I’ve been around this game for a long time, and believe you me, you can’t get a hit with a calculator, catch a baseball with graph paper or bust a slump with math. If a guy isn’t hitting the way he used to, you can’t turn to statistics. No you’ve got to ask him what he’s changed from his routine and his approach from when he was hitting well to how he’s hitting now.
For instance, I happen to know for a fact that last year Matt Kemp was, as the kids call it, courting Beyonce. She’s an easy on the eyes R’nB singer who’s popular with this generation of hoodlums. It all sounds like cats squealing to me. But that’s beside the point. What I want to write about is the effect that distractions can have on a baseball player. Specifically, a certain type of distraction.
It’s a well-known fact that throughout history, attractive women have played a part in the downfall of great men.
Back when I was catching balls in the bullpen for the Riverside Pilots of the California League, we had a great up and coming Irish pitcher who went by the name McCluskin. McCluskin was almost as good with the ladies as he was with his slider. He ended up falling head over heels though for a looker from Loma Linda.
A week after they met, McCluskin’s fastball was a shade of its former self. He got all soft and even came to me to tell me that his shoulder hurt. I was trying to look out for the kid, so I told him not to let anyone hear him say that or else he’d probably be laughed off the roster. I told him to stop thinking about the woman and start thinking about baseball. He kept seeing the skirt though and sure enough, a month later, he needed surgery. A couple months after that, his career was over. All because he couldn’t keep his focus off a woman and on the game.
I knew Kemp was in a similar boat last season despite what FanCharts might have tried to tell you. No player goes from hitting .300 and knocking in 100 runs to struggling to hit .250 or knock in 90 runs. Something had to be wrong in his personal life and all signs pointed to a major distraction and a lack of focus, something that pretty women are known to contribute to.
Fortunately for Dodgers fans and Kemp himself, he and Beyonce broke up over the winter and this season Kemp is hitting .350 and already has 20 RBIs. He’s on track to hit more than 30 HRs and 100 RBIs for Los Angeles. Now that Kemp is back to himself, I think the sky is the limit for that organization.
Hunter Roscoe is a former Minor League Baseball player and coach. You can follow him on Twitter.