T.J. SIMERS

Dodgers, Angels are deserving of boos, but it still hurts Matt Kemp

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"I'm taking a beating from the fans," admits Kemp, and that was before he struck out four more times. "It's disappointing to get booed by our own fans, even shocking.

"Maybe the fans are disappointed in me for not performing," he says, and I let him know there is no maybe about it.

"I would never boo one of my favorite players or someone on my team," Kemp says. "As a true fan I would stick with him in the bad times as well as the good."

The debate to boo or not to boo is particularly provocative when considering how loudly everyone cheered Kemp's heroics two years ago.

He's a gifted player. Or, he was before getting hurt.

Should you really boo a physically limited player?

I look at him and I see Dwight Howard.

Howard returned too early from back surgery and didn't have the power in his legs to allow him to be a bigger force. As a result Lakers fans struggled to understand his value.

Kemp ran into a Colorado wall last season, underwent shoulder surgery and now swings hard. But he pulls back at the very end because his shoulder lacks flexibility. It makes him vulnerable to low and outside pitches.

Kemp hates, and that's not a strong enough word for it, to say anything that might suggest he's making excuses for his lousy play.

"I'm the one swinging at the bad pitches," he says. "I don't want to talk about my shoulder."

But the fact is he's two months into the season and he has just been cleared medically to start lifting weights. And it might be months more before Kemp is swinging like Kemp again.

"It doesn't matter," says Kemp. "Kobe finds a way [when he's hurt] and I have to find a way to help us win."

The booing, though, is threatening to become a drag on his confidence as if he needs another mountain to climb.

"As much as superstar athletes don't say a lot about failure, every athlete is scared of failing," says Kemp. "It's not doubt, it's just human nature."

If Dodgers fans want to cheer a winner, Kemp may be as important to the cause as any player on the team, they might want to stop tearing into Kemp while he finds himself again.

And leave the booing to the columnists.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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