San Francisco Giants:A Case For Jeff Kent In The Hall of Fame
By Gary Oversen
Hall of Fame voting is coming to a close, and Jeff Kent is still waiting for his call. The former second baseman of the San Francisco Giants should not have to wait long, as his numbers stack up with the very best at his position.
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First things first, I am not a fan of Jeff Kent. There I said it, I know I might be bashed, but I had to. I can’t be a liar.
That being said, I do believe that Kent is a Hall of Famer, and should be voted in soon. Perhaps not this year, but very soon.
Kent played predominately second base. It is a position that I know well, having played it exclusively into college. I understand the ins and outs of the position, and know that Kent was not a natural second baseman. But he played it at a high enough level defensively to justify his entry into the Hall.
Some may argue that a player like him would have been better suited to play first or third, and that would put his numbers more in line with other players at those positions. However, those players who played those positions would never be able to handle second for an entire year. Let alone seventeen years.
Yes, his defense there was frustrating at times. He could not get to some balls that a quicker second baseman could get to. But his hands were steady, and he made the routine play on a consistent basis. And he won an MVP while playing the position, so the voters for that had no problem giving him that award while he played second base.
If defense is the main ticket into Cooperstown, then guys like Bobby Grich (4 Gold Gloves) and Frank White (8 Gold Gloves) should already be in with their respective defensive and decent offensive numbers.
It is almost all about offensive numbers when discussing a potential candidate for the Hall.
So where does Kent line up against his peers?
Most people like to use the WAR (wins above replacement) model when determining vale of a position. This is fine when looking at all the players as being consistently equal, and not using any substances to make them better for a year or two.
That isn’t to say that Kent never used any banned substances. But his numbers over the course of his career, when he was given ample playing time, are pretty consistent.
Kent is the career leader in home runs as a second baseman. He has 76 more home runs than the next best player, Rogers Hornsby. He is third all-time in RBI’s with 1518 (leader Nap Lajoie had 1599), and fourth in doubles. The top ten second basemen in doubles are all in the Hall with the exception of Kent and Robinson Cano, who is still playing.
Here is that list: Craig Biggio (668), Nap Lajoie (657), Charlie Gehringer (574), Kent (560), Hornsby (541), Roberto Alomar (504), Billy Herman (486), Frankie Frisch (466), Joe Morgan (449), and Cano (446).
Now obviously hitting doubles isn’t the only mark of a Hall of Famer. But that list is a good indication of a group that played consistent baseball over their careers in order to amass those numbers.
Now as I said before, I am not a fan of Jeff Kent. The surliness that he projected, and stand-off nature was not something I gravitated to as a fan. But a person’s attitude should not make a bit of difference when being considered for enshrinement.
This generation would never have elected some of the early pioneers in this sport due to personality conflicts. The baseball writers who vote are tasked with putting players in who represent the sport in a positive manner. But at the same time, players who aren’t necessarily cut out to be media darlings should not have it held against them.
This game is played on the field. And even though we want the players we root for to also be great human beings, it isn’t always the case. This isn’t to say that Kent was terrible, but he was known for being indifferent to the spectacle of baseball.
Every San Francisco Giants fan knows what Kent meant to the 1997-2002 years. He was disliked initially just for being the main piece coming back for Matt Williams. And he was disliked even more when he ended up playing in the Dodger blue. But his career with the Giants was a huge surprise given his “good-not-great” career up to that point.
Some may say that the ability to hit before or after Barry Bonds had a lot to do with Ken’t numbers. And those people would be somewhat right. But many other players have hit around Bonds in the order, and none enjoyed the success that Kent did.
Here is Jeff Kent by the numbers and where he ranks with other second basemen.
All-Star appearances (5 tied for 9th), Runs (1320, 12th), Hits (2461, 12th), Doubles (560, 4th), HR (377, 1st), RBI’s (1518, 3rd).
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Kent should be in the Hall of Fame based on his offensive numbers compared to other second basemen who are already in. His ability at the plate supersedes any and all deficiencies that some would say he had in the field.