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Matt Kemp's heart, hustle and head are examined

He is the Dodgers' finalist for Heart & Hustle award, which many on the team say belongs to Jamey Carroll. Kemp says he cares, and wants to stay.

August 17, 2010|T.J. Simers

How about a belly laugh to start the day?

Matt Kemp, the guy who doesn't always run hard and who allowed his agent to whine for him recently, has been selected as the Dodgers' finalist for the Heart & Hustle award this year, presented annually to someone "who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game."

I will pause now so you might get off the floor and regain your composure.

Each team in baseball has a finalist, and I thought I was going to have to give mouth-to-mouth to Rick Monday to bring him back after telling him about it, the broadcaster "observant" at times of Kemp's play at his own pace, but going incoherent when asked how he felt about Kemp receiving such an honor.

Larry Bowa's immediate response, although Kemp's agent has suggested Bowa never be allowed to talk again: "The Heart & Hustle award goes to Jamey Carroll. He's our MVP and heart and hustle."

Ron Cey was at Tuesday night's game with the Rockies, and he's a former major league player so I wondered if he had voted for Kemp and what he thought of Kemp being so honored.

He just walked away, while saying over his shoulder, "See you at the trial."

OK, since it will probably be my only chance to find Frank McCourt and learn what he thinks about anything.

As for General Manager Ned Colletti, who started the "let's bash Matt Kemp campaign" this season that has really caught on, he says of the nomination, "somebody obviously noticed something."

Joe Torre, who has to worry about team chemistry, says, "My choice for the award would be Jamey Carroll."

"I'll second that," adds Colletti.

Kind of explains where the Dodgers sit in the standings, their mascot — the team's player of the year.

On a surprising note, the Dodgers did not ask for a Heart & Hustle award recount, according to spokesman Josh Rawitch.

Rawitch says there will be a pregame ceremony to honor Kemp later in September — you know when there will be fewer folks in the park to boo him.

It was Matt Kemp bobblehead night, and not a good night for such a ceremony with every fan given something to throw.

The bobbleheads, by the way, came in boxes that read, "This is my town." Presumably, on the other side of the box they read, "For now.''

FOR THE record, I like Kemp, think he's going to be a great player, and believe he needs an off-season to regroup, grow up and get a grip on the day-to-day pressure of being in the spotlight.

Kemp should never have allowed his agent, Dave Stewart, to cry to Plaschke, making Kemp appear as a baby incapable of taking criticism or advice from Dodgers' coaches who are paid to mentor such a young player.

If the fans here turn on him, believing he really doesn't want to be here, he might never recover.

Does Kemp really feel picked on?

"I'm a grown man," he says. "You're picked on when you're a kid," but then just as quickly the kid adds, "I'm not going there'' when asked if the Dodgers have been too tough on him.

While more often noticed for his bravado, too often it's a disguise. Pressed to reflect, Kemp admits, "Yeah, there have been times probably when I haven't given 100%. But I want people to know I work hard, and I definitely care. I've been trying to do everything I can to figure this out."

He took batting practice Tuesday and then joined Dodgers' great Don Newcombe in the stands for a chat.

"He's one of my guys," Kemp says with respect.

Some folks have theorized it's the L.A. lifestyle and girlfriend, singer Rihanna, who have impacted Kemp's baseball career for the worse.

"My girl has nothing to do with what I do on the baseball field," Kemp says. "If anything she helps. She makes me happy, and as stressed as I am coming home sometimes, it's nice to have someone there who just wants to support you."

Whatever the reason, Kemp is not the same player who won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award last season. But as poorly as things have gone, including the suggestion from his agent that maybe it's best he be traded, he's not looking to escape.

"I don't want to get traded,'' he says. "I take the blame for how things have gone — even one better month from me would have made a difference. But this is where I want to play. I love the fans here.

"I know I have let a lot of people down, and sitting here right now, I'd like to apologize to the fans who buy tickets and jerseys."

As for the Heart & Hustle nomination, and so many others favoring the mascot, Kemp says, "I definitely agree with that.

"Should I win such an award, I'll give it to him."

Then his agent will probably demand it back.

THE DODGERS are selling $25 tickets to dogs interested in attending Saturday's game in an apparent effort to make the Choking Dogs feel at home.

Humans will also be charged $25 to join their critters.

Each dog will be given a seat in the right field pavilion and count in the final attendance numbers the Dodgers are so proud of each year. Fans attending Sunday's game should be advised to be careful where they sit.

THE DODGERS and Angels began the day with identical records. So how bad are the Angels? Much of the Dodgers' woes are blamed on the McCourts' impending divorce. By all accounts, Artie and Carol Moreno are just doing fine together, so something else must be pulling down the Angels.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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