In the late 1990s, Jeff Kent went from being a castoff, to being a star hitter. He was a key component of some very strong teams. However, since hitting the Hall of Fame ballot in 2014, Kent has yet to receive significant support for his candidacy. Kent has not received more than 16.7-percent of the vote, which is concerning given the amount of success he had during his career.
The Case For Kent
After being traded by the Indians to the Giants in November of 1996, Kent became one of the best hitters in the National League. Between 1997 and 2005, Kent hit at least 20 homers in every season. Additionally, he was selected to the All-Star Game five times and won four Silver Sluggers. In 2000, Kent won the National League MVP award, beating out his all-star teammate Barry Bonds. Kent also drove in at least 100 runs eight times during that timespan.
For a position that doesn’t normally have a ton of power, Kent was a standout. He finished his career with a strong .290/.356/.500 (123 OPS+) batting line. Additionally, his 377 career home runs are the most hit by a second baseman.
The Case Against Kent
While Kent’s offense was very good for a second baseman, his defense was far from that. He rated as a below average defender almost every year of his career, finishing with -52 DRS. Additionally, he made upwards of 10 errors in 14 seasons. His defense is also the main reason why his 55.4 bWAR falls well below the benchmark for Hall of Fame second basemen of 69.4.
Off the Field Issues
While this should rarely be a part of a voter’s decision, Kent did not have a great reputation off the field. Kent clashed with teammates and coaches throughout his playing career, starting with his high school days. In high school, he was kicked off his team after he fought with a coach over a position change. When he was with the Mets, Kent had a reputation for having a short temper and isolating himself from the rest of the team.
Kent had some very well-publicized beef with Barry Bonds while they were teammates on the Giants. The two would fight constantly, with some scuffles even being caught on television. The feud between the two stars eventually factored into Kent’s decision to leave the Giants after the 2002 season. Additionally, Kent did not have a great relationship with the Giants’ front office, especially after he broke his wrist while popping a wheelie on his motorcycle.
Is Kent Hall of Fame Worthy?
While Kent certainly has his shortcomings, he was a power hitter at a position that normally isn’t known for hitting homers. Kent should be in the Hall of Fame, and the lack of support he’s received thus far is concerning.
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