By: Mike Carter
Now that the long offseason is upon us, we get to speculate on other aspects of baseball here at 9 Inning Know It All.
A hot topic of discussion in winter can center on trade discussions and rumors (please, White Sox management, DO SOMETHING BIG, like trade Chris Sale and Todd Frazier for a bevy of prospects).
But nothing is surer to get emotions riled after this crazy election season than talking about who is getting left out of the Hall of Fame discussion. We had some robust discussion about Edgar Martinez last week. Let me introduce you to the case for Jeff Kent.
Jeff Kent was a power-hitting second baseman for the Blue Jays, Mets, Indians, Astros, Giants and Dodgers over seventeen major league seasons. He changed teams frequently likely due to being an abrasive teammate. His scuffles with teammates, especially Barry Bonds, were legendary. I remember Kent lying about how he broke his wrist as well. Kent had a reputation for being icy; he was a DH-type second baseman who was not what we would call even an average fielder. A five-time All Star, Kent was also the NL MVP in 2000. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times.
Kent could flat-out hit. And he hit for every team that he played for: .290 career batting average, 2,461 hits, 377 home runs, 1,518 RBI’s, 1,320 runs scored, .500 SLG and .855 OPS in his career. His 377 homeruns are the most ever for a second baseman. Those are impressive numbers for any position on the field, much less second base. Kent, despite his defensive and personal shortcomings, hit for a long time. Career statistics show him to be in the top 100 in many areas, such as doubles, extra base hits, and home runs. I know there is not a statistic that matches this thought, but I always remember him being clutch in the playoffs as well; a quick look at Baseball Reference shows he hit .276 with nine home runs in postseason play. He didn’t shrink from the spotlight. Looking a little deeper into the stats, you can see that Jeff Kent is in the top 150 all time in WAR (Wins Above Replacement). His WAR sits around 55 for his career.
Granted, Kent did play in a time when offensive outbursts became the norm each season. I think it’s odd that he only garnered 16.6% of the possible votes for the Hall of Fame in 2016. Looking at him objectively, which few of the voters seem to do, he merits much stronger consideration. I am surprised that he doesn’t seem to get the respect his career deserves by the voting body. Defense seems to count very much in their eyes, and obviously, Kent pales in comparison to other Gold Glove Hall of Famers like Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan. He’ll probably see a small increase in the number of votes moving forward, but will probably never be on the hallowed wall at Cooperstown despite an offensive career that merits consideration.