Kemp touches on contract, Prince, NL MVP
Dodgers star wants to stay in LA, hopes club can lure Fielder
LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp took time out from an offseason of collecting awards Thursday to talk about some really big awards he still might collect.
He reiterated wanting to sign a long-term extension to remain a Dodger, offered hope that the club can sign his free-agent buddy Prince Fielder and said he's anxiously awaiting to learn if he'll win the National League MVP Award after his stunning bounce-back season.
"I never knew until I was in the discussion that it took this long to wait," Kemp said with a laugh. "We've got about 20 more days before we find out. It feels like a long time. My family is getting a little impatient.
"The award would mean a lot. I worked hard in the offseason to try to get better, to stay on the field every game and have the chance to be one of the best players. If I'm on the field helping, we have a chance to win games. I just feel the hard work paid off but there's a long road ahead of us."
It's already been a big week for Kemp. He repeated his 2009 double win of the Rawlings Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards as one of the best defensive and offensive outfielders in the league. In between came news that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will put the team up for sale.
Kemp said he heard that news via Twitter.
"Twitter's crazy," he said. "Somebody gave me a tweet. I was a little surprised. It's unfortunate for Mr. McCourt. I have nothing but respect for him. We always had a good relationship. Let everybody know I wish him the best."
"I hope we can work something out," said Kemp, who's eligible to become a free agent after next season. "I've told everybody this is where I want to be, in L.A., for years to come. But I can't control anything in the front office."
And Kemp -- who credits improved focus as one of the reasons for his turnaround from a disappointing 2010 -- agrees with Stewart about not negotiating during the season.
"I've heard from people that negotiating can get tough and maybe overwhelming," he said. "I don't want to mess up the chemistry of the team. I just want to play baseball."
As for that chemistry, Kemp isn't shy about offering suggestions for change.
"Every team can use another big bat," he said. "More offense would help us out. We lost a lot of one-run runs. One more big bat, we'd be more dangerous. Why not do it?"
So, he was asked, how's the recruiting of Fielder coming?
"I'm sure he's had enough of baseball now," Kemp said. "Hopefully, we can get him here. I'd love to have him in L.A., definitely."
Maybe that's what Kemp was hinting at when asked about how the sale process might affect the club's ability to sign an impact player like Fielder.
"We don't know what it's going to do," he said. "We don't know who gets the team. Time will tell. I hope something really amazing happens and we get to Spring Training with a great group of guys."
Kemp said when he gets there, he has plenty of work to do, despite his record-breaking achievements.
"We all have something to learn every year," he said. "I have to get better. [Coach] Davey Lopes said I get thrown out too many times stealing [caught 11 times in 51 attempts]. I need to cut down on my strikeouts , I need to be more patient in key situations and let the game flow, let it go.
"I just need to relax and have fun on the field, not stressing out, not doing too much and my talent is going to show. Just not put pressure on myself."
Kemp, 27, batted .324 (third in the NL) with 39 home runs and 126 RBI in 2011, leading the NL in homers, RBIs, runs scored (115) and total bases (353). The 2011 NL All-Star also finished among league leaders in multi-hit games (57, tied for first), hits (195, second), slugging percentage (.586, second), extra-base hits (76, second), stolen bases (40, tied for second), on-base percentage (.399, fourth) and walks (74, tied for eighth).
Kemp became the seventh player in Major League history to finish the season ranked in the top three in homers, batting average, RBIs and stolen bases in their respective league, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1907, 1909-11), Honus Wagner ('08), George Sisler ('20), Chuck Klein ('32), Willie Mays ('55) and Hank Aaron ('63).
In addition, he was the first Dodger to lead the NL in home runs and RBIs since Dolph Camilli in 1941 and the first Dodger in history to lead the NL in homers, RBIs and runs scored. He is one of five players all-time to eclipse 30 homers, 35 stolen bases, 100 RBIs and a .310 average, joining Ken Williams (1922), Barry Bonds (1992), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Vladimir Guerrero (2002).
This year, Kemp was voted by teammates as winner of the Roy Campanella Award, which goes to the Dodger who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Famer; he's received the Hank Aaron Award, as the most outstanding offensive player in the NL; the Baseball America Player of the Year; the NL Stan Musial Award, presented by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance; won the Gold Glove Award; won the Silver Slugger Award; was named a finalist for the Players Choice outstanding player in the NL; and was named to The Sporting News NL All-Star team.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.