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T.J. SIMERS

Davey Lopes is in Matt Kemp's camp, but can he help other Dodgers too?

A chat with the Dodgers coach who's been credited with helping the L.A. outfielder.

April 12, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Dodgers first base coach Davey Lopes has worked closely with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp following his disappointing performance in 2010.
Dodgers first base coach Davey Lopes has worked closely with Dodgers outfielder… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )

From San Francisco — The headline Tuesday in the San Francisco Chronicle read: "Lopes Has Kemp Back on Track."

That's great, but what about all the other Dodgers who aren't so talented, which means pretty much everyone else?

If nobody else improves, the Dodgers won't do much this season. So I asked Davey Lopes, and he took immediate exception.

"I've never been a miracle worker," he huffed, which would seem to make him the wrong man to coach the Dodgers.

When I told him I expected more out of him than just time spent with Matt Kemp, he really got peeved.

I wonder how he got along with Garvey, Cey & Russell. I think I understand now why Lopes was the first to leave town.

"Are you trying to get a story here?" Lopes asked, and would there be any other reason to come to San Francisco with a notebook in hand on a night when the Lakers are playing?

The guy is a former player, coach and manager, 65 years old and displaying all the insecurities of a recent call-up from triple A. I guess there's no smiling in baseball.

"I can't help someone who runs 5.6," he said, and I asked him why it was necessary to single out Casey Blake. You know, just teasing a tad.

He reacted like someone who has spent too much time living in Philadelphia. That might explain why he snapped.

"I won't work with anyone else [other than Kemp],'" said Lopes. "I don't like any other players."

And the Dodgers fired Larry Bowa for being less than positive?

Well, to be technical, they didn't bring Bowa back because he picked on Kemp, irritating the sensitive player and his agent.

The agent, Dave Stewart, was so upset by the lack of love shown to Kemp a year ago, he suggested it might be better if Kemp continued his career elsewhere. Stewart also made it clear he didn't care what Dodgers fans thought about Kemp.

To replace Bowa, the Dodgers hired Stewart's best friend. Lopes. Stewart stayed with Lopes in spring training this year, but when I asked Lopes if they had talked about Kemp's problems last season, he said, "I don't need to do my homework."

So they must have talked before Stewart moved in.

On the off chance Lopes was kidding when he said he wouldn't work with anyone other than Kemp, I told him I was writing down his remarks. You know, just in case he wanted to say: "Gotcha!"

But Lopes said, "Fine, write what you want," so I wrote it down: He must really not like anyone other than Kemp.

I understand, of course. I don't like all the Dodgers, or frankly, recognize enough of them to know whether I like them or not. I just figure most of them are stiffs and will be gone in a year, replaced by another batch of stiffs.

But it seems to me the Dodgers would be better off if one of their key coaches didn't focus all his efforts on just one guy — even if it is his best friend's client.

"I can't make players better if they don't have God-given ability," Lopes said, so hard to believe he didn't make it as a manager in Milwaukee, where they never seem to have a whole lot of guys with God-given talent.

I read Lopes' quotes to Manager Don Mattingly and he went sour. "We're running the bases better," Mattingly said, and I told him I thought it was great the other players on the team were doing their best without Lopes' help.

Mattingly became increasingly irritated with the line of questioning. I thought about telling him, "Gotcha!" but if Lopes wasn't going to play that game, I wasn't either.

Three years on the job here, and while some might argue he nodded off, Joe Torre never lost his cool in an interview. It took Mattingly less than 11 games to be off his game.

That's when Dodgers publicity assistant Joe Jareck spoke up. He advised Page 2 not to write anything derogatory about Lopes because Dodgers fans really love him. Funny, Jareck has never told me not to write anything derogatory about Frank McCourt.

But he did say Page 2 wrote a terrible column about the Lakers. Almost four years ago.

If it had not been for Lopes, I can't imagine how long Jareck might have gone before getting that Lakers column off his chest. I can only imagine what McCourt has stored up.

As for Lopes, he remained uptight and perturbed to the very end, as if Page 2 was responsible for signing all the players that he doesn't like.

I told him, "Until next time" when we parted, and he said, "There won't be a next time." He doesn't seem big on making friends. I have no idea why people have to act like that.

I WONDER who James Loney's agent might be, and if he has a best friend who is a baseball coach. That's the guy the Dodgers should hire, Loney hitting.211 after the All-Star break last season and .163 so far this season.

I'd say something to Lopes, but I think I know what the grouch would say: Can't help him if he doesn't get on base.

CAN'T WAIT for Thursday and "the sea of blue." Is there any chance there will be more police than fans in the stadium?

It might be a good time for Jamie McCourt to make her first appearance of the year. As the Dodgers do what they can to spruce up their image, it'd be nice if she got some attention for her role in making Dodger Stadium what it is today.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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