Former Giants and Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent announced his retirement yesterday. The 40 year old Kent hit the most home runs of any second baseman ever and was one of the best hitters of my generation.
On the surface, Kent should be an easy selection into the hall of fame. Over his 17 year career, Kent hit .290 with 377 home runs and 1518 RBI. For a second baseman, those are phenomenal numbers that put Kent in a class by himself. The 2000 MVP award winner hit at least 20 home runs over a 9 year stretch spanning from 1997 to 2005, an impressive feat no doubt.
But should Jeff Kent be in the hall of fame? There is no doubt that he will receive strong consideration, but before we enshrine Kent in Cooperstown, there are some important things to consider.
1. Second Baseman
-Kent will undoubtedly receive a good amount of votes because he hit for power as a second baseman. And to a certain degree, it makes a lot of sense. There are so few power hitting second baseman that when one finally rolls around, people become very age to vote for him.
But I ask, if Jeff Kent played another position besides second base would he be a hall of famer then? I'm not too sure. Kent would probably still get into the hall especially with Jim Rice finally entering, but I doubt that he would gain entry on the first or second ballot.
Then we get to an entirely different issue-should Kent's numbers be judged based on those of other top second basemen in the era he played or based on the numbers of the top players regardless of position? Kent is far and away one of the best second basemen of the generation, but his numbers pale in comparison to those of Ken Griffey Jr or Barry Bonds. However when his stats are compared to Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio, Kent seems to be a lock to make it in on the first or second ballot.
Should we judge Kent differently based on the position he played? Very debatable.
2. Is Kent a legend?
-There are many who complain that the hall of fame has been diluted. Instead of enshrining only the legends like Babe Ruth and Cy Young, the hall has become a haven for "above average" players as well like Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter.
Jeff Kent is not a legend. He was a very good baseball player, but certainly not at the level of Ken Griffey Jr, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, or Manny Ramirez. Does Jeff Kent belong in the same conversation as those certain first ballot hall of famers? I don't think so. Each of those guys is an icon, who is on a whole different level that Jeff Kent ever will be.
-I know I'm getting a bit picky here, but hey, why not. Kent was not a great defensive second baseman by any stretch of the imagination. He was an average fielder who lacked range, but Kent never won a gold glove at his position and became somewhat of a liability as his career wore on. I'm not too sure how much this will be taken into consideration, but I hope voters judge Kent not only by his bat, but by his offensive and defensive production.
4. The Moron Factor
-I will not miss Jeff Kent. He always came off to me as somewhat of a cancer in the clubhouse and with teammates. Need proof?
-fought with Milton Bradley
-fought with Barry Bonds
-feuded with younger players
-Called out Vince Scully
Ok so it's pretty clear that Kent has had his fair share of transgressions in his big league career. But will that keep him out of the hall? Probably not, but if Jim Rice has taught us anything, relations with the media and the fans can have a significant impact on when your inducted.
With that said, I'd bet my money that Kent eventually winds up in Cooperstown. I don't think Kent should be a first ballot hall of famer, but it would not surprise me to see Kent enter quickly. Despite his deficiencies, Kent's offensive prowess will probably prove to much for voters, who seem ready to enshrine Kent into Cooperstown right now.
And when it comes down to it, Bill Mazeroski made the hall of fame, so there is no reason why Kent shouldn't.