- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Rival executives have been monitoring the Dodgers' situation all year, processing the unrest between Matt Kemp and members of the team's field staff, wondering if this would mean that general manager Ned Colletti would feel compelled to move one of the most dynamic talents in a trade this winter.
Well, they can just about forget about that.
Colletti made it clear Friday that he's not looking to trade Kemp and feels very good about Kemp's future with the team.
Colletti, like all general managers, will listen if somebody wants to call and make him a proposal on any of his players. "But there's not going to be any shopping on our part," he said.
"I view all of our core younger guys as people who are going to be here for a while."
In 2009, Kemp hit 26 homers and drove in 101 runs with a .352 on-base percentage. This year, however, he has struggled at times, with his OBP plummeting to .309.
Kemp frustrated some members of Joe Torre's staff this year, discord that led to a confrontation and benching in June.
But Kemp is perceived to have a good relationship with new manager Don Mattingly, and there is a feeling in some corners of the organization that his ascension to manager will help patch up the relationship between Kemp and the field staff.
Colletti met with Kemp a couple of months ago and he walked away from that meeting feeling better than ever, he said, about Kemp's commitment to becoming a great player. "We had probably the best conversation we've ever had," Colletti said.
The GM believes that once Kemp gets to the offseason, he'll have a chance to regroup and refocus -- maybe the same way Cole Hamels did at the end of last season, when he learned from his mistakes and altered his preparation, to set up for a strong rebound season this year.
"I think Matty will be driven to be as good as he can possibly be," Colletti said.
Meanwhile, it's official: The Dodgers will finish this year with a losing season.
NL West/wild card
Adrian Gonzalez was The Man for the Padres, following up on his oh-fer against the Cubs with a home run in Game 1 of San Diego's series in San Francisco. The Padres are 11-5 against the Giants this year. This game felt like a rebirth for the Padres, writes Tim Sullivan.
Andrew Baggarly resets the NL playoff picture in this piece, and notes that a crazy three-way tie is certainly possible -- if the Padres win Saturday and Sunday, and if the Braves split their two remaining games.
It's a very important day for the Braves, beyond the fact that Bobby Cox will be honored in a pregame ceremony. If they can clinch a playoff spot Saturday, that means they won't have to use Tim Hudson to pitch in Sunday's finale; rather, they'll be able to hold him back until Game 1 of the playoffs. Their offense is much less than dynamic these days, and they will need every pitching advantage they can muster in the first round.
Charlie Manuel feels he has an obligation to the Padres to put a good team on the field.
Carlos Ruiz reminded everybody for about the 100th time why he is probably the Phillies' MVP this season -- he went 3-for-5 and raised his batting average to .302.
The Rays lost again, to the Royals, and that opens the door for the Yankees to win home-field advantage. James Shields was terrible again, writes Gary Shelton, who believes that Shields should be bypassed in the first round of the postseason.
Some ugly numbers, from the Elias Sports Bureau: James Shields finished the season 13-15 with a 5.18 earned-run average. Before the 2010 season, only three pitchers lost 15 games with an ERA above five for a team that went to the playoffs: Jason Marquis for the Cardinals in 2006 (14-16, 6.02), Carlos Silva for the Twins in 2006 (11-15, 5.94) and Dennis Martinez for the Orioles in 1983 (7-16, 5.53). A.J. Burnett will also join this club (10-15, 5.33).
Some more ugly numbers: The Rays were held to two hits or fewer for the eighth time this season. They are the fifth team in the divisional era with a least eight games of two hits or fewer.
Most games with two hits or fewer in the division-play era:
1986 Angels, 10
1972 Rangers, 10
1972 Orioles, 9
1969 Angels, 9
2010 Rays, 8
The Rays are going to use David Price in relief in a way that will give him a better chance for 20 wins. In other words, if the Rays have a lead in the first four innings Sunday, they could pull the starter and then use Price for innings 5 and 6, and he'd be in line for the victory.
The Yankees got rained out, and will play a doubleheader that figures to end sometime around brunch Sunday. Burnett will get a final audition in the second game, but as I wrote here earlier this week, it makes sense for the Yankees to just go with three starters in the first round -- with CC Sabathia throwing Game 4 on three days' rest, something he has done well in recent years.
Reds and Phillies
The Phillies' rotation is falling into place, writes Paul Hagen. Roy Halladay will win the NL Cy Young Award, Roy Oswalt is 7-0, 1.33 over the past two months and Cole Hamels has a 2.28 ERA since the All-Star break.
The Reds missed a chance to gain ground in the battle for home-field advantage, losing in extra innings, and they are now locked in as the No. 3 seed.
Twins and Rangers
The Rangers lost on Friday, but what really matters is that Josh Hamilton swung without pain, as Ray Buck writes. He's wearing a flak jacket, to provide protection. The Rangers will go with a catching platoon in the playoffs.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Vladimir Guerrero went 0-for-4 in his 2,000th game, but became one of only four players in major league history to accumulate at least 2,400 hits and 400 home runs over his first 2,000 games (Guerrero has 2,425 and 436). The others: Lou Gehrig (2,547 and 464), Ted Williams (2,401 and 463) and Hank Aaron (2,479 and 453).
The Rockies' late-season collapse continues; they've lost 11 of their past 12 games. They're a strange team to evaluate and assess, because there is on one hand so much production and promise in some spots, and on the other hand so much uncertainty. We don't really know how good Dexter Fowler or Ian Stewart is, for example, or Seth Smith, who was given a lot of at-bats this year and responded with a .315 on-base percentage. Eric Young Jr. was hurt, and when he did play, he had a .312 OBP. Catcher Chris Iannetta signed a multiyear deal that runs through 2012 with the Rockies, but has had declining performances the last two years. What will Todd Helton provide? Who knows?
This much is clear: They will need rotation help. Jorge De La Rosa is headed to free agency, Jeff Francis' contract is set to expire and the team figures to decline a $7 million option for 2011, and they probably can't count on big things from Aaron Cook, who struggled for much of 2010, got hurt and finished the year at 6-8, 5.08.
What follows is pure speculation: If the Royals at least are willing to listen to offers for Zack Greinke, as rival executives expect, Colorado would be in a position to put together a pretty good proposal for a dominant starter who is just 26 years old.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The last time the Mariners went through a managerial search, there was support in some corners for Joey Cora, the White Sox coach who spent a lot of his playing career in Seattle. And there will be a lot of support for him this time around -- support that could be decisive.
2. A negotiated contract is the last hurdle before Kirk Gibson is set in stone as the Diamondbacks' next manager.
4. The Nationals will likely bring back a lot of the same outfielders, says Jim Riggleman.
7. The Pirates have given few public signs about their decision on John Russell. Through the years, I've had many executives tell me that at times, you need to make a change to try to give the fans some hope for change in performance, and it is in this vein that Russell would lose his job. No rational person could possibly think he is the reason the Pirates have lost so much this year, and on the other hand, the franchise needs to provide an indication -- an acknowledgement -- of how bad the team has been. And Russell's dismissal would serve that purpose.
9. Mike Quade is not sure when his interview will happen.
Dings and dents
2. The Diamondbacks beat an honorary manager.
3. Bruce Chen pitched his first shutout ever and finished what is nothing less than a remarkable season: At age 33, he went 12-7, with a 4.17 ERA. You wonder if he's an incarnation of Jamie Moyer: figuring it all out, with less stuff, as he got older.
How Chen won Friday, from Doug Kern of ESPN Stats & Information:
A. He was efficient against the Rays, averaging 11.6 pitches per inning, the fourth fewest in a start in his career. He had three innings of single-digit pitch counts and another of exactly 10. Recorded five outs on the first pitch.
B. He challenged hitters: Threw 66.2 percent of fastballs in the strike zone, third most this season, and got 72 percent strikes. Rays hitters went just 1-for-21 against the heat with six strikeouts.
C. He put 'em away: Tampa Bay was 0-for-14 once Chen got ahead in the count, and surprisingly he threw 83 percent fastballs in that situation. That's above an already-high 70 percent rate coming into Friday's game. Both base hits came when Chen was behind the batter.
D. The Rays kept waiting for an off-speed pitch that never came; they swung at just 44 percent of all fastballs, despite two-thirds of them being in the zone. From the fourth pitch on, they swung even less. Chen got 20 called strikes on his fastball, second-most this season, and the Rays went 0-for-18 when a plate appearance lasted three pitches or more.
4. The Marlins locked up a losing season, as Juan Rodriguez writes.
6. The Orioles swept a doubleheader behind some solid pitching, as Jeff Zrebiec writes.
7. The Astros got shut down.
9. You can't stop the Indians, you can only hope to contain them -- that's seven straight wins and counting for Cleveland.
13. Jered Weaver moved into first place in the majors in strikeouts. The Angels have won four of their past five games and need to win their remaining two games to avoid their first losing season since 2003.