It’s important to have a face for your franchise. He doesn’t have to be your best or most exciting player, but the sight of him needs to immediately remind you of where your team is and where it could possibly go. Without question Matt Kemp is the face of the 2015 San Diego Padres, even though he has yet to play a single game. He was the first major move AJ Preller made as the general manager and it started the most exciting offseason in Padres history. When asked about his new GM back in December during the swirl of improvements happening around him, Matt Kemp replied, “This is unbelievable. He’s a rock star right now.” The two of them will always have a special relationship. They both view each other as rock stars. In a perfect world, someday Matt Kemp will hit a World Series winning home run and look up to Preller in his box. They will salute each other and then Preller will walk to the train station and never be seen again. The Cactus League is about to start. Putting our faith in beautiful cinematic scenarios is all we have.
With spring training under way for the Friars there are two outfields to look at. Everyone involved is saying the correct professional things, but the line is clear. The old group of Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and Will Venable are the ones who are still here. They do not rock. Maybin just came off a poor hitting season where he got popped for doing speed instead of getting on base and displaying it. Carlos is the guy who is always hurt and has only really excelled at shattering Zack Greinke’s collarbone. Will Venable, the senior Padre in this outfield group, is the lasting thread from John Moores owning the team, into the Moorad group, back to Moores, and on to this current regime. Like Kemp, Will has a great smile. For years the Padres have sold baseball as a fun thing to do Downtown. It was baseball for the sake of baseball. Venable’s smile represents that ideology and he is the poster child for the skin we need to shed. If Bud Selig can get a plaza for the work he’s done, Will Venable deserves at least a kiosk someday that offers a free Padres towel if you sign up for a credit card.
In the spirit of the inherent freshness AJ Preller has provided, Matt Kemp, Will Myers, and Justin Upton are the starting outfield everyone wants to see on opening day. Justin Upton is in an interesting position going into 2015. He’s coming up on what should be the last big contract of his career. Always a revered talent waiting to break out, he hasn’t quite been what people thought he would be. However, going into the season he doesn’t have big shoes to fill. Upton doesn’t have to be the face of anything, and in left field, he doesn’t have a lot to live up to. There’s already been talk of Carlos Quentin trying his hand at first base. Hopefully that works out, but if it doesn’t, Quentin should just be the DH for interleague play and get the start in left when little blonde pricks come to town and need to be corrected.
Center field should be Will Myers’ job. Cameron Maybin has said that he is going to try everything in his power to be the starter out there, and if that happens, it’s a good problem to have. The Padres signed Maybin to a nice deal on potential and he hasn’t delivered. Myers was the 2013 American League rookie of the year, but he is still young and coming off a season where a wrist injury slowed him down. He didn’t need surgery and all things point to him securing the job.
Matt Kemp has agreed to play right field, something he wasn’t excited about when he wore Dodger blue. He will play in Tony Gwynn’s spot, and at this point in Kemp’s career, nobody expects him to somehow match Gwynn’s unique level of production. The important thing is that he stays healthy. If he doesn’t (A) the Will Venable show starts up again and (B) Dodgers fans will be more unbearable than ever before. They need Kemps’ questionable hips to fail him. They want him to run into a wall. They need him to run into a wall.
Disaster could easily happen, but I choose to look at the picture above. Matt Kemp’s face always looks like he either just got laid or he’s on his way to getting laid. He’s a 30-year-old professional baseball player worth well over nine figures, he isn’t married, and he’s living in America’s finest city. He is a rock star who joined forces with a rock star. Whenever he’s crushing it at a club with his boys in the Gaslamp and Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira comes on somebody (hopefully me) will undoubtedly ask him if that’s true. All he will have to do is smile because he’s the face of the franchise. He knows where we are and where we could possibly go.
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(Photo credit: mediadownloads.mlb.com)