, "Are there no reasons we lost?"

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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