COMMENTARY | As the Los Angeles Dodgers make their push towards a playoff berth in 2013 with a squad that's finally getting healthy, they have come to a crossroads with their best offensive player. Matt Kemp's shoulder is hurt yet again as he deals with AC joint irritation, and he's back on the 15-day disabled list. In a lost season for the should-have-been 2011 MVP, the best course of action is to shut him down for the remainder of the campaign and let him get as healthy as possible.
Is it crazy to suggest a team with such a high payroll fighting to get into the playoffs should shut down its star centerfielder for the remainder of the season? On the face of it, yes. However, when you look at what Kemp has had to deal with injury-wise the last couple of years, his contract, and the team's roster, it makes perfect sense with the larger picture in mind.
Kemp's Injury Woes
Kemp suffered a hamstring injury early in 2012 that derailed his ultra-hot start to the season. After returning, Matt got back to his offensive ways before running into the outfield wall twice in Coors Field. Though the team should have just shut him down then and there, prioritizing the future over the present, they allowed him to continue playing.
Doctors did say Kemp couldn't further injure the shoulder, but what was the reward in letting him play out the season? Baseball wasn't ending in 2012 and Kemp had plenty of years left in Dodger Blue. The club missed the boat entirely on that one, and it's in line with their history of letting players play injured, as I've discussed in the past.
Even if and when he is cleared to play this time around, the decision is easy. Doctors cleared him last season and look what resulted. Medicine isn't always an exact science so risking what has been a ridiculously injured shoulder any further this season makes absolutely no sense.
Matt Kemp signed an eight-year, $160 million extension in late 2011 that runs through the 2019 season. It was tied for the seventh largest deal ever at the time The Bison inked it, and as with any deal, the priority should be having Kemp healthy and productive for as much of said contract as possible.
However, by allowing Kemp to play hurt, the Dodgers have put the remainder of the deal in jeopardy. What was once a bargain contract could end up being an albatross if Kemp's shoulder never allows him to return to the dominant offensive force he had become.
Last I checked, seven years of Matt Kemp is more valuable to a team than an injury-plagued part of a season, but apparently that was too difficult a concept for the Dodgers to understand and implement last year. It's admirable that Kemp wanted to play through the pain, but it's the organization's job to protect players from themselves.
The Dodgers Can Survive 2013 Without Kemp
I never thought I'd find myself believing those words anytime soon, but with the way a clearly damaged Kemp has played this season, the Dodgers would be better off letting him heal completely than continuing to run him out there hurt and one-shouldered.
The Dodgers have four outfielders more than capable of manning a spot and being solid players in Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig. While all have dealt with injuries of some sort in 2013, three are currently healthy. Can you bank on that the remainder of the season, especially if you remove Kemp from the picture? Probably not, but I'd be comfortable with an outfield of Carl, Dre, and Yasiel down the stretch backed up by Scott Van Slyke and Joc Pederson.
If Kemp got healthy and demonstrated his swing was back, then great, you've got a plethora of options. But the Blue Crew already has a plethora of options, and sacrificing Kemp's 2013 for the greater good of the next half-decade is too logical a solution to not implement.
With three quality outfielders and a solid fourth in SVS, the rest of the lineup healthy, an improved bullpen, and a dynamite 1-2-3 at the top of the rotation, the Dodgers can more than afford to shut down Matt Kemp for the remainder of the 2013 season.
Had the Dodgers come to this sane and logical conclusion last season, perhaps things would be different right now. The hamstring injuries couldn't be avoided, and Kemp would still have less power now than at his peak as he recovered from his torn labrum, but it's safe to say the extent of his shoulder woes would have been less and his recovery period would have begun sooner.
Better late than never certainly applies here. The previous season plus can't be retrieved, but the Dodgers can finally be proactive and work towards getting back some semblance of the Matt Kemp of old. Time off allows Ethier to re-build some value and prevents Kemp -- one of the most competitive guys in the league -- from rushing himself back.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Should the Dodgers continue to allow an injured Matt Kemp to play and not give him the proper amount of time to heal as fully as possible, they'll get nothing but the struggles of late 2012 and 2013 rather than the overwhelming offensive output of 2011 and April 2012.
Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
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