Dodgers' Colletti rips MVP candidate

Hey, here's a good idea! Give a guy a new contract, then rip him when he makes a few mistakes in April! Hey, it could work, right? From the L.A. Times:

Matt Kemp is off to a terrific start at the plate but has misplayed numerous balls in the outfield, and Tuesday reverted back to his earlier baserunning problems -- running from second to third on a ball hit to short with no one on first and less than two outs.

Said Colletti to KABC radio’s Peter Tilden: "Some guys, I guess, think that they're better than they are. They think the opposition's just going to roll over and get beat by them. That obviously doesn't happen.

"The baserunning's below average. The defense is below average. Why is it? Because he got a new deal? I can't tell you."

Kemp responded with more grace than you might expect:

Wednesday, before the Dodgers’ afternoon game against the Mets, Kemp was irritated and would not respond to criticism of his defense and baserunning, but denied his two-year, $10.95-million contract was impacting his effort.

"The new deal, that has nothing to do with anything," Kemp said. "Of course it's good to make money, but that's not why I started playing this game. I started playing this game because I love the game, and I'm going to continue to love this game."

Kemp said his work ethic remains strong and Manager Joe Torre said Kemp often beats him to the ballpark.

"People don't know what goes on," Kemp said. "People don't know what time I show up to the stadium. I'm here, I'm here working, I'm here trying to get ready for the game.

I absolutely believe that Kemp is working hard. Most players do work hard. This is their profession and most of them wouldn't be in the majors without excellent professional habits.

Here's the Dirty Little Secret about Matt Kemp, though ... He's not a great outfielder. In 2008, he was slightly below average in center field. In 2009, he was slightly better than average in center field. Yes, he won a Gold Glove but you know how diligent Gold Glove voters are. In the Fielding Bible balloting, he finished just 14th among major league center fielders. That Gold Glove, so foolishly awarded, shouldn't be held against Kemp, who will probably be a left fielder before too much longer.

Baserunning? Yes, there was a glitch Tuesday night. Generally speaking, though, Kemp is an excellent runner.

Colletti's comments were cries of desperation. A long time ago, Bill James observed that lousy organizations tend to blame their best players when things aren't going well. I don't mean to suggest that the Dodgers are a lousy organization, or that Ned Colletti is a lousy general manager. Still, you'd think that when the GM is looking for a scapegoat for the Dodgers' disappointing record, he could find better candidates than the guy who leads the National League in runs scored, RBI and home runs.