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What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

Joe Torre has a reputation as a great communicator, and that is seen as one of his strengths as a manager. I have been in media sessions with him, and his very engaging, answering any question posed to him in direct fashion. However, I’m beginning to wonder if his strength in communication is with the media and not with his players.

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Matt Kemp was out of the starting lineup Tuesday for the third straight day, as he has been in a two-month long slump. “He’s been struggling, it’s been frustrating for him, I think we all see that,” Torre told reporters before the game, “Hopefully these couple of days will give him a chance to breathe a little bit.”

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Kemp is one of the Dodgers’ best players, so when he gets benched, it is news. Coming into last night, Kemp had a .237 batting average and .291 on-base percentage over his last 61 games, so there is some justification for giving him a few days to regroup. Kemp ended up playing nine innings last night anyway, replacing Manny Ramirez after Ramirez injured his hamstring, and Kemp will be back in the lineup today.

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However, what is troubling is that Torre, the great communicator, didn’t reach out and talk to Kemp. Per Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles:

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Torre also said Kemp will return to the lineup on Wednesday. Asked if that would be the case if Kemp hadn’t approached him, Torre said, "I don’t know that.’’

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This is an eerily similar situation to last season, when Orlando Hudson was benched in favor of Ronnie Belliard down the stretch. Hudson made the All-Star team last season, but experienced a slump similar to Kemp this season. As Hudson’s playing time decreased in September, Torre intimated that he had talked to Hudson, and that Belliard was simply the “hot horse” that Torre was riding.

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However, after the season, Hudson expressed frustration that Torre never called him into his office to discuss the situation. As with Kemp these last three days, it appears the extent of Torre’s communication with his players comes in written form only, on the lineup card.