First at second

Slugger Jeff Kent debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Jeff Kent. (Michael Ponzini/NBHOF Library)

Jeff Kent spent the majority of his big league career at second. But on the all-time home run list among keystone sackers, Kent is alone in first. 

Kent, the 2000 National League Most Valuable Player who spent 17 big league seasons with six teams, makes his debut on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot this year. Kent is one of 36 players on the 2014 BBWAA ballot for the Class of 2014. 

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 8. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown. 

Born March 7, 1968 in Bellflower, Calif., Kent attended Edison High School in Huntington Beach before enrolling at the University of California-Berkeley. He was taken in the 20th round of the 1989 MLB Draft by the Blue Jays with the 523rd overall pick. 

[Scouting report on Jeff Kent]

Less than three years later, Kent was in the majors after making the Opening Day roster for the defending AL East champion Blue Jays. But after hitting eight home runs in 65 games that year as a utility infielder, Kent was traded to the Mets on Aug. 27, 1992 for David Cone as the Jays looked to strengthen their rotation down the stretch. The move paid off for Toronto as Cone won four games in the regular season and another in the postseason to help the Blue Jays win their first World Series title. 

Kent, meanwhile, hit 21 home runs and drove in 80 runs as the Mets’ everyday second baseman in 1993. He enjoyed two more productive seasons in the strike-shortened campaigns of 1994 and 1995, driving in 68 and 65 runs, respectively. 

“I played in the wrong era,” Kent told the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union in 2009. “I think I would have had more fun if I had played a long time ago.” 

In 1996, the Mets traded Kent to the Indians on July 29, 1996 in an unexpected deal that sent popular Cleveland second baseman Carlos Baerga to New York. Kent stayed in Cleveland only for the rest of the season, as the Tribe traded him to San Francisco in the offseason in a deal that brought All-Star third baseman Matt Williams to Cleveland. 

By the Bay, Kent found a home – establishing himself as one of the game’s top second basemen. 

Kent hit 29 home runs and drove in 121 runs with a .250 batting average in 1997, then improved his totals across the board with 31 homers, 128 RBI and a .297 batting average a year later. In 1999, Kent earned his the first of five career All-Star Game selections. 

Then in 2000, Kent won the National League Most Valuable Player Award after hitting .334 with 33 home runs, 125 RBI and 114 runs scored for a Giants team that won the NL West title. 

Kent hit .298 with 22 home runs and 106 RBI in 2001, his fifth straight season with at least 20 home runs and 100 RBI. He followed that up with another monster season in 2002, hitting .313 with 37 homers and 108 RBI while helping the Giants win the NL pennant and advance to the World Series. 

“I (had) my best years in San Francisco,” Kent said. 

Kent moved on to the Astros as a free agent for the 2003 and 2004 seasons, hitting a combined 49 home runs while driving in an even 200 runs. He then joined the Dodgers as a free agent, hitting 29 home runs and recording 105 RBI in 2005 – his eighth season with at least 20 home runs and 100 RBI. 

Among all second basemen in big league history, Rogers Hornsby is second on that list with five such seasons. 

“To me, he’s got Hall of Fame credentials,” said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti. “He’s as competitive as anyone.” 

Kent retired following the 2008 season with a .290 batting average, 1,518 RBI and 1,320 runs scored. Of his 377 home runs, 351 came as a second baseman – the most in big league history. He topped the 20-home run plateau 12 times in his career. 

His 560 career doubles rank 24th on the all-time list, and Kent won four Silver Slugger Awards at second base. As a fielder, Kent led the league in assists once (2001) and double plays once (2002) among second baseman, consistently ranking in the top five in range factor among second basemen. 

“I’ve learned to love and appreciate the fans,” Kent said as his retirement news conference in 2009. 

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
1992 24 TOT 102 343 305 52 73 21 2 11 50 2 3 27 76 .239 .312 .430
1992 24 TOR 65 222 192 36 46 13 1 8 35 2 1 20 47 .240 .324 .443
1992 24 NYM 37 121 113 16 27 8 1 3 15 0 2 7 29 .239 .289 .407
1993 25 NYM 140 544 496 65 134 24 0 21 80 4 4 30 88 .270 .320 .446
1994 26 NYM 107 452 415 53 121 24 5 14 68 1 4 23 84 .292 .341 .475
1995 27 NYM 125 514 472 65 131 22 3 20 65 3 3 29 89 .278 .327 .464
1996 28 TOT 128 477 437 61 124 27 1 12 55 6 4 31 78 .284 .330 .432
1996 28 NYM 89 361 335 45 97 20 1 9 39 4 3 21 56 .290 .331 .436
1996 28 CLE 39 116 102 16 27 7 0 3 16 2 1 10 22 .265 .328 .422
1997 29 SFG 155 651 580 90 145 38 2 29 121 11 3 48 133 .250 .316 .472
1998 30 SFG 137 594 526 94 156 37 3 31 128 9 4 48 110 .297 .359 .555
1999 31 SFG 138 585 511 86 148 40 2 23 101 13 6 61 112 .290 .366 .511
2000 32 SFG 159 695 587 114 196 41 7 33 125 12 9 90 107 .334 .424 .596
2001 33 SFG 159 696 607 84 181 49 6 22 106 7 6 65 96 .298 .369 .507
2002 34 SFG 152 682 623 102 195 42 2 37 108 5 1 52 101 .313 .368 .565
2003 35 HOU 130 552 505 77 150 39 1 22 93 6 2 39 85 .297 .351 .509
2004 36 HOU 145 606 540 96 156 34 8 27 107 7 3 49 96 .289 .348 .531
2005 37 LAD 149 637 553 100 160 36 0 29 105 6 2 72 85 .289 .377 .512
2006 38 LAD 115 473 407 61 119 27 3 14 68 1 2 55 69 .292 .385 .477
2007 39 LAD 136 562 494 78 149 36 1 20 79 1 3 57 61 .302 .375 .500
2008 40 LAD 121 474 440 42 123 23 1 12 59 0 1 25 52 .280 .327 .418
17 Yrs 2298 9537 8498 1320 2461 560 47 377 1518 94 60 801 1522 .290 .356 .500

 

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum