Jeff Kent: HOFer???

Jeff Kent, most recently a second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, officially announced his retirement from professional baseball during a press conference this afternoon.

When I first heard that Kent would announce his retirement, my first thought was something like:

“I thought he might be about ready to hang up the spikes. Will he be a Hall-of-Fame-er? Nope. He had a solid career, but not a great career.”

Beginning with the ballot that was released this year, I have entered a new era of Hall-of-Fame debate – there were players on this year’s ballot that I had seen play their entire career. Now, I saw a great majority of the career of: Cal Ripken, Jr., Tony Gwynn, the end of Goose Gossage’s career, and, well, you get the picture. Yet, there were names on this year’s ballot of whom I watched their entire career: Jeff Kent falls into this category.

After hearing of his retirement and pre-determining him unworthy of the HOF, I pulled up MLB.com‘s website to find his statistics. I was quite surprised to find that he has nearly 2500 hits, nearly 400 home runs (1st of all EVER as second basemen) 1500 RBIs and a career .290 batting average. His numbers are there to gain HOF votes and support. In fact, Peter Gammons, ESPN baseball personality, has been quoted as calling Kent “without a doubt a first ballot HOFer”.

My biggest argument against Kent for HOF? He never was the best player on his own team. He played his best years as a San Francisco Giant batting next to Barry Bonds who, ‘roids or no ‘roids, is quite possibly the most talented ever to pick up a bat and ball. Granted, it’s not fair to judge one person on the merits of arguably the best ever, but nonetheless does it make him a HOF candidate?

The next argument would be that he was servicable at best at second base. I’ve heard numerous comparisons lately to the hitting of Ryne Sandberg. Let it be known that I am a Chicago Cubs fan and “cut my teeth” as a baseball fan on Ryne catching balls at 2B at Wrigley and hitting balls onto Waveland Avenue. Ryne Sandberg wasn’t a servicable second baseman – he was a GREAT second baseman, who could also hit and do so with authority. Jeff Kent had little to no glove, but could swing it like a corner infielder.

If he played a different position (particularly a corner infield spot) would he still be in consideration for the HOF? If he were a better defender, fine. I’d be on board with the argument. He was not, so why can we not compare offensive numbers to 3rd basemen? 1st basemen? When we do so, he’s above average for his era at best.

To Kent’s disservice, perhaps, he played in the live ball and steroids era and his offensive numbers will be judged through that lens. To Kent’s credit, however, he has long been vocal that he does not and has not taken peformance enhancing drugs and has been vocal that there should be increased testing. Kudos to you on that note, Jeff Kent.

In my mind, Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio are the second basemen from this era are worthy of enshrinement at Cooperstown. Jeff Kent, you are not.

Nonetheless, thank you for all the years of clutch hits and mustaches.

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