Slugger Jeff Kent returns to BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot
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.
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 Indians 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 record 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 25th 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.