Kemp enters season with lofty personal goals
Proof will be in veteran outfielder's actual power, speed production
So Matt Kemp expects to finish this season with more than 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases? That's fine. In fact, there is nothing wrong with the Los Angeles Dodgers' center fielder, or anybody else, speaking of doing what has been the impossible in baseball.
Well, there is that one little problem.
He'd better do it.
Once you put yourself out there like that, you can't become anything less than Babe Ruth pointing beyond an outfield wall, Muhammad Ali predicting rounds when an opponent will drop or Joe Namath claiming his Jets are more Super than you think.
And don't forget about Jimmy Rollins, who owned one of the brightest crystal balls in sports history.
Prior to the 2007 season, Rollins caused giggling around the Major Leagues when he predicted his Philadelphia Phillies were "the team to beat" in the National League East.
Actually, the Phillies were "the team to beat" for a while, but for another reason. They were mediocre and sometimes lousy, so they were beaten by many people. They hadn't reached the postseason since losing the 1993 World Series. Plus, the New York Mets roared to the division title in 2006 without much of a challenge.
Then there were the Atlanta Braves, a highly talented bunch that was just a season removed from finishing with a Major League record 14 consecutive division titles.
Rollins wouldn't back down.
Once, I tried to give Rollins an escape route. I asked if he meant the Phillies were "the team to beat," but only if this happened or that happened. He shook his head. He continued with his mantra to me and to anybody else carrying a microphone, camera or notebook.
Good for Rollins. Not only did the Phillies win the division, but they did so courtesy of their slick-fielding shortstop with the potent bat and words that suddenly were prophetic.
Although Rollins didn't accomplish that 50-50 thing, he did something that almost was as riveting along the way to National League MVP Award honors. He completed a 20-20-20-20 thing, with 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
He was just the fourth player to do so.
Nobody has gone 50-50.
Not Alex Rodriguez.
Not Barry Bonds.
Not even Willie Mays.
"Man," Kemp told Yahoo! Sports. "I believe in myself to the most. I have confidence I can achieve it. I try to set my expectations as high as I can. I think I'm capable of doing it."
He should have such thoughts, especially after nearly prying last year's NL MVP Award out of the hands of Ryan Braun.
If nothing else, Kemp and Braun deserved co-MVP honors since Kemp was just a home run shy of becoming the fifth player in Major League history to do a 40-40 thing.
More specifically, despite a Dodgers lineup that featured teammates who were offensively challenged throughout the season, Kemp ripped 39 home runs while stealing 40 bases. He also hit .324 with 33 doubles, 126 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .399.
Kemp's numbers were so overwhelming that the Dodgers' outgoing ownership group signed its 27-year-old star to an eight-year contract in November worth $160 million.
Here's the essence of that contract: There are no designated hitters in the NL, but there are designated faces in both leagues. And that contract made Kemp the DF of a Dodgers franchise that hasn't captured a playoff series since winning the 1988 World Series championship.
If you're the DF of a franchise, you have to show up early to Spring Training, for instance, which Kemp did, when he arrived in Phoenix this week with the Dodgers' pitchers and catchers.
You also have to show you're not going to back down from what you say are your core values for your team and for yourself.
"I want to win bad, man," Kemp told the Los Angeles Times regarding his team. "This is the year. Every year I want to win, but I feel like this year we need to turn things around and get back on track."
Regarding himself, Kemp told the paper about his 50-50 thing, saying, "You have to set your limits even higher than you want them to be."
Which means Kemp is following in Rollins' cleat steps.
Just like Rollins of 2007, Kemp hopes his tongue can inspire everything around him, even when it comes to a Dodgers offense that barely averaged four runs per game last season.
The team-oriented Kemp is suggesting that his 50-50 thing at the plate -- combined with the Dodgers' solid pitching -- would help the Dodgers survive a few slumps along the way from a James Loney or an Andre Ethier.
If accomplished, Kemp's 50-50 thing would do something else.
Shock the world, as some boxer used to say.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.