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ASSESSING THE R FACTOR by dov rudnick
Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. That’s how slugger Matt Kemp does it these days in the post-Rihanna era. The Dodger centerfielder has been getting busy hitting skins off the ball this year. Through Sunday, Kemp leads the league in RBIs and is second in homeruns and among the top five in batting average. With great speed and a shotgun arm, he has become a regular feature of the evening highlight reels and at long last is becoming a household name among your average baseball enthusiast. The recent polls of all-star balloting prove the point. He is currently the fifth highest vote-getter among outfielders. He should be first. And he would be, if the voting public were not a mass of partisan-minded, beer-guzzling, hot-dog shoveling fanatics. (God Bless America!) For years now, Kemp has been touted as the next great superstar. How many times have we heard about the triple threat (hitting, fielding, running), the 40-40 fella (40 homers, 40 steals)? He has always been the one not quite meeting his full potential or so they said, citing his high strikeout percentage and penchant for getting picked off base. These days, the only people complaining about Kemp’s performance are opposing pitchers. Many are blistering with pride as though he was their own first-born son making good at long last. They talk like they can read his mind: “He’s
Campus Circle > Sports > Baseball finally found his focus,” “He’s finally matured.” The more naïve voices express the opinion that Kemp’s girlfriend of last season, the pop star Rihanna, was causing him to be less focused. Yeah maybe, and maybe not. One could cite numbers to support the view. In the years before Kemp met Rihanna, the batting averages were .342, 290, 297. After the meeting and subsequent involvement with Rihanna, the average slipped to .249. Since it became evident the two were no longer romantically engaged during the offseason, Kemp has played better than ever. Certainly, nobody can say for sure what the Rihanna effect has been, why or how. If someone says they know, they are probably full of shit. And anyway, the polite consensus says it is rude to enquire. But, heck, it’s fun. So at the risk of sounding full of shit, I offer my own unbidden and unrehearsed perspective on the Rihanna question: I think she was the best thing that ever happened to Matt Kemp, and by extension, the Dodgers. Sure his numbers declined during the year they dated, sure he made one bonehead base-running blunder after another during that span. It very well may have been that his mind was elsewhere on those occasions he was caught snoozing on the base pads or whiffing air at the plate. And why wouldn’t it be? Rihanna’s a fox, a super babe, a genuine hot tamale. Have you ever heard her music (rhetorical question)? The catchy little ditties flood the air waves and cover the bases from unbridled debauchery to sexual fetishism. It’s great stuff, I’m as big a fan as any, but imagine if your girlfriend sang such songs. Try picking up a glove and playing 162 games a year for a club whose owner was broke, whose manager was bailing at season’s end and which was feeling the air run out by mid-July. So Kemp had other things on his mind, things that would occupy the mind of any 25-year-old man, or any man.
Since his relationship with Rihanna, Matt Kemp has swagger. Matt Kemp was born and raised in Oklahoma. He’s a country boy, essentially, playing the game of his youth, a game that has taken him to Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world. Since meeting Rihanna he has traveled to Mexico, to Europe, all the while partying with celebrities. The gossip pages routinely caught pictures of the couple tricked out in the latest fashions. The Oklahoma boy was having the time of his life. It must have done wonders for his ego – not that professional athletes need more ego boosting – but they do. The Matt Kemp who strolled into camp a few weeks early this spring was not the scrawny fresh-faced hopeful the scouts once knew. He was a world-traveled, celebrity-sexed stud and what’s more, he knew it. In the game of baseball, attitude is everything. It’s what they call swagger, the potent mix of self-knowledge and selfconfidence. At the moment, Matt Kemp has swagger oozing from his pores and Dodger fans can only hope it’s contagious.
GOLD CUP ACTION BEGINS
L.A. Draws D.C. United by marvin vasquez
The Galaxy’s Josh Saunders
The Galaxy gained a scoreless draw against visiting D.C. United Friday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson in front of 20,036 spectators. American midfielder Landon Donovan and Jamaican starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts did not see action with Los Angeles; both players are serving duty with their respective national soccer teams due to the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament being held June 5-25. The Galaxy miss both Donovans as their teams continue to compete in the international tourney, but head coach Bruce Arena believes the tie had nothing to do with the absence of these players – at least not with Donovan. “It has nothing to do with it,” Arena quickly answered with no hesitation during the post-game press conference. Throughout the game, both squads had several opportunities to collect goals and take leads, but nothing came to precise execution in order to net goals. For the Galaxy, goalkeeper Josh Saunders had a solid game while sporadically making important saves; he totaled four saves on his second shutout of the season. “He had a couple of good saves. I think Josh certainly did well. There is no question about that,” Arena says. Saunders is no newcomer. He saw action in a few games during the start of this year’s campaign when Ricketts was out because of injury. Thus far, Saunders has allowed six goals in five games. Four of those scores came in the Galaxy’s 4-1 loss at Real Salt Lake on March 26 in Utah. “Towards the end of the game, it started to open up a bit because we were pushing up to try and get the goal,” Saunders says. “Toward the end, they started to throw numbers at us, it was difficult for us to withstand the pressure, but the defense played well and helped us out.” With the draw, the Galaxy’s record shifted to 8-2-6 with a total of 30 points. Los Angeles hosts Toronto FC Saturday, June 11, at 7:30 p.m.
Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/MCT
Campus Circle 6.8.11 - 6.14.11
by marvin vasquez
Mexico’s El Tri earned a 5-0 victory over El Salvador
Concacaf’s Gold Cup soccer tournament has begun, and the first day of action saw clear promises from two teams representing their countries. In the tourney’s first match, the Central American nation of Costa Rica pummeled the Caribbean country of Cuba by a score of 5-0. Marco Ureña scored twice to lead the Ticos to victory. “We were able to beat Cuba thanks to some great collective work, but we still can’t say that we’re the best,” Ureña says through goldcup.org. “Now we have to face El Salvador. We have to start thinking about them now so that we can get another win and have a chance to reach the next round.” Ureña netted his first goal in the seventh minute of the first half before scoring his second early in the second half. Costa Rica collected two goals within the first two minutes of the 45 minutes of play. Costa Rica head coach Ricardo Lavolpe says, “We’re starting a new tournament here and getting to know each other inside the field. The team looked well today.” The other two teams of Group A, Mexico and El Salvador, played the second match of the day’s doubleheader in Dallas, Texas. Mexico gained a similar win to that of the Ticos, earning a 5-0 victory. El Salvador played Mexico tightly in the first half, getting a draw by halftime. However, Mexico just took over with their physique and strength thereafter. Efraín Juárez initiated Mexico’s scoring shower, but the talk of the game remained with Javier “Chicharito” Hernández. Chicharito, a forward currently playing with the English Premier League team Manchester United, fired three goals for El Tri. “The more important thing is the three points,” Hernández responds when asked about his scoring. “I don’t care if I score or not, the important thing is getting the win.”